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Sherrod B.
Democrat OH

About Sen. Sherrod
  • Nomination of Sarah R. Saldana to Be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security

    by Senator Sherrod Brown

    Posted on 2014-12-16

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    BROWN. I ask unanimous consent that following my remarks, the Senator from Hawaii be recognized.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Tribute To Jay Rockefeller Mr. BROWN. Mr. President, I rise today to honor one of my best friends in the Senate and a long-time public servant whom I greatly admire, John D. Rockefeller IV.

    In 1964, in Athens, OH, President Johnson went to Ohio University, and he said: Poverty hides its face behind a mask of affluence. But I call upon you to help me to get out there and unmask it, take that mask off of that face of affluence and let the world see what we have, and let the world do something about it.

    Several months later, John D. Rockefeller IV, 27 years old, came to West Virginia as a VISTA volunteer. Well-educated and well-connected, Jay Rockefeller could have chosen any career he wanted. But to him, it was about public service.

    This year marks Jay's 50th year in public service. He found himself in Emmons, WV. Emmons, WV, is a small town. Jay didn't shy away. Jay didn't keep his distance. He wanted to know the people he was going to be working with, and he set out to do that. For 2 years, he worked alongside the people of Emmons for accessible health care, for education, for opportunities. His work included dismantling and moving a condemned elementary school from a neighboring town onto a flatbed truck, and establishing it in Emmons as a community center.

    Jay never forgot that, Jay, who in this Chamber sits across the aisle from me at this desk. I was sitting here 2 weeks ago and Jay was talking about Emmons. He said going to Emmons--and I will quote from his farewell speech 2 weeks ago to the Senate: That set my moral compass and gave me direction. Where everything in my real life began. Where I learned how little I knew about the problems people face. I was humbled by that lesson.

    He went on to say: My time in Emmons was transformative. It explains every policy I pursued and every vote I have cast. It was where my beliefs were bolted down. And where my passion met my principle.

    Fifty years ago, Jay learned those lessons. For 50 years, as a VISTA volunteer, as a State legislator, as the Secretary of State, as the Governor of West Virginia, and as a Senator for 3 decades from West Virginia, he learned those beliefs. They were bolted down, and he practiced those beliefs.

    In 1966, he was elected to the West Virginia House. Two years later, Jay had an opportunity that most people I know would not have refused.

    Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated--the Senator from New York at that time. In June of 1968, the Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller-- Jay Rockefeller's uncle--offered that appointment to the U.S. Senate to Jay Rockefeller. The Governor offered that position to Jay Rockefeller, and his answer to his uncle was: No, thank you. I want to earn a seat some day in the U.S. Senate.

    That is what Jay set out to do. He reminded us a few weeks ago: Important undertakings can't be halfhearted. You have to commit your whole self--almost like pushing a heavy rock uphill. With both of your hands you push, because if you let up for a split second with either hand, you and the rock go tumbling backwards into the abyss.

    Jay had a chance to prove that in this body over 20 years ago. He pushed that rock uphill to fight to protect retired coal miners' promised health care benefits. It is easy for Members of this Senate who have good titles, who are well paid, who dress like this, who don't really need to go out and listen to the public very much, to forget people like union coal miners or nonunion coal miners.

    He called this ``the greatest moment of my career.'' Jay threatened to keep the Senate in session. He was going to do whatever it took--22 years ago, over Christmas, over New Year's, whatever it took--to make sure his colleagues didn't leave town before passing the 1992 Coal Act. Because of his legislation, more than 200,000 coal miners and their families have kept the benefits they were promised.

    He spearheaded efforts to ensure workplace safety. I have talked to Jay after coal-mining disasters when miners are killed in one of the most treacherous, difficult, and dangerous jobs we can imagine. I can see the pain in his face because he knows people who work in the mines and he has listened to them.

    When Lincoln's staff wanted him to stay in the White House and win the war and free the slaves and preserve the Union, Lincoln used to say, I have to go out and get my public opinion bath. That is what Jay did. A son and grandson of privilege, Jay understood that he served the public best when he got his public opinion bath and when he went out and listened to people. He fought against unfair trade practices, and he fought against tax policies that shipped jobs overseas. He reinvigorated the steel caucus, fighting for an industry that clearly has been victimized by unfair trade practices.

    Most importantly in Jay's career--and the thing I think he is most proud of--was another lesson he learned in Emmons, WV. He learned that many of the community school-aged children had never been to a doctor, they had never seen a dentist before because their families simply didn't have the money. Because of that, Jay made accessible, affordable health care for children part of his lifelong mission. He believes that health care is a right and not a privilege.

    He championed Medicaid expansion, and he championed this new health care law. It has Jay Rockefeller's fingerprints all over it. That is why hundreds of thousands of people in my State are grateful to Jay Rockefeller, because hundreds of thousands of people in Ohio now have health insurance who didn't have it before. Hundreds of thousands of families have benefited for a couple of decades because their children had health insurance. Again, this is because of Jay Rockefeller.

    In 1997, he devoted much of his time and career at that point to help write the Children's Health Insurance Program, CHIP. Because of CHIP, 8 million [[Page S6883]] children across this country--some of them in Emmons, WV, and some of them in my hometown of Mansfield, OH--now have access to health care, health care that they would not have otherwise. He continues that fight always on health care.

    I want to close with this. I have seen a lot of Senators come and go. I have seen a lot of Members come and go. I have seen a lot of public officials come and go. There can be a shortage of humility in these jobs. As Members of the House and Members of the Senate, sometimes we are a little puffed up about our titles and about the power that many of us have, and we are caught up in the way we are treated. People are often obsequious to Members in Congress, and all of that.

    What stands out to me--it is even more remarkable when you consider his family and what he came from--is Jay Rockefeller's humility. Here is the best example, I think. I found out almost by accident what Jay, as a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, would do regularly during his time in the Senate is he would send all the staff away, he would send the press away, and he would go to someone's home or community center or rec center or labor hall and he would sit with a number of veterans and listen to their stories. He would take notes and help those individually who might need help. Most importantly, he was listening to their stories.

    It reminds me of another story from Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's staff watched him, during one of his public opinion baths, talk to a number of people who were pushing him on something that mattered to them personally.

    His staff wanted to send them away. Lincoln said, ``No, I am not going to do that.'' Then Lincoln said--about these people who were talking to him, ordinary citizens outside the White House or anywhere else the President of the United States may have been--Lincoln said: They don't want much. They get so little. Each one considers his business of great importance. I know how I should feel if I were in their place.

    I can see Jay Rockefeller meeting with veterans, many of whom had never been thanked for their service. Many of them were suffering from wartime injuries from their time in the service, coming back to West Virginia and eking out a living. I can see Jay Rockefeller saying the same thing: They don't want much. They get so little. Each one considers his business of great importance. I know how I should feel if I were in their place.

    Going back 2 weeks ago to Jay's farewell speech across the aisle at this desk, he called upon us to remember that ``our north star must always be the real needs of the people we serve.'' Jay used his farewell speech to exhort us to do better on behalf of miners, on behalf of veterans, on behalf of single parents, on behalf of children, on behalf of sick people, people who do not always get a fair shake in life.

    He found his north star in public service, a career he chose because he wanted a mission to complete, a cause to believe in, a dream to follow. He found that mission. He found that cause. He found that dream in Emmons, WV, in 1964. It never left him. That is my friend Jay Rockefeller. For all of that we are so grateful.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Hawaii.

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