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'It's not only how long I serve, but how well I serve,' Senator says
January 5, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today was sworn in to the 112th Congress, becoming the longest-serving woman in U.S. Senate history. Senator Mikulski was first elected to the Senate in 1986, after serving five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives as the Congresswoman from Maryland's 3rd District.
As she begins her fifth term in the Senate, Senator Mikulski breaks the record previously held by Senator Margaret Chase Smith (R-Maine.) Senator Mikulski said she shares many things in common with Senator Smith, including a strong belief in constituent service.
"For me it's not only how long I serve, but how well I serve," Senator Mikulski said in a floor statement. "Service for me is about being connected to my constituents – staying close to them so they don't fall through the cracks, meeting their day-to-day needs and also looking at the long-range needs of the nation."
Senator Mikulski was sworn in by Vice President Joseph Biden, and then honored with a resolution by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for her service. Senator Mikulski was the first Democratic Senator elected in her own right, and was one of only two women when she arrived. She fought to uphold the values she learned growing up in Baltimore and continues to fight for a stronger economy and safer America.
"It's not about the past, it's about the future," Senator Mikulski said. "Today when I took my oath, I pledged that I want to help America be great again – with a renewed self-confidence and achievement. I want us to be a global leader in the innovation economy."
The full text of Senator Mikulski's floor statement appears below:
"I want to thank my colleagues for their very, very warm words. Today when I walked down the aisle, escorted by my esteemed partner, Ben Cardin, and my former and beloved colleague, Senator Paul Sarbanes, I walked into the history books. I never set out to do that, and for me it's a great honor to join Margaret Chase Smith in the history books.
"As Senator Snowe has said and also Senator Collins on a number of occasions, Margaret Chase Smith and I share many things in common. Today they wear the rose, but those two outstanding senators from Maine also wear the values of Maine and the values of Margaret Chase Smith: A strong belief in constituent service, staying close to the people, focusing on jobs for the state, being a strong supporter of innovation, and a fierce, unrelenting streak of independence. I hope I'm like her. I know they bear that same set of characteristics.
"For me, it's not how long I serve, but how well I serve. Service for me is about being connected to my constituents, staying close to them so they don't fall between the cracks, meeting their day-to-day needs and also looking at the long-range needs of the nation.
"Nobody comes here by themselves. Later on today, I will thank my friends and supporters, but I want to thank the wonderful people who shaped me, the wonderful nuns who taught me, the school sisters of Notre Dame and the sisters of Mercy who taught me about leadership, who taught me about service, who taught me about my faith in Matthew 5, the Beatitudes, that said, 'Hunger and thirst after justice.'
"But today as I stand here, I also think about my mother and father. I'm really filled with great emotion. I wish my mother and father were here today. They worked so hard for my sisters and I to have an education. But although they are not here with me today in the Senate gallery, I know that they are with me in my heart and when I fight for what we believed in.
"My father ran a small grocery store. Everybody loved my father and mother. They were known for honesty and integrity. When my father opened the grocery store every morning, he would say, 'Good morning, can I help you?' And that's the kind of values I bring to the United States Senate.
"Our family came from Poland. When my great-grandmother arrived in this country, she had little money in her pocket, but she had a big dream in her heart – and that dream was the American dream, where through hard work and dedication, you could make something of yourself. You could own a home. You could have a job. You could get an education for your family. She didn't even have the right to vote, and in this great country of ours, in three generations, I joined the United States Senate. She knew about hard work in terms of economic opportunity. She didn't think too much about the constitution, but I do – particularly the First Amendment.
"I got into politics fighting a highway. In other countries, they take dissidents and put them in jail. In the United States of America, because of the First Amendment, they put you in the United States Senate. God bless America!
"When I came to the United States Senate, although I was all by myself, I said I was never alone because of the wonderful way the men have supported me. The history of women in the Senate is short. I might add, 4-foot-11 short. But everything we've done, we have been able to work on together.
"I fought for seniors, to pass the spousal impoverishment legislation to make sure the very cruel rules of our government didn't force people into bankruptcy when they had to turn to a nursing home. I fought to pass the Lilly Ledbetter bill to give equal pay for equal work. And our wonderful work on women's health, where we broke barriers in terms of research. We know we have saved lives because of what we have done in research and our preventive health amendment. I fought for young people in national service. And I have fought for Maryland – whether it's cleaning up the bay or fighting for jobs in the Port of Baltimore, looking out for the Goddard Space Agency or doubling the funding at the National Institutes of Health.
"For me, again, it's all about service. I'm fighting for a stronger economy and a safer America. It's not about the past – it's about the future.
"Although I break one record today, I'm going to work with all of you on both sides of the aisle to break other records. Let's break that record-high unemployment in our country. Let's break that record low graduation rates in our high schools. Let's break the record of the longest war in American history and bring our troops home as safely as we can.
"I want to build a strong economy and work on this innovation economy so that we are able to move ahead in this country. Today when I took my oath, I pledged that I want to help America be great again, with a renewed self-confidence and achievement. I want us to be a global leader in this innovation economy. I want to help America be excellent again so we win not only Nobel prizes – and I want us to win lots of them – but I want to win international markets, and win lots of them. I want to promote a sense of community where the people of the United States of America know that they have a government on their side.
"I want to close with a quote from George Bernard Shaw: I'm convinced that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it's my privilege to do for it whatever I can, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It's sort of a splendid torch which I get to hold for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before turning it over to the future generation.
"Somewhere in the future, someone else will break the record. Let's work together to break those records. Thanks for everything. And God bless America."
Senator Mikulski named ABC News Person of the Week
Senator Mikulski's swearing in
Senator Mikulski talks to CNN about becoming the longest-serving woman Senator
Senator Mikulski talks to CBS about becoming the longest-serving woman Senator
Senator Mikulski talks to WUSA about becoming the longest-serving woman Senator