"I am proud to have been a part of this unique time in the history of our country," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said in his farewell address Friday. Congress wrapped up the 109th session. Republicans ended 12 years of controlling the House.
Hastert is stepping down as speaker, but staying in the House. He set the stage for a graceful transition to returning to the rank and file after he hands over the gavel to Speaker designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "So on January 4th I will be privileged to rejoin you on these benches - where my heart is,'' he said.
click below for speechs from Hastert and Pelosi.
(Washington, D.C.) Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) today issued the following remarks on the closing of the 109th Congress:
"Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to speak out of order.
"Mr. Speaker, later tonight I expect that this House will adjourn sine die. This is the last day that we will be together on this floor during my Speakership. And so, with your indulgence, I would like to make a few brief comments.
"Eight years ago you elected me as your Speaker. I said at the time that it was not a job which I sought, but it was one which I would embrace with enthusiasm and determination. Each day since then I have tried to do my best. The challenges have been great but so too has been the honor of serving this institution and each of you.
"At this time of transition I have been reflecting upon the many things for which I am deeply grateful. First, for my wonderful wife Jean -- for her encouragement and for accepting the sacrifices that have allowed me to run for public office. I don't think she ever got used to the attention the Speakership has brought, but she has handled every moment with grace and good cheer. I also thank my son Josh, my son Ethan, and my daughter-in-law Heidi. Thank you for your love and support.
"I am grateful to the unbelievable people of the 14th District of Illinois for the trust they have placed in me over these many years. They are the most down-to-earth, honest, and wonderful people I have ever known, and I am honored to serve them in this House.
"I thank all Members for the courtesies you have extended to me over the years and for electing me to be your Speaker. I am immensely proud of this House of Representatives, and I am grateful for what we have accomplished.
"Together, we reformed welfare. We cut taxes, and small businesses grew all over this nation. We expanded trade. We saw the Dow Jones break record after record as our economy grew to new heights. Our policies yielded near record low unemployment and interest rates.
"We mourned on 9/11 when our country was mercilessly attacked, but we then stood together to sing 'God Bless America.' We promised to protect this nation from further attack, and by the grace of God and with the leadership of President Bush, we have been successful.
"During my tenure we have challenged the Washington notion that government has a claim to the earnings of all Americans. I believe, as I did when I came here twenty years ago, that the government should work for the people and not the other way around.
"As a body we have gathered together in celebration to award Congressional Gold Medals to giants like Pope John Paul II, Rosa Parks and Billy Graham. We have gathered together in mourning to pay our respects to a great leader: Ronald Reagan.
"I am proud to have been a part of this unique time in the history of our country.
"Few people understand what support it takes to run this House of Representatives. I am grateful to the legions of dedicated individuals who serve the House day in and day out. The Speaker heads a huge corps of people, mostly behind the scenes, who make this institution run.
"I could not have done this job without the Officers of the House, the staff who serve them, and those who have served in Member offices, committee offices, leadership offices, and the Speaker's Office. I want to personally highlight a few who make this institution work.
"Bill Livingood is the longest serving officer today and I also want to thank the U.S. Capitol Police for their daily diligence in protecting us.
"Jay Eagen, as Chief Administrative Officer of the House, has done an incredible job in managing the financial and operational affairs of the House in a professional and non-partisan way.
"Father Dan Coughlin, the Chaplain of the House, has been a healer and has led us in his quiet way. Father Dan arrived at a time of turmoil. A reporter asked him whether or not he was prepared to step into this lion den. He quietly responded: 'Well, my name is Daniel!'
"Karen Haas, the Clerk of the House, loves this institution and has inspired countless people to have the same respect for this Chamber and its legislative operations as she does.
"John Sullivan, as Parliamentarian, has given us wise and steady guidance with an even temperament.
"Admiral John Eisold, as Attending Physician, whose leadership during the anthrax crisis calmed the fears of anxious Members and staff.
"Alan Hantman, the Architect of the Capitol, and his staff are responsible for maintaining this beautiful monument to freedom.
"During my tenure as Speaker, we created the Office of Interparliamentary Affairs, ably headed by Martha Morrison, so that we could more effectively interact with our legislative colleagues around the world as together we try and share the blessings of democracy with those who have been oppressed by tyranny and are only now enjoying the fruits of freedom.
"We also reinstituted the Office of the Historian headed by Dr. Remini and his deputy, Fred Beuttler. They are to be commended for their hard work.
"I want to especially thank Pope Barrow and his staff in the Legislative Counsel's office and Peter LeFevre and his staff in the Law Revision Counsel's office.
"Geraldine Gennet and her staff in the House General Counsel's office have helped us negotiate through some difficult constitutional issues and have been our legal guardians.
"Curt Coughlin and his staff in the Office of Emergency Planning, who have become so important to us in the post 9/11 world.
"I am especially grateful to the dedicated individuals who have served me so well over the years. I have been so blessed to have an incredibly dedicated and talented team-- from my Illinois district offices, my 14th district Office here in Washington, and to the staff in the Office of the Speaker. And while they are not employees of the House, I also want to thank those over at the NRCC who have helped me fulfill my political responsibilities as a party leader.
"I hope each of them knows of my personal gratitude for their service. They have spent many long days and many long nights working to make this a better country, and I know they have sacrificed time with their family and friends to do so. On behalf of a grateful Speaker, I want to thank them all for their service.
"In particular, I want to thank my Chief of Staff, Scott Palmer, who has been with me since 1986 when I first came to Congress. Scott, you and Mike Stokke and Sam Lancaster and Bill Hughes and so many others have given so much of your time. I am so proud of what we've accomplished together.
"Next month we will begin a new congress. Power will change without a shot being fired - peacefully as the Founding Fathers envisioned. Those of us on this side of the aisle will become the loyal opposition and the gentle lady from California, Mrs. Pelosi will assume the duties as our Speaker. I know she will do so with skill and grace and that she will bring honor to this institution.
"In a few short months, the Capitol Visitor's Center will be completed. In that center the work of this Congress will be described to future generations. Visitors will view an introductory film entitled: Out of Many, One. E Pluribus Unum.
"In my first speech as your Speaker I said that solutions to problems cannot be found in a pool of bitterness. The Framers expected the floor of this House to be a place of passionate debate - a place where competing ideas and philosophies clash; a crucible where many ideas can be blended together to forge a strong nation. But this floor should also be a place of civility and mutual respect and a place where statesmanship and not just electoral politics guide our decisions. President Reagan was right: 'There is no limit to what can be accomplished if you don't mind who gets the credit.'
"Eight years ago I broke with tradition and gave my inaugural speech from this microphone in the well of the house and not from the Speaker's Chair. I did so because I said 'my legislative home is here on this floor with you, and so is my heart.'
"Sitting in the Speaker's Chair is an honor I will always cherish. But I believe there is actually an even greater honor.
"It is one that each of you share with me. It is bestowed upon us by the citizens of this country, one by one, as they go into the voting booth and elect us with their sacred ballot. It is the honor of raising our hands and a taking the oath as a Member of this House of Representatives and then to sit on one of these benches.
"So on January 4th I will be privileged to rejoin you on these benches - where my heart is.
"May God Bless each of you, may God bless this People's House, and may God Bless the United States of America."
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Pelosi Salutes Hastert's Years of Service as Speaker of the House
Washington, D.C. - Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this evening in honor of Speaker Dennis Hastert's service to the House of Representatives. Below are Pelosi's remarks:
"Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight to salute Speaker Dennis Hastert, the longest-serving Republican Speaker in history. And long may that record stand. This record is a testament to Dennis Hastert's leadership within the Republican Conference, in this Congress, and in the country.
"But Dennis's public service began long ago. He spent 16 years as a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School in Illinois. And that is the best kind of public service, shaping the minds of our young people.
"He then went in to politics, and after six years in the Illinois State House, he came to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986. In 1999, Dennis Hastert's colleagues elected him Speaker of the House, third highest official in the United States of America.
"While we have disagreed from time to time on issues, we agree on the importance of public service - the kind of public service that has been the hallmark of Speaker Hastert's career, whether in a classroom or in the House.
"Mr. Speaker, I know I speak for many people in this room and across this country when I thank you for one thing in particular. Rosa Parks made history a long time ago and changed America. She also made history when she was the first African American woman to lie in state in the Capitol of the United States. That honor would not have been possible without your leadership, and we are grateful for it.
"I too want to join the Speaker in acknowledging the Hastert family - Jean, Ethan, Joshua, and the entire family - for sharing Dennis with us. We know the sacrifices are great. I want to acknowledge them as well.
"My colleagues, in Congress, we all hold the title of 'honorable' because we serve in Congress. We hold the title of 'honorable' by virtue of our office. Dennis Hastert holds it by virtue of his character. I salute him for his service to our nation and look forward to many more opportunities - happily he is staying with us - for us all to work together.
"In your remarks, Mr. Speaker, you referenced that sad evening when we joined together on the steps of the Capitol and sang 'God Bless America.' Among God's many blessings to America is the service and leadership of Speaker Dennis Hastert.
"Thank you Mr. Speaker."
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