On Wednesday, December 10th, I stood for the last time on the House floor and delivered some remarks. The video as well as the transcript of the address are below.
Thank you again for putting your trust in me as your Representative. It has been an honor and a privilege to represent you.
Member of Congress
Remarks of Representative Rush Holt
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
A PRIVILEGE TO SERVE IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
I thank my colleague, Mr. Pascrell from New Jersey, for underscoring the importance of what we do here in this House. Those are not just numbers on a page that he was quoting; those are people's lives and livelihoods, and we have work to do.
As I prepare to wind up my service here after 16 years, I seek the indulgence of my friend here and our colleagues to make a few observations for the benefit of my constituents to whom I owe much.
When people call my office, we answer the phone, ``Representative Rush Holt.'' Mr. Speaker, here in the House, for each of us, Representative is our title and our job description. It is an honor and a privilege for each of us to represent about three-quarters of a million people, to represent them here in the people's House, this House, that is the focal point of the U.S. Government laid out in article I, section 1, of the Constitution, right at the beginning.
Despite all the well-publicized frustrations of this place, this House is the greatest instrument for justice and human welfare in the world. We are a central part of the most successful experiment in human advancement in history. We must not forget that.
Speaking of not forgetting, we would all do well to develop a stronger sense of history, a sense among ourselves and our country. It is with a sense of history that we realize what progress we have made as a country.
In this time of frustration and cynicism, we should take note: the success of America economically, culturally, and socially has not been an accident, and it was not destined. Our success derives from our chosen system of governing ourselves. Without a sense of history, one cannot recognize progress, and humans need a sense of progress.
When I was first elected to Congress 16 years ago, some people asked me: ``Why would a scientist leave a good research institution to get into the muck of politics?'' The simple answer was that it was too important not to.
Sure, it was satisfying to win an election in a district where many said it couldn't be done, where no one of my party had been elected in almost anyone's memory, but it was clear to me that this was not a game of politics; it was a fight to defend the soul of America.
I came here an optimist about our country, our people, and their government, and I leave an optimist. I have had the help of many people, volunteers, staff and colleagues, smart, inspiring, tireless. I think of many.
I will mention several by name: my wife, Margaret Lancefield; my chief and deputy chief, Chris Gaston and Sarah Steward; and looking back, I think of those who have died during my time here.
As I speak here in glowing terms about our government, successes of this ingenious system of balancing competing interests, I would be obtuse not to recognize that many are discouraged about their government. Some politicians even foster distrust in government, taking people beyond the traditional healthy American skepticism to real destructive cynicism.
In every era, there have been naysayers: ``The government is broken, special interests rule, and all politicians are corrupt.'' I know that is not true.
I am reminded daily that through diligent and committed service to the people that a Representative can ensure that each person knows that she or he has a part in our democracy, a direct connection to his or her government, and that cooperative action, yes, government, benefits them.
We must continually show our constituents that we are committed to always improving the mechanisms of good democratic government: voting, legislation, and addressing grievances.
After eight terms, I look back with satisfaction at some things accomplished: preserving land and bits of history; improving educational opportunities; supporting education in science and foreign languages; expanding access to excellent health care, especially mental health care for our military veterans; protecting families' economic security in their nonwage-earning years; protecting postal workers when they are exposed to anthrax; enhancing the reliability, accessibility, and auditability of voting; strengthening civil protections of Muslim Americans and other minority groups; strengthening fairness in the workplace for LGBT workers; and increasing support for scientific research.
Through it all, our primary job, I would say, has been to beat back the cynicism about our ability as Americans to govern ourselves. Of course, we understand that passing laws and appropriating money is only part of a Representative's work.
I have taken opportunities to speak out about injustice, to extol people and programs that work well, to voice support for people who need a kind word and more, a little help. I present a vision for a government--not a government that vanishes, but a government that works for its citizens.
Of course, not all problems can be fixed by government, but it can be reassuring and uplifting to people to know that other people have their backs and can help; yes, that is government.
I continue to speak against intrusive surveillance by government that treats people as suspects first and citizens second. I have joined with others here to preserve our national legacies, our land and resources, a clean environment and to preserve memories of where we come from, and with my science background, I always try to present arguments based on evidence and open review.
On many issues and in many votes, I have found myself outvoted and in a minority, but it helps to recall the words of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who has spoken about the satisfaction in crafting a strong dissenting opinion with the hope or expectation that it will become the prevailing majority opinion.
I am reminded of many shortcomings and work unfinished. Others may succeed in reviving the Office of Technology Assessment to provide Congress with badly needed assistance. Others remaining in Congress may move our country appreciably toward more sustainable practices. My colleagues here may yet reform the intelligence community. And acting with the recognition that peace is the best security, others may work to move our Nation away from militaristic responses to so many problems.
Again, this work over 16 years has been an honor and a great satisfaction. I thank my family and my staff. Especially, I thank the people of central New Jersey for this opportunity to serve.
Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.