Hatch, Lee address Senate, honoring former Sen. Bob Bennett

WASHINGTON — Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee each addressed the U.S. Senate this week, honoring former Sen. Bob Bennett, who died due to health complications May 4 at the age of 82.

Read more: Former Sen. Bob Bennett dies at 82

Excerpts of the senators’ remarks are included in video attached to this report. The full text of their addresses follow.

Address delivered by Hatch Monday

Mr. President, I rise today to honor the memory of a humble statesman, an admired colleague, and a dear friend—Senator Bob Bennett. Bob passed away peacefully in his home last week with his wife and children gathered by his bedside. In the wake of his passing, the Bennett family has witnessed an outpouring of love as thousands of individuals from across the country have reached out to pay their respects to a man who served selflessly to the very end.

To the many expressions of love and admiration that have already been offered in Bob’s honor, I wish to add a few words of my own. I had the distinct privilege of serving alongside Bob Bennett for nearly two decades as we jointly represented the State of Utah here in the Senate. During our many years of service together, Bob became more than a respected partner; he was a trusted confidante and a cherished friend.

In this chamber, Senator Bennett was widely revered as a wise and thoughtful leader committed to finding innovative solutions to the most difficult challenges of the day. But above all else, he was a passionate fighter for the people of Utah, who were always foremost in his mind. I have never met someone so committed to his constituency as Senator Bennett was to the people of Utah. It is no exaggeration to say that every Utahn has benefited from Bob’s public service. You cannot ride the train, take public transportation, or drive on the freeway in our state without seeing the fruits of Bob’s labor in the Senate.

As Utah faced unprecedented expansion and economic growth, Senator Bennett worked tirelessly to ensure that our state’s infrastructure kept pace with the demands of a booming population. Were it not for Bob and the indispensable role he played in securing much-needed funding for transportation projects in Utah, our state would not be the prime destination for business, entrepreneurship, and innovation that it is today.

I need not rehearse all of Senator Bennett’s accomplishments in the Senate because his public legacy speaks for itself. The TRAX and FrontRunner public transportation systems in Utah are perhaps the most tangible symbols of that legacy, but there are plenty more. I join all Utahns in thanking Senator Bennett for his many years of loyal service to the Beehive State. We love him, and we will miss him dearly.

Mr.President, in addition to fighting tirelessly for the people of Utah, Senator Bennett exercised remarkable prudence as an appropriator and provided principled leadership on the Banking Committee and as the Chairman of the Joint Economic Committee. He was a talented lawmaker, skilled at forging consensus and reaching compromise without sacrificing his core conservative values.

Over the 18 years that Senator Bennett served in this chamber, he consistently demonstrated sound judgment and strong leadership. In short time, he gained the trust of his Republican colleagues, who considered him a trusted resource on matters of strategy and policy. After seeing Bob’s rapport with other legislators, then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist asked him to serve on the leadership team. Senator Bennett also served in leadership positions alongside Majority Leader McConnell, with whom he shared a deep and meaningful friendship.

While Senator Bennett was well known for his quiet, contemplative demeanor, he was also highly regarded as an orator. He came frequently to the floor to engage his colleagues on the most complex issues of the day. He was exceptionally articulate, speaking with an eloquence and ease that reflected the brilliance of a well-cultivated mind. Whether he was giving a public address or holding a private conversation, Bob could explain even the most complicated policies in simple, understandable terms. He was a preeminent communicator whose talents will be sorely missed.

Mr.President, up to this point, I have spoken at length about how Senator Bennett will be remembered as a public figure. But I also wish to speak about how I will remember him as a personal friend.

Bob Bennett was one of the most humble men I have ever met. In a chamber teeming with outsized egos and rampant self-importance, Bob stood apart.  He always eschewed the spotlight and never esteemed himself above anyone. On some days, you could even find him riding the Metro in to work. When a staffer asked him why he opted for public transportation instead of a personal driver, Bob simply said, “Because the metro is more convenient.”

This anecdote is indicative of Bob’s character: He resisted the trappings of public office and truly saw himself as a servant of the people. Perhaps most importantly, he never let the office of Senator define him. Maybe that’s because he came to Congress with such a rich and varied background: Prior to his work here, he had already served as a Mormon military chaplain, a congressional liaison in the Nixon administration, a public relations director for billionaire Howard Hughes, and as the Chief Executive Officer of FranklinCovey. For Bob, being a Senator was never something that was central to his personal identity; it was merely a job title that allowed him to serve others in a greater capacity.

Allow me to share a simple story that illustrates Bob’s humility and willingness to serve. Many years ago, Bob befriended a blind couple in his local Mormon congregation. EverysingleSunday, Bob would pay this couple a personal visit, drive them to church, and stay by their side for the duration of meetings—always ready and eager to help. For Bob, faithfully serving this elderly couple was just as important as fulfilling his duties in the Senate. That, Mr.President, is heartfelt humility and love unfeigned.

I often wondered what it was that enabled Bob to serve so selflessly. I believe the answer is simple: it was his faith in and love for Jesus Christ, whom he looked to as a model of servant leadership. Bob believed in the Christian teaching that when you are in the service of your fellow men, you are only in the service of your God. This belief animated his service until the very end. For as long as Bob was physically able, he was an active volunteer in his church congregation. In fact, just three weeks ago, he hosted a doctrinal discussion with dozens of Latter-day Saints seeking to build their faith. In this meeting, Bob bore testimony of Jesus Christ and his perfect example of love and sacrifice. The next day, Bob suffered a stroke and was admitted to the hospital for the last time.

Mr.President, both in public office and in private life, Bob Bennett was a model of selfless service. We were blessed by his work in the Senate and will continue to benefit from his example of humble leadership. I pray that we might always remember Bob’s humility and kindness, and seek to emulate these qualities ourselves as we work together to overcome the challenges facing our country.

Mr.President, I yield the floor.

Address delivered by Lee Tuesday

Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to a man who was truly a giant in my home state of Utah and in this institution, a friend to everyone he met, and someone whose life of service to the people of Utah we celebrate at the same time that we mourn his passing:  Senator Robert F. Bennett.

Senator Bennett loved the political arena.  Though his heart was always with his family in Utah, he spent many years working on Capitol Hill in both the Senate and the House, and later as a Congressional Liaison for the Department of Transportation. He also spent many years in business, where his management abilities and his keen mind helped build a successful corporation and earn him awards such as Inc. Magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year.”

But Senator Bennett’s true passion was for sound public policy.  He cared little for who wrote the policy – and even less for who got the credit – so long as wise policies were enacted.  This was apparent to me after a memorable conversation I had with him in 2010, just a few days before our state’s nominating convention, at which we were candidates.

I was in the lobby of a local radio station, waiting to go on air and watching the national news on a large television screen.  I don’t remember the exact issue being reported, but I will never forget what happened as I watched that news broadcast.  Senator Bennett walked in the lobby, and seeing me, simply strolled over to stand next to me.

To be honest, I was anticipating the type of stereotypically awkward interaction that often occurs between candidates near the end of a heated political contest. Instead, with his characteristic charm and affability, he quickly put me at ease by nodding towards the screen and saying, “you know, there’s a pretty good chance that you will be the person who has to deal with this issue.”

Having gracefully defused the situation, he proceeded to share some words of wisdom and personal insights, imparting to me the lessons he had learned from his own experience with that matter.  It was clear to me that he had not only thought long and hard about it, but that he was ultimately less concerned with who addressed the issue, and more concerned with ensuring that it was done thoughtfully and wisely.

In Senator Bennett’s view, there was no such thing as a political opponent – only potential allies.

Though Senator Bennett was a serious statesman, he was also one who did not take himself too seriously.  This is one of the reasons people everywhere were drawn to him.

Many Utahns will remember his flair for self-deprecating humor emblazoned on his campaign billboards in 2004.  Summarizing Senator Bennett’s most distinctive qualities, one billboard read: “Bold.  Brilliant.  Beanpole.” In a slight variation on the theme, another read: “Big Heart.  Big Ideas.  Big Ears.”  And, perhaps everyone’s favorite declared: “Better looking than Abraham Lincoln” – adding parenthetically, “just barely.”  In the political arena, where inflated egos loom large, Bob Bennett was a breath of fresh air.

Senator Bennett’s command of public policy was legendary.  He could speak extemporaneously and at length on everything from the federal budget, to Utah’s changing demographics, to business trends – and never with any notes.  He was a master storyteller who had the uncanny ability to entertain and challenge his audience at the same time – the result of a lifetime of learning and profound thinking.  He always maintained an open mind, never unwilling to rethink policy issues in light of new information.  These qualities are but a few of the reasons that he was a trusted by colleagues on both sides of the aisle.

Though much has been written about his public and political accomplishments, there was a side to him that does not receive the attention it deserves.  A day in the life of a U.S. Senator is often stressful and invariably unpredictable. Under such circumstances the likelihood of error is high, and as one of his staffers once told me, “there were plenty of times that scheduling mistakes were made, and anger at us certainly would have been justified.” But these same staffers also said that in 18 years in the United States Senate, they never saw Bob Bennett get angry, or even so much as raise his voice, at his staff members.

He was always kind, patient, and understanding with them, and they were committed and loyal to him in return. I’m convinced that one of the reasons so many members of the Senate trusted Bob completely was because they saw how his own staff trusted him, and how he returned that trust.

Senator Bennett was a man of the utmost integrity, and was the same calm, deliberate, and thoughtful person whether speaking in public or speaking to close confidants.  At 6’6”, he towered over most people, but that didn’t prevent him from meeting people where they were, treating everyone with dignity and respect, and exhibiting true understanding and compassion.

Whether he was talking with ranchers in Iron County, consoling a grieving parent visiting him in his Salt Lake office, or debating the Chairman of the Federal Reserve during a Banking Committee hearing, Bob Bennett treated everyone the same – with kindness and concern.

He often quoted President Reagan’s famous aphorism that “there is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”  But Senator Bennett didn’t just recite these words, he lived them.

On more than one occasion, he worked for months on end to craft a legislative solution to a difficult issue, only to discover at the last moment that the price of its passage would be to give all the credit to someone else.  Because his objective was – first and foremost – to make sure that the right thing was done, this was a price that he was always willing to pay.

Since the election in 2010, I have been asked countless times about my relationship with Senator Bennett.  My answer invariably reminds me of the great privilege it is to serve the state of Utah in his seat: our conversations were always meaningful and focused on innovative approaches to dealing with difficult policy issues.  A consummate statesman, he always made clear to me that good policy is always good politics in the end.

Senator Bennett’s achievements were numerous, and he will be remembered for his tremendous impact on the state of Utah.  However, I am certain that if he were to make a list of his greatest achievements, it would likely say nothing about his business or political endeavors.  Rather, it would focus entirely on family—his dear wife Joyce, the six children that they raised together, and their 20 grandchildren.

Mr. President, Senator Bennett truly was, in every way, a giant.  He was a man of integrity; a man whose word was truly his bond; a man who left both the state of Utah and his country better than he found them.  He was a man who had a firm and unwavering commitment to his Faith in God, and was true to that Faith until the end. It is my hope and prayer that Senator Bennett’s wife Joyce, his children, and his grandchildren are comforted at this difficult time, knowing that our state and country are forever grateful for their husband, father, and grandfather’s exemplary life of service.

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Twitter: @STGnews


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