Debra Haaland

Farewell Speech - March 16, 2021

Debra Haaland
March 16, 2021
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Madam Speaker, I rise today to deliver my final remarks on the floor of the people's house. I'm humbled to have spent the last two years in this chamber, where I proudly served New Mexico alongside my colleagues, past and present, in the New Mexico delegation. I'm thankful to Senators Martin Hinrich and Ben Ray Lujan, in particular, for helping to build support for my confirmation, and to former Senator Tom Udall, for his years of friendship and mentorship.

I love New Mexico. Not only is it my home where I raised my child, went to college, started a small business, and started organizing, it's my ancestral homeland. As the 35th generation New Mexican, and not unlike the other families with roots in our state, I have a deep connection to the land, air, and water that sustains our communities. My ancestors settled there because they were drawn to the once mighty Rio Grande and the sacred places that dot the sandstone mesas and Granite Mountains. That's why I made the most of my time in Congress. I spent every opportunity meeting with families; listening to small business owners; learning about our tech industry; connecting with brave service members and veterans; and working to deliver for the people.

When I was a little girl, none of this crossed my mind as a possibility for me. I wasn't one of the students picked out to apply to college. In fact, I didn't apply to college until I was 28. I was constantly struggling to make ends meet and raise my child as a single mom. Growing up, Native women rarely held federal leadership positions, and now little girls everywhere will know that they can run for congress – and win. And that this country holds promise for everyone. In fact, it's the unique experiences and struggles that make good leaders. and why I became an organizer in the first place. I believe that it's the fact that I relied on food stamps to feed my family that makes me qualified to advocate for families like mine. It's the fact that I overcame addiction that makes me qualified to help people who are in their own struggles. It's the fact that I know what it's like to be indigenous that makes me qualified to advocate for our country to meet its trust responsibilities.

The beauty of this chamber is that each member of congress brings their unique experiences to the table and advocates for the causes we know best. With Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s brilliant leadership; House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raul Grijalva's wisdom; and House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith's guidance; and all the leadership here in the house I had the opportunity to make a real difference for communities everywhere, by addressing climate change; protecting voting rights; fighting for racial, environmental, and economic justice; and providing urgent COVID relief for millions of people.

I'm also thankful for the collaboration and mentorship of my colleagues across the aisle, including Representatives Tom Cole; and the Dean of the House, Don Young; and my colleagues on the house armed services and natural resources committees. We worked in a bipartisan way to address issues, including missing and murdered indigenous women, and ensuring our service men and women and military families have the resources that they need. To my colleagues in the Tri-Caucus, thank you for embracing the issues facing Native Americans and working to address long-standing disparities in our communities.

I'm proud, that with the support of my colleagues, several of my bills became law: the Not Invisible Act; Rent the Camo, a pilot program for pregnant service members in the 2021 NDAA; the Progress For Indian Tribes Act, provisions for my military housing oversight and service member protection act in the 2020 NDAA; the Native American Business Incubators Act; and the Veterans’ Affairs Tribal Advisory Committee Act. I thought I would have more time here, but we are called to service in different ways. Though I am excited to become the first Native American cabinet secretary in history, I’m also sad to leave this chamber. As a twice elected member of congress, it has been both a pleasure and privilege to serve alongside you in our quest to improve the lives of the American people. I want each of you to know that I’m grateful for the knowledge you shared with me, the friendship, and the work we accomplished together – and I will miss all of you dearly.

I wouldn't be here today without my extraordinary staff in Albuquerque and here at the capitol. The natural resources committee staff, and the house armed services committee staff. They all put in very long hours on behalf of our state and our country. My legislative accomplishments are also their accomplishments. Additionally, thanks to all of the staff who work right here on the floor, whose dedication and experience keep our congress running, I’m so grateful to all of you. And to New Mexico, thank you. Thank you to the activists, the supporters, the families, and communities that make our state an incredible place to call home.

Madam Chair, I yield back the balance of my time.

Haaland, D. [C-SPAN]. (2021, March 16). Representative Debra Haaland Farewell Speech [] Retrieved on March 2, 2022.