WASHINGTON, D.C. – After more than four decades of public service, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) delivered his farewell remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday.
“Grace and I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support,” Nelson said. “I stand before you today and I don’t think anyone could have been more blessed.”
“It’s not easy when you take your leave from the people that you love, and the work that you love,” Nelson told his colleagues who had assembled in the chamber to hear his final speech, “and it causes a time of intense reflection.”
Nelson took a moment to reflect on the weeks leading up to his eventual launch onboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1986. He and his crew were scrubbed four times before they successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Center on Jan. 12, 1986. As Nelson explained, when NASA engineers examined the shuttle after each of those four unsuccessful attempts, they determined that all of them would have likely ended in a catastrophic loss for the shuttle and its crew had the flights not been aborted.
“Why was I spared?” Nelson asked. “Now, upon intense reflection, I think I’m beginning to see. Because it has been the great honor of my life to serve our country and the people of Florida.”
“We still have much work to do,” Nelson told his colleagues. “We need now, more than ever, to focus on building the kind of relationships here in Washington that can solve the great problems that our nation faces. And I caution our colleagues, and I caution those who will join this body, to resist the pulls of partisan acrimony and the forces that seek to divide us.”
“So, my parting words are that there’s no greater challenge for this Senate than to have the moral courage to choose country, over party, or over power.” Nelson said. “There are a great many challenges that our country faces, and I call upon all of those of you who serve in this senate to act with moral courage when these obligations come calling in the future. As I depart, I’m putting my trust in you.”
Nelson then concluded his final speech on the floor of the Senate by saying:
“I leave this Senate today filled with hope for the future and the fondest memories of my fellowship with great friends here. But I admit, it is hard to leave the friends and the work that I love.
“I intend to keep fighting for all that I’ve talked about in this short final speech, and I intend to keep fighting for Florida. When it comes down to it, I’m just a country boy who loved serving my state and our country for all of my life.
“It’s been an incredible honor.”