Thank you. Thank you very much. This is not exactly a speech at the Capitol that I hoped to be giving after the election, but after a few weeks of taking selfies in the woods I thought it would be a good idea to come out and I am very grateful to Harry for inviting me to be part of the celebration as we celebrate a great leader and a great senator and great American.
I just want to pause for a moment and mark the passing of one of our great Americans as well. Senator John Glenn, a friend to many of us and a genuine American hero passed away today. I know the tribute will be flowing. I'm sure the congressional record will be filled with pages of appreciation and recognition of this extraordinary American’s life. It is fitting that we are here in the Kennedy Caucus Room which has seen so much history. Harry got his start in politics organizing for JFK. Even then he knew how to win. My very first experience as an intern here on the hill was helping with hearings writing this caucus room. And it's fitting that we would gather in a place that represents the values of this extraordinary deliberative body. I want to thank Landra and the entire Reid family for sharing Harry with us all these years and I’m delighted to be here with Vice President Biden, leaders McConnell and Pelosi and my former partner from New York, Chuck Schumer as well as so many other friends and former colleagues.
Today we are hanging Harry’s portrait here in the Capitol but the more fitting portrait of him will be the one that goes in the dictionary next to the word fighter. Throughout his career Harry fought the good fight. On behalf of the working family of Nevada and all Americans. Harry welcome to me as a new senator more than 15 years ago and over the years he became both a trusted colleague as well as a friend. One of my favorite memories of Harry is going with you to Nevada. We went to hold a hearing about the high rates of leukemia in that small town. We both shared a passion for health care and the worries about so-called cancer clusters in on that trip and on many occasions I saw first-hand Harry’s deep conviction to the country he loved and served so well. No matter how high he rose here in Washington he never lost touch with the people and values he grew up with back in searchlight.
In a little house where he was born there was an embroidered pillow case with that quote from Franklin Roosevelt that embodied his life and career. “We can, we must, we will.” I have walked to the neighborhoods stood in union halls metalworkers and casino kitchens and everywhere I went Nevadans told me how much it meant to them to have Harry Reid as their corner man. We have seen the strength of that law and in election after election. I have benefited from it and so have many Democrats. Harry's commitment to our country runs just as deep.
Throughout his career he fought tirelessly to protect America’s public land and natural beauty, from protecting the great basin national park to restoring Lake Tahoe to leading the way on clean energy. Kerry Perry’s legacy is embodied in landmark legislation that made life better for American families like the Affordable Care Act which wouldn't have passed without his leadership and now provides health coverage to more than 22 million people. Millions of young people can stay on their parent’s health plan because Harry Reid filed for it and that's not all. Millions of seniors rely on Social Security today because Harry Reid led the fight to stop it from being privatized. He fought to pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform and got it through the Senate. If it had been signed into law millions of families would not be living in fear of being torn apart and our economy would benefit from the millions of workers coming out of the shadows.
As a senator I learned a lot from Harry about how actually to get things done in this place. He is not a man of many words but when he uses them he always tells it as he sees it. He is never afraid to speak out even when it's not easy or popular. Harry has fought for the simple but powerful idea that yes, we are all created equal. He understood that all of our leaders and all of our citizens alike have responsibility to defend the rights of every single American. After the constitutional convention is well-known Benjamin Franklin was asked what form of government the new nation would have. “A republic,” he replied, “and you can't keep it.” That is still our charge and it's as urgent as it's ever been we must stand up for our democracy just as Harry has done his entire career.
Let me just mention briefly one in particular that should concern all Americans: Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike especially those who serve in our Congress. The epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that has flooded social media over the past year. It's now clear that so-called fake news can have real world consequences. This isn't about politics or partisanship. Lives are at risk. Lives of ordinary people just trying to go about their days and it's their job to contribute to their community. The danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly. Bipartisan legislation is making its way through congress to boost the government's response to foreign propaganda and Silicon Valley starting to grapple with the challenge and threats of fake news. It's imperative that leaders to the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy and innocent lives.
Harry Reid and vice president Biden may be stepping back from the daily scrum of politics and governing but I know I speak for them as well as tens of millions of Americans when I say we are all counting on those of you to remain. Counting on you to defend this institution that all three of us love so much and the democratic values that embodies. Counting on you to carry forward Harry Reid’s legacy to stand with working families and fighting the good fight for a better stronger and fairer America.
Harry my friend, thank you for your service and your friendship I can't help but think of that wonderful song, the boxer. You left your home and your family when you were no more than a boy. Now in the clearing stands a boxer, a fighter by his trade. He carried the reminders of every glove but even more he carried the reminder of every fight he waged for us and we will never, ever forget. I wish you and your family all the happiness in the world. You have earned it.