Tammy Duckworth

2016 Senate Victory Speech - Nov. 8, 2016

Tammy Duckworth
November 08, 2016— Chicago, Illinois
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Thank you, thank you, everybody. Oh, my gosh.

Tonight, we showed a campaign that respects the voters and is focused on practical solutions, rather than shopworn slogans, can actually be successful. We showed that a relentless focus on rebuilding Illinois's middle class and respecting hard work, rather than wealth, can be successful, too.

And while it's too early and the big race is still yet to be called, we are filled with hope that history will be made tonight. A win for Secretary Clinton is also a win for inclusiveness and for the American values that we hold so dear. More importantly, it's a repudiation of the vile politics of fear and xenophobia that have sought to marginalize women, people of color, and immigrants.

Our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, our hope is that tonight's result serves as a new birth of freedom and also a reminder that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

While this campaign has drawn to an end, the real work of securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and for all our children and grandchildren continues. That's why I'm so proud of this campaign and so excited to get to work.

Thank you to all of our great volunteers and supports, the people who knocked on doors and made phone calls, and sent in contributions — five and ten dollars at a time. This was a truly grassroots effort and our victory would not have been possible without each and every one of you. Absolutely.

Thank you to my campaign staff, who kept this ship on course, and ran the best darn Senate race in the country! Thank you to my family—my husband, Brian; my brother Tom, and my mom, and of course, my precious Abigail, who came into our lives just two, short years ago. And she changed us completely. She's our angel.

And of course, thank you, Senator Durbin, for that warm introduction and for so much more. There is simply quite no way that I could stay and be up here tonight without your wisdom and encouragement. And I don't have the words to explain simply what you mean to me. You are the most decent public servant I know, and the people of Illinois are lucky to have you.

I'm here because of the miracle that occurred 12 years ago this Saturday above and in a dusty field in Iraq. Some I can explain like the bravery of my crew. And some I can't, like the shrapnel from the explosion passing through my helicopter's running rotor blades and didn't destroy it, and allowing us to land.

I started that day flying high, doing what I loved more than anything in the world. And I ended it knocked down, bleeding, laid low, surviving only because my buddies refused to leave me and wouldn't stop, even as they struggles to carry me, dropping me, falling, getting back up, stumbling forward again, lifting my dead weight, their hearts bursting from the exertion.

One of those heroes is in the room right now. Matt Backus, thank you. I can only be here because of you. I—I live every day trying to honor you.

Eleven days later, I woke up at Walter Reed so weak I couldn't even move. So weak I couldn't feed or clean up after myself. But I was alive—alive with a debt that I can never repay. And I wake up every morning now trying to be worthy of my crew, trying to be worthy of their struggle, to be worthy of this miraculous second chance.

And as we celebrate this amazing and hard-earned victory, let's keep in our sights and our hearts those who aren't celebrating tonight. Because they've been knocked down by life's unpredictability. There are steelworkers and their families down in Granite City, more than 2,000 of them who got lay-off notices the day before Thanksgiving, and were laid off two days after Christmas. There are people in every city and small town across the state who keep hearing about an economic recovery, but simply haven't felt it in their lives.

Let's be clear. The economy didn't fail them all of a sudden in 2008. In too many cases, it's been decades of decline and frustration brought on by unfair trade deals and economic trends that favor the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

There's a brave, young woman whose parents brought her to this country in search of opportunity, but who now faces the uncertainty of being undocumented. Not only that, the rhetoric coming out of the electoral season this year makes her wonder if she's still welcome in the only country she knows.

There's a young man in Chicago who told me he could and would leave his gang life behind if he could find a steady job that paid $350 a week. He wasn't looking for six-figures. He was looking for the stability and dignity of a job.

Then there's a combat veteran who answered this nation's call, but when he came home after years of war, struggled to find a steady job. He's attended too many funerals of his buddies who struggled to readjust and wonders if his torment will ever go away.

There are people living out these stories every day and in every community across Illinois. With the circus that has been the 2016 election coming to an end, these challenges will still remain. But so will the opportunities. And it is up to us to meet them.

It starts with a basic understanding that no matter who you voted for today, we are all in this together. President Kennedy told us that our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we all are mortal. If the president of the United States can summon that kind of grace and understanding at the height of the Cold War, surely we can find it in ourselves to give our fellow Americans the same benefit.

And that's the spirit that I will bring to work in the Senate every single day. While there may be disagreements with my friends on the other side of the aisle, which is healthy, I pledge to start with the presumption that my colleagues, regardless of party, love this country as much as I do and that all we want is what's best for our children.

Moments ago—moments ago, I spoke with Senator Kirk and he offered his support as we make this transition. It's been a tough campaign, no question about it. Make no mistake, however, Senator Kirk has served his country for over two decades and we are grateful for his service. He is also an inspiration for people overcoming adversity and living with a disability. Thank you, Senator Kirk.

So, where do we go from here? Well, just as I try every day to live up to the sacrifices my buddies made to carry me off that battlefield, I will go to work in the Senate looking to honor the sacrifice and quiet dignity of those Illinoisans who are facing challenges of their own. After all, this nation didn't give up on me when I was at my most vulnerable and needing the most help. O believe in an America that doesn't give up on anyone who hasn't given up on themselves.

That's why I will work to make college affordable for every American. Whether—whether it is an honor student searching for the right school, but scared of taking on $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 of debt before she's even begun her career. Or a worker looking to increase his skills and employability by enrolling in a certificate program at a community college.

I will work to make Illinois a leader in renewable energy. You know, our neighbors in Iowa get more than a third of their energy needs from wind, while we only get percent here in Illinois. Not only should we be producing more energy from wind and other renewable sources, we should leverage our considerable advantages of skilled workforce, advanced manufacturing sectors, and geography to be a global leader in building the renewable energy infrastructure.

And I will work every day to make sure our veterans are getting the best care and receiving the benefits we promised them. They did not hesitate to answer the call when America asked them to serve, and we should not make them wait now.

Now, this city's vibrancy was on full display four days ago5 million Cubs fans—go Cubs. And even some reluctant Sox and Cardinals fans, maybe in disguise, came out to celebrate. We love this city and we know how great and beautiful it is. But that doesn't mean that we don't acknowledge its problems. Chief among them are communities and neighborhoods where hope and opportunity are so far removed from that sun-splashed Grant Park scene that they might as well be in a different city.

Too many of our neighbors have to travel outside of their neighborhoods for amenities that we take for granted in so many parts of the rest of the city—groceries, clothing, and the basic needs for everyday living. Thousands of hard-working Illinoisans have fled our communities because of lack of hope, leading to a spiral of neglect that devastates neighborhoods, the tax base, and opportunities for our young people. To address this, we need economic justice. We need jobs and we need investment in all of our communities.

Opportunity shouldn't be something that requires a commute. In the Senate, I will work for increased infrastructure investment, whether it's maintaining roads and bridges, improving and expanding public transportation, or at long last, ensuring that our drinking water is safe by replacing lead pipes throughout all of our communities. That will help create good jobs and level the playing field.

Economic justice also means an educational system that prepares our children for a fast-changing economy, and one that serves adults as well, like those in Granite City whose lives were up-ended last year. We shouldn't be closing off opportunity to any Americans, whether they're just starting out or looking to change careers.

You know, my dad—well, my daddy, because I called him daddy my entire life—my daddy was one of those people. He lost his job in his 50s, and out middle-class existence was turned on its head. I am here today because of public schools, food stamps, Pell grants, and safety nets designed to help people who been knocked down. And I'm proud of it.