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Video: Rubio Bids Farewell to Senator Bill Nelson on the Senate Floor

Dec 12, 2018 | Comunicados de Prensa

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) honored his friend and colleague Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) following his final speech as a United States Senator.
A rough, full transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below. A high-quality video for download is available here.
Rubio: Madam President, we just heard the words of the senior Senator from my state, and I want to take a moment because it reminds me of a truthism that came to mind as I heard him speak and I reflect back on our almost eight years of service here together now. You know, political divisions have existed in our country since its very beginning. What has changed is that there was a time not so very long ago when Americans knew each other, when Americans had political differences, but they also served on the PTA board together. When we disagreed about who to vote for, but we coached each other’s kids in little league or we were members of the same church and worshipped together or we lived side by side as neighbors. And so when all you know about someone is who they voted for. But you know them as a fellow parent, as a neighbor, as your children’s coach, as someone you live side by side with, then you know them as a person.
It’s a lot easier to dislike a political opponent than it is to dislike the whole person. And I raise that with you because I’m very proud of the relationship, the working relationship that we’ve had in our eight years here together. One of the things that made that possible is that I knew Bill Nelson as a person. If all I knew about him was that he and I did not always vote the same way on every issue, that’s what most people know about us who serve here. That’s one of the challenges that we so often face. The men and women we represent in our respective parties and in our respective political leanings, they usually only know about our colleagues on the three minutes they may see them on a television interview. But we get to know each other as people. We get to know each other outside of politics. And I knew Bill Nelson, and I know Bill Nelson as a person and as a man.
Now I’m an enormous admirer of his knowledge of Florida, he knows every nook and cranny of the state. I recall — he’d probably remember this — but we were together on a Coast Guard aircraft after one of our storms, and as we overflew the state from above, he was like pointing out and identifying down to the street level every corner of the geography of the state. And I remember thinking, you know, I’ve been in Florida politics for a while I know the state fairly well, and he knew it down to the street level. And so to try to keep pace, I went back and opened up the atlas and tried to replicate 25 years of state service to try and at least be in the same neighborhood as he is in in his knowledge of our state. It was incredibly impressive. It wasn’t something he memorized by looking at a book, though. It was because he had been to all of these places at some point during his service to our state. I would say, that certainly in the last quarter century there has been no greater champion, not just for Florida’s space industry, but for the space program. Not just for NASA but for all of it. For the belief that great nations do great things, that they explore the heavens. And there has been no greater champion for it. And his leaving the Senate will be a tremendous loss and will require all of us to work harder to ensure that America remains a nation active and engaged in space.
But above all else, I knew him and know him as a good man, and I emphasize the word man because I think oftentimes we have developed in our modern culture a warped sense of what it truly takes to a strong, good person. We live in an era in which we celebrate pride and arrogance. But I have learned through example, watching him up close that Bill Nelson is a man of the kind of humility that our common faith tries to instill in us. He’s a man in a time when it’s so easy to be indifferent to the suffering of others.
Bill Nelson in his service years has been a man of compassion. He told you a handful of stories. There are so many more of real human beings who he has stayed engaged in cases involving them without cameras, without press, without bumper stickers, without documentaries or any sort of recognition that so often people seek in the political process. We live in a time in which being crude and abrasive is celebrated as strength while decency is oftentimes ridiculed as weakness.
But Bill Nelson has been an example of decency. I cannot recall a single time in our eight years of service together in which he did anything to harm me or embarrass me or in any way create unnecessary conflict. In fact, any conflict at a personal level. In fact, I would say that the worst thing he ever did to me was he once, in front of an audience, accused me of being a moderate. It goes further than that. Our staffs would travel together across the state, and sometimes people would be shocked by it. They would gasp when my regional director and his regional director would share a ride to an event together as if somehow Republicans and Democrats are supposed to be allergic to one another when in fact in the end no matter how we view our politics, we’re all going to be in this nation for the rest of our lives so we better figure out a way to work together on the issues that will impact us all. And so I will greatly miss the opportunity to continue to serve with him, but I know that his service to our nation and our state is not finished.
I know he will find new endeavors. I know this simply because he is not one that’s going to sit back and rest and reflect. He’s going to keep working, and I’m excited to see what God’s plans are for the rest of his years. And I believe there will be many more, because despite the differences in our date of birth — I’m not saying that he’s old. I’m saying that he’s older than I am. he can probably still beat me. In fact, he probably can always beat me in a pull-up contest or push-up contest. This is actually not an exaggeration. This is true, which is why I never challenged him to one. I will miss greatly working with him in the Senate but look forward to working with him beyond it. This I think is no exaggeration. When the history of Florida politics as it is written, the name Bill Nelson will be among the giants of Florida political history. For few who have ever served at any level have done more for longer in the service to the people of the Sunshine State than the senior senator who moments ago bid his farewell to a place and a chamber where he’s done so much good for our state, for our nation, and for the world. I yield the floor.