The honor of a lifetime
As my Senate term comes to a close, I want to express my deep appreciation for the incredible privilege of serving you in public office. I'm honored by the trust you've have placed in me over the past 32 years. If I could turn back the clock, I'd do it all over again. But none of it would have been possible without God's blessings, faithful friends and supporters and a loving family, especially my spirited wife, Stephanie.
During my time in public life, I've had the opportunity to sit in the Oval Office with the President, dine with the Queen, attend a mass celebrated by the Pope and meet countless dignitaries and cultural icons from around the world. But in all my experiences, I can honestly say that the most fulfilling moments are when I see ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It happens all the time in our state and elsewhere. In these instances, we see the true power of love and selflessness.
I think of the horrific accident near Blue Hill in 2012 when a school bus collided with a semi-trailer on a rural county road.
Two unsung heroes, Ron Meyer and Phil Petr, arrived on the scene moments later and bravely ran onto the burning bus to pull five children to safety, putting their own lives at risk. Witnesses have no doubt those five children would have perished, as others sadly did, if not for the remarkable bravery shown by Ron and Phil.
I've had the privilege of selecting a Nebraska family to be honored as 'Angels in Adoption' each year during my time in the Senate. And each year their stories of unconditional love show the limitless capacity of the human heart. One family, the Welchels of Banner County, went from two children to seven, adopting five children with special needs. But their selfless love didn't stop there. They then created a camp where other special kids could share life's journey. And I could go on.
These are the stories that fuel my belief that our world can be as great as we choose to make it. They are also the stories that have motivated me to search for solutions and to work through the partisan rancor that too often dominates government. In fact, witnessing the selfless work of fellow Nebraskans caring for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities had a profound impact on me as a young lawyer. I saw the difference just one person could make in someone's life, which served as a catalyst for my decision to enter public service. That's when, in 1982, I decided to run for a seat on the Lancaster County Board. Fast forward more years and more gray hairs than most of us would like to admit, and here I am beginning to close this chapter of my life.
On January 3, I will officially pass the baton to Nebraska's next Senator. Many people have asked, and I don't have an answer yet, about what lies ahead. I do know two things are certain: Steph and the grandkids plan on keeping me busy; and I look forward to opening a new chapter in my life with gratitude in my heart for the opportunity you have given me.
Again, thank you for the tremendous privilege of representing you as County Commissioner, City Councilman, Mayor, Governor, Secretary of Agriculture and United States Senator. It has been an honor of a lifetime. May God bless you and your family as much as He has blessed me and mine.