Dan Quayle - 44th Vice President of the United States, 1989 - 1993


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Address By Vice President Dan Quayle
The Leader's Lecture Series September 19, 2000

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Thank you very much, Senator Lott and Senator Daschle.

I appreciate Senator Lott's reference to my youth because I can assure you that none of my children thinks of me as being young.

I appreciate the opportunity to be back home. Marilyn and I were talking this morning about returning to the Old Senate Chamber. She reminded me that, right after the 1980 election, the family photo for our Christmas card was taken right here.

So it is a special day for me to be back in the Senate, with so many of my old colleagues, and with my wife and daughter.

Trent and I go back a number of years. He may not remember this, but in 1978 I was a strong supporter of his when he wanted to chair the House Republican Research Committee. It was a much sought after job that later vaulted him to Whip and now to Majority Leader in the Senate. It was such a prestigious position that, after he left it, they abolished it! But, Trent, I was with you from the very beginning and I still am.L

Senator Daschle, thank you for your kind words. And on behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for the bipartisan work that you do with the Majority Leader on a day-to-day basis. It's not easy. But th~re are times when the Leaders have to come together and say the Senate must move on.

Much has changed, as Trent said, since I made an involuntary exit in January, 1993. Marilyn and I returned to Indiana for three years. In the last four years, we have been living in Arizona. Our children are grown. Our eldest son, Tucker, is now married; our second son is in law school; and our daughter, a recent graduate, is working here in Washington.

When I come back to the nation's capital, I am always struck by how many people still call me "Senator," rather than "Vice President" I thought that was because they knew me way back when. But this week, one of my fonTIer staffers set me straight. He said, "No, they just prefer the higher title." You all believe that, and so do I. But it is great to be back and have this opportunity to reflect upon my years in the Senate, how the Senate prepares one for the vice presidency, and to offer some observations from the Executive Branch as well.

When I first arrived at the Senate, there were a couple of Senators who gave me some early advice. Senator Hatfield, within the first week, took me aside and said, "You know, I have seen you and your wife and those three young kids of yours, running around the Senate. Don't ever lose your perspective on what's important.

The Senate is important, and the people oflndiana have given you a tremendous responsibility. But don't forget that family." That was sage advice from a very wise man.

Early in 1981, even before Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President, I had another experience with Senator John Tower, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Cap Weinberger was going to be Secretary of Defense, and our Committee had hearings before the inauguration to get him through quickly. John Tower was not one to mince words. He called upon me during the hearing, and I had done a lot of preparation. I knew I had ten minutes to ask questions, and I was up late the night before preparing for my time. I wanted to shine on my first day on the Committee. I asked, I thought, very thoughtful and penetrating questions. I was the last one on the Republican side, and by the time they got to me, I took my full ten minutes. Then the Chairman said, "Your time is up," and he went over to Senator Levin, the senior Democrat on the Committee. Then I said, "Mr. Chairman, I would like a second round of questions," which I eventually got for another five minutes.

When it was over and I started to walk out, Senator Tower said, "Come over here and sit down." Those of you who remember him well can recall that gold cigarette case he carried. He opened it up, took one out, tapped it - I knew right away I was in trouble - and said, "Do you know how long it was that I served in the U. S. Senate before I spoke?" I said, ""Well, no sir." He said, "It was two years." I said, "Two years?" He said, "Yes, two years." And I had just had two rounds of questioning.

I said, "Well, things are a little different these days." And he said, "Yes, they are. I think if you do what I think you should do, you'll be a good member of this committee." That was a real introduction to the seniority system and what it meant to be chairman of a Senate committee.

But tonight our topic isn't individuals. It is the Senate as an institution.

Though I have been an infrequent visitor here since the election of eight years ago, I have kept in close touch with many of you, both in Washington and out on the campaign trail. I watch C-SP AN regularly and I often follow the live action on the Senate floor. And when I hear "Murkowski, Murray, Nickles" and then they skip over to Reed, I think I should be there to cast a vote on a Gorton Amendment in the nature of a substitute to whatever bill is pending. That hasn't changed, Slade, since those days we came to the Senate together in 1980.

Here in the Senate, as Senator Lott and Senator Daschle pointed out, the Vice President is referred to as "the President." There is a scene in the film classic, "Advise and Consent," in which someone seated in the gallery tries to explain to a distinguished foreign visitor why the debating Senators addressed the Vice President as "Mr. President." There is an official, constitutional answer to that question. But another response might be that, for some of us, it is as close as we are ever going to come.

We always like to stress the continuity ofthe Senate, its endurance as "a necessary fence," to use the phrase Senator Byrd has popularized. And indeed, there is much to be said for that aspect ofthis body. When I came to the Senate as a freshman twenty years ago, Senators Byrd and Thurmond and Helms were already veterans. And some of the individuals who will be elected this year may retain their seats here for two or three or even four decades.

But the question is not what happens to individuals. The important question is what may happen to the institution they collectively form. We sometimes underestimate changes because they occur gradually and, in most cases, make sense when they are occurring. Just look at the Vice President's office. Old timers around Washington remember how Richard Nixon - a former Senator - became the first Vice President to have an office anywhere in the Executive Branch, in fact, in the Old Executive Office Building, to make it easier for him to participate in the discussions and events of the White House.

That indicated an important evolution in the office Mr. Nixon then held.

Even so, it was not until Jimmy Carter was elected that Vice President Mondale another former Senator - was given an office in the West Wing itself.

That, too, was a sign of how the office had evolved. In less than three decades, the second-highest constitutional role in the nation had changed from a largely ceremonial function to an integral part of presidential operations, with the Vice President's desk only a few steps away from what might be called the command center of the western world. By the way, the one piece of advice I gave to my successor, Al Gore, was to hold on to that West Wing office - no matter who else wanted it.

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