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Kerry Bids a Tearful Farewell

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Kerry, the incoming secretary of State, gave his farewell address on the Senate floor Wednesday.

There was no other way Sen. John Kerry could have left the chamber he loved for more than three decades than how he did Wednesday.

In a speech marked with his trademark long-windedness and a few tears, the newly approved secretary of State said goodbye to colleagues, police officers, reporters, Capitol subway operators and the staff who had packed the Senate gallery.

The Massachusetts Democrat’s most important goodbye appeared aimed at the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, his Bay State battery mate for 25 years. Since Kennedy’s death in 2009, Kerry has been using the Liberal Lion’s desk, which had also belonged to his brother, President John F. Kennedy.

Through tears, Kerry paused his 50-minute-plus speech and leaned down on the mahogany surface.

“Standing here at this desk ... I can’t help but be reminded that even our nation’s greatest leaders and all the rest of us are merely temporary workers,” Kerry said. “I’m reminded that this chamber is a living museum, a lasting memorial to the miracle of the American experiment.”

In that vein, Kerry expressed optimism that the Senate could overcome the gridlock that has gripped it over the past few years.

“I do not believe the Senate is broken, certainly not as an institution,” Kerry said. “There’s nothing wrong with the Senate that can’t be fixed by what’s right about the Senate.”

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