STAMFORD, CT – Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) today announced his plan
to retire from the United States Senate at the end of his fourth
term. Senator Lieberman was joined by his wife, Hadassah, their
children and grandchildren, and other family members as he shared his
decision with friends and supporters at an event in Stamford,
In his remarks, the Senator explained his decision:
He spoke of his career in public
He also spoke of his future:
The full text of Senator
Lieberman’s speech as prepared for delivery is below:
Twenty three years ago, in February 1988, on a wintry day in Hartford, I announced that I would be a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Standing with me as I began that long shot campaign were Hadassah, who was pregnant, and our three children—Matt, Becca, and Ethan. Today, Matt, Becca, and Ethan are here again, this time I am happy to say with their spouses, Elizabeth, Jacob, and Ariela. These three couples are now the proud parents of their own children—ten children—six of whom, in order of age—Tennessee, Eden, Yitz, Maddy, Yoav, and Camilla—are able to be here today. Our youngest child, Hani, who was born a month after I announced for the Senate in March 1988 is also here, with her husband, Daniel, and—as you can see—Hani is now pregnant. Next month, with God’s help, she will give birth to their first child, our eleventh grandchild. Talk about the circle of life.
I am a very lucky guy—privileged since 1988 to be a United States Senator and blessed since 1988, along with Hadassah, to have this miraculously growing family. I thank my wife and each of our children and grandchildren for the love, support, and inspiration they bring to every day of my life, including this special day.
There is a personal reason why I wanted to make this announcement at this hotel, and it too involves a life circle. During the first eight years of my life, my father, mother, sister and I lived in a cold water flat on the second floor of my grandmother’s house at 42 Hawthorne Street here in Stamford. That house was demolished in the early 1960s as part of redevelopment, but it was located right about where this hotel is today. As I think about the journey I have traveled from my childhood home to this day, I can’t help but also think about my four grandparents and the journey they traveled more than a century ago, as immigrants to this country. They came to America seeking freedom and they found it. They came to America hoping for opportunity and they got it. But even they could not have dreamed that their grandson would end up as a U.S. Senator and a barrier-breaking candidate for Vice President.
But that is America!
For the extraordinary opportunities to serve our state and country that I’ve had, I’m personally grateful to the voters of Connecticut whom I can never thank enough. But I have tried to thank them—to thank you—by working hard, to get good things done for you, our state and our country.
Some of the most satisfying moments of service I’ve had are the ones that usually don’t get public attention, when my staff and I have been able to provide support to one of you, a constituent in a moment of need, whether it was protecting a family from losing their home to foreclosure, helping the parents of a sick child get the health care they needed, or ensuring that a World War II veteran finally received the medals and recognition he was due for his service decades before.
I’m also grateful for what I’ve had the opportunity to accomplish in the Senate itself: what I’ve been able to do, for instance, to protect our environment—leading the fight against air and water pollution and climate change, cleaning up Long Island Sound, protecting the Connecticut River, and creating Connecticut’s first and only National Park site, Weir Farm.
I’m also proud of what I’ve been able to do for Connecticut businesses—helping them to keep and add jobs in our state, particularly in our defense industries, and to save Submarine Base New London.
And I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do to keep our country and people safe in a dangerous world—as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, supporting our troops and providing them with the best equipment possible—and in the years since the terrorist attack of 9/11/01, as Chairman or Ranking Member of the Senate’s new Homeland Security Committee, I’ve been at the center of Congressional efforts to strengthen our homeland defenses, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the enactment of the recommendations of the bipartisan 9-11 Commission, which together are the most sweeping reforms of our national security institutions since the start of the Cold War.
I’m also proud of my work across party lines in support of the strong, bipartisan American foreign and defense policies carried out by the four Presidents under whom I’ve been privileged to serve—Presidents Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama—policies which ousted the invading Iraqi military from Kuwait, ended the genocide of Muslims in the Balkans, and liberated Iraq, Afghanistan, and the world from brutally repressive, anti-American dictatorships.
And I’m proud of the work I’ve done to make the promise of equal opportunity and justice under the law more real for all Americans including, particularly in my time of service, African-Americans, women, and gay and lesbian Americans.
Along the way, I have not always fit comfortably into conventional political boxes—Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. I have always thought that my first responsibility is not to serve a political party but to serve my constituents, my state, and my country, and then to work across party lines to make sure good things get done for them. Whatever the partisan or policy differences that divide us, they are much less important than the shared values and dreams that unite us and that require us to work together to make progress for all. To me, that is what public service and leadership is all about.
My interest in public service was inspired by President John F. Kennedy, who—coincidentally 50 years ago tomorrow in his Inaugural Address—asked us to ask ourselves what we could do for our country and challenged us to bear any burden to assure the survival and success of liberty. The politics of President Kennedy—service to country, support of civil rights and social justice, pro-growth economic and tax policies, and a strong national defense—are still my politics, and they don’t fit neatly into today’s partisan political boxes any more either.
One thing that has not changed over the years is my love for America. We are a unique nation with a unique mission—to secure the rights to life, liberty, and happiness that are God’s endowment to every person. To a remarkable degree, succeeding generations of Americans have advanced that mission at home and abroad. The truth is that no other nation in history can match our ideals or our accomplishments. I know that we have gone through tough times recently, but I could not be more confident about our future. So don’t let anyone convince you that America’s best days are over. Believe with me that America’s best days are ahead of us. The fact is that we the American people have repeatedly come together and done what others said we could not do. And we will do so again and again in the future.
Now I want to talk to you about my future. In two years, I will complete my fourth term in the U.S. Senate, and as you know, I have been thinking a lot and talking with family and friends about whether I should seek a fifth term.
Let me tell you first what I have decided and then why.
I have decided it is time to turn the page to a new chapter, and so I will not be a candidate for re-election to a fifth term in the U.S. Senate in 2012. This was not an easy decision for me to make because I have loved serving in the Senate and I feel good about what I have accomplished. But I know it is the right decision and, I must say, I am excited about beginning a new chapter of life with new opportunities.
I know that some people have said that if I ran for reelection, it would be a difficult campaign for me. But what else is new? It probably would be. I have run many difficult campaigns before—from my first one in 1970 against the incumbent Democratic State Senate Majority Leader, to my 1988 campaign against the incumbent Republican U.S. Senator, to my campaign for re-election to the Senate in 2006 at the height of the controversy over the Iraq war. In all three of those elections most observers and pollsters thought I would not win. But with a lot of help from Independents, Democrats and Republicans—including many of you here today—in each case I did win.
I’ve never shied from a good fight and I never will.
The reason I have decided not to run for re-election in 2012 is best expressed in the wise words from Ecclesiastes: “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.” At the end of this term, I will have served 24 years in the U.S. Senate and 40 years in elective office. By my count, I have run at least 15 full-fledged political campaigns in Connecticut.
For me, it is time for another season and another purpose under Heaven.
I do not intend today to be the end of my career in public service. Having made this decision not to run enables me to spend the next two years in the Senate devoting the full measure of my energy and attention to getting things done for Connecticut and for our country. I will keep doing everything in my power to build strong bridges across party lines -- to keep our country safe, to win the wars we are in, and to make sure America’s leadership on the world stage is principled and strong. I will keep doing everything I can to keep our economy growing and get our national debt under control, to combat climate change, to end our dependency on foreign oil, and to reform our immigration laws. And when my Senate chapter draws to a close in 2013, I look forward to new opportunities that will allow me to continue to serve our country—and to stay engaged and involved in the causes that I have spent my career working on, and that I care so much about.
I go forward with a tremendous sense of gratitude for the opportunities I have had to make a difference. As it says in Psalm 13: “I will sing to the Lord, because He has treated me so kindly.” And I will also sing to everyone who has supported and sustained me over the years—beginning with my family, my parents of blessed memory, Henry and Marcia Lieberman, my wife Hadassah who has been such a steadfast soul-mate and life partner, our children, grandchildren, siblings, and extended family, all the people who volunteered in my campaigns and all the voters—first in New Haven and West Haven and then throughout the state who elected me to 5 terms as a State Senator, 2 terms as Attorney General, and 4 terms as a U.S. Senator; all the able and honorable public servants I have worked with, and the gifted and devoted people who have served with me as staff and who are exemplified here today by my chief of staff and valued counsellor Clarine Nardi Riddle, who began work with me in 1978, and my state director and undefeated campaign manager Sherry Brown, who started in 1980. Thank you all.
One of my favorite metaphors for America’s spirit and history comes from the great American novel written right here in Connecticut by Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In it, Huck and Jim ride the raft along the big river, that to me represents American history. In one sense, Huck and Jim could not be more different, but in another deeper sense, they are both Americans, unified by a common humanity and shared destiny as they travel down the river. So every time Huck and Jim come to a bend in the river, though they do not know and cannot see what lies beyond the bend, they are never fearful or pessimistic. They are always excited, confident, and optimistic.
That is the spirit that I believe has always inspired us Americans and propelled us forward together. It is the spirit I saw as a young man in the early 1960s in the civil rights movement in Mississippi—where white and black heroes refused to accept the injustice of racial segregation. It is the spirit I have seen in our men and women in uniform—heroes who are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq today for a cause greater than themselves—protecting and advancing freedom—and in the wounded heroes I have visited at Walter Reed who want nothing more than to rejoin their brothers and sisters in arms. It is the spirit that every day inspires all our heroes—our first responders and educators, our entrepreneurs and innovators, our citizen activists and religious leaders. And it is the spirit that inspires hundreds of millions of seemingly ordinary Americans—the unsung heroes—who work hard and play by the rules every day—driven by a dream, inspired to imagine a tomorrow that is better than today, for themselves, their children, our country, and our world.
That is the spirit that has defined the American people for 235 years now and that I know will continue to make us the greatest nation in the world.
And that is the spirit that fills me today.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless America.