Elizabeth Dole

Concession speech - Nov. 3, 2008

Elizabeth Dole
November 03, 2008— Salisbury, North Carolina
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Senator Elizabeth Dole concedes to Senator-elect Kay Hagan in the 2008 North Carolina U.S. Senate race.

[cheering] Wow. It's hard to see you all, but I know there are lots of friends out there. [cheering]

Wow, thank you so much. [cheering]

My goodness. Let me just say first of all—I love each and every one of you. Thank you for being here tonight. All these great friends and family members and colleagues. Hard, hard workers—thank you.

And the first thing I want to say tonight is to thank my husband, Bob Dole. Right over here, isn't he a great man?

And you know, Bob was traveling some of the precincts and visiting today, and he stopped off at Food Lion, and he went to the bakery department and he had a cake fixed for me that said "Good luck, Elizabeth" and brought that cake home. Now that's a sweet husband isn't it?

Also, I was traveling the precincts and I stopped in Gary's Barbeque to visit with people at lunchtime, and who walked in but Bob Dole? It's been interesting to say the least. But I also certainly want to thank my campaign manager, Marty Ryall. Where are you Marty? Marty? My general strategist, Mark Stevens, Mark. And my whole campaign team for all the hours of hard, hard work. And to the Dole team from my Senate offices, led by Bryan Nick, chief of staff, Margaret Klutz, who's been my state director, and they both have done a tremendous job. Yes.

I can't tell you how proud I am of all of you, my Senate offices. From the constituent service work of 40,000 cases that we've handled here in North Carolina, to my staff in D.C. pumping out letters, tracking floor activity, delivering results for the good people of North Carolina—from the bottom of my heart thank you, thank you for a job extremely well done.

You know I am reminded of a little story that Ronald Reagan used to tell. It's about a preacher who visited an elementary school, and this preacher asked the children to raise their hands if they wanted to go to heaven. Well, all the kids raised their hands except for one little boy. And the preacher said, son, don't you want to heaven? And the boy replied, yes sir, I just don't want to go right now.

It's been the highest honor of my life to be elected as the first female United States senator in North Carolina history. Thank you. And believe me, it has been an honor and a joy to represent the people of North Carolina in the United State Senate. I have done my level best to make you proud.

Many of the people in this room also worked tirelessly in my first election. And I've been ever conscious that my neighbors and fellow Tar Heels put their trust in me when they marked my name on their ballots. I've worn the mantle of my responsibility to North Carolinians with deep delight. Serving as your senator has truly been a mission field for me, as many of you know. Helping a disabled veteran obtain benefits, helping a farmer avoid foreclosure on his farm, insuring that a displaced worker's healthcare doesn't lapse—these are the things that bring joy to me, and they're reasons why I chose public service.

You know, I'm not by nature a politician, and I have to say I've never been completely at home with the boys plotting back in the Senate cloakroom, but I have always felt surefooted when casting my votes in the best interest of North Carolinians, protecting North Carolina rights and prerogatives and standing up for time-tested North Carolina principles and values.

In truth, I've not taking these stands because of politics. I've looked at these last six years as a continuation of my life as a public servant. In public service you don't choose your issues, you face them when they come your way, and you do your best to do what's right.

I began my career taking cases for indigents who couldn't afford a lawyer, and I found myself talking across the table at the city jail with a man who had been arrested for petting a lion in the city zoo, and you know something - that was my first case, and I won it.

I worked hard for consumer protection in Lyndon Johnson's White House and on Richard Nixon's Federal Trade Commission. I fought to put life-saving airbags in U.S. cars. I pushed the states to pass safety belt laws - back then not a single state had a safety belt law - and we also got age 21 drinking rule while I was Ronald Reagan's secretary of transportation, and I worked to bring a peaceful resolution to the violent 11-month labor strike in the Pittston Coal Mines while at George H.W. Bush's Department of Labor.

I wept over Rwandan babies as I cradled them in my arms during my eight years at the American Red Cross. I saw things there that will haunt me the rest of my life. But in all of this time, I have never been so moved and inspired than during this time, this election here in North Carolina. Our country is fighting two military wars at once and a global struggle with terrorism. National pundits discount our stomach for the fight, and they wag about an American adverse to sacrifice. Ladies and gentlemen, they should come to North Carolina. They should come to North Carolina. Many of America's young men and women leave for battle, some never to return, from places with the North Carolina names of Bragg and Lejeune. In our state, we know the cost of freedom, and we proudly shoulder the burden of sacrifice.

I was in Taylorsville last week, speaking in front of the Alexander County Hall. To my left was a monument to the boys of Alexander County who died racing up to Cemetery Ridge in Pickett's Charge. To my right were two other monuments, paying tribute to Taylorsville veterans of the First and Second World Wars, and those that fought in Korea and Vietnam. I'm sure there were people in the crowd with a brother or a father or a sister or other relative in harm's way in Afghanistan or Iraq. Yet with all that history of sacrifice from that small hill town, you can bet love of our state and love of our country have never been stronger.

We began at the Taylorsville event with bowed heads and a prayer to our Maker, and we did not begin our speechmaking until we'd faced the flag, placed our hands on our hearts and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. And yes, we pledged allegiance to an America united as one nation under God.

Today our country is buffeted by the economic collapse of some of our most trusted financial institutions, betrayed by the self-serving greed of many in whom we had placed our faith. Yet the people I've been speaking with, whether they be bankers in Charlotte or farmers in Greenville, have not lost their faith in themselves or in their future. Neither have they lost faith in the American system or America herself, because we are the greatest country on the face of the Earth. Yes, indeed

It's been a hard-fought campaign. Historic wins have swept across the political landscape, unsettling allegiances and toppling traditions. People from faraway places poured tens of millions of dollars into North Carolina, funding tough, unfair, negative ads against me. I responded forcefully. I'm not happy with the tone this race acquired, but I must say I will never regret fighting as hard as I could for the privilege of continuing to serve the people of my state.

[extended applause]

Oh my, thank you so much. You all are marvelous—thank you.

But folks, tonight is about coming together in common purpose in the best interest of North Carolina and her people, and I want to congratulate my opponent, Kay Hagan, on her victory tonight. Meanwhile, I urge you also to join me in praying for God to guide and support Kay Hagan as she takes on her tough new duties. I know I will do everything I can to help her make a smooth, successful transition in the best interest of our state.

The red clay of North Carolina is in my blood. My forbearers settled here more than 200 years ago. It was here that I learned from my father about honor, my mother about perseverance, and my community about love and compassion. Salisbury has always been my Rock of Gibraltar, and my home has always been Salisbury.

You know, my mother worried when I left for Harvard. She thought I'd never get married and never come home again. I'll always be grateful that my precious mother and late brother, John, lived to see me as the wife of an honorable man, truly home again in the house I grew up in, elected to the United State Senate from my beloved North Carolina.

And despite rumors spread by a couple old codgers on that front porch, I'm not really that old. And I'm certainly not ready for retirement. Like that little boy in the classroom who refused to raise his hand, I'm not ready to abandon the playing field. I will rededicate myself to public service and find my joy in the task of helping others wherever and however that opportunity presents itself.

I look forward to working shoulder to shoulder with as many of you as care to join me. Once again from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for your hard work, your support and especially your love. Serving you has been the honor of my life. God bless each and every one of you, this great state of North Carolina and this land of the free, America. Thank you so much for being here tonight. God bless you.

Full speech found at http://www.c-span.org/video/?282173-2/senator-elizabeth-dole-concession-speech.