At the end of each session the Senate tradition is to pause for a moment to share our thoughts about those senators who will be retiring when the final gavel brings the session to a close. One of those senators who will be leaving the Senate is Harry Reid. Senator Reid is quite a remarkable individual and his story should be read and considered by students of government and history – of all ages.
Over the years I have had a chance to spend some time with Harry at Prayer Breakfasts and listen to his reflections on his life – personally and politically. He has lived a life that few would ever believe to be possible.
Harry makes for a great example of how to take your life and make the most of it. He was born in a small cabin that offered few of life’s comforts but he didn’t complain about it. He took what he was given in life and worked to make it better.
As a young man he served as the Student Body President of his High School and drew the notice of his teachers and his boxing coach. For a while there it looked like we might lose him to the sport of boxing, but he decided to attend Utah State University when his skills and talents helped earn him a scholarship.
His next stop was George Washington University – my alma mater – where he worked to earn a law degree. To make it possible, Harry needed a job and so he worked as a U.S. Capitol Police Officer.
Like so many things in his life, if Harry wanted something he seemed to always find a way to get it done. So it was no surprise when he returned home to Nevada and took up what would be his lifelong ambition, serving the people of his home state as their representative.
It wasn’t long before Harry had served in Nevada’s State Legislature and on the Nevada Gaming Commission. When the opportunity presented itself he served in the House and then on to the Senate.
He didn’t always win every election but each disappointment only served to make him more determined than ever to make a difference for the people of his state. The totals are impressive – more than thirty years in Congress, serving under five Presidents, and being a part of both the minority and majority – finding ways to pursue and support agendas in both positions to benefit the people of Nevada.
One of my favorite memories will always be the work we did together to enable the LDS Church to purchase a site that has a great deal of historic significance to the Church. The legislation had already passed the House but was stuck in the Senate as some concerns were raised and needed to be addressed. Harry knew what he needed to do to make it possible for the bill to clear the Senate and together we figured out a way to make it happen. Martin’s Cove is a popular site and it draws large crowds every year.
This is one of those moments most of us thought would never happen. It seemed like Harry Reid would always be in the Senate. He has not only left a remarkable record, he also seems to be the last of an era. I have no doubt those who will take up his position in the years to come will do a good job and get results, but they will never do it “like Harry did.” He will forever stand as a unique mix of personality, character, history and background.
Diana joins in sending our best wishes to Harry and Landra, his wife. Together they have been quite a team and they accomplished a great deal. We didn’t always agree on a lot of issues but one thing can be said – if you had a tough battle before you, and you needed someone by your side who wouldn’t give up until the battle was won, Harry was the kind of guy you would want in the fight. If you were on the other side of an issue, you’d always prefer someone like Harry wouldn’t be opposing you.
Thank you for your service, Harry. You’ve left an example that will inspire and encourage others in the years to come. Whenever faced with an impossible task people will remember you and realize that with some creativity, determination and an understanding of the rules of the Senate it can be done.