Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is resigning from the Senate to become the Democratic Leader of the Judiciary Committee.
On Thursday, he gave an emotional speech to the Senate chamber, which he began by reading the names of his five children.
His family has been a big part of his life since he was born into poverty in a rural town in Vermont and got off to a rocky start in life. His parents battled alcohol and depression, putting the young Leahy on a path to crime.
He recalls an incident when he was a teenager and traveled with some friends to a dealer’s house. Leahy was able to clear all the people out of the house, but he took his shoes and socks, hid them in the house and carried them upstairs to the bedroom of one of the dealers.
Leahy said that night, he felt so disgusted by the life he had led, that he started to decide whether he wanted to make a better life for himself.
“I have done well for myself and my family, but I know there are many others out there who have not,” he said.
It took him a while to “stay the course” of seeking justice for others, and to eventually form a successful public service career.
It’s the “sad, a little scary and disillusioning truth” that in the United States, so many people with disabilities and poor families don’t have the same opportunities.
“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “That’s our reality.”
He then asked people in the Senate if they knew someone who had served.
“That person should get a paycheck,” he said. “That person’s life is important.”
Leahy says the one wish he has for all the people he met in public service is that “they are all watching right now.”
And he thanked the Senate for allowing him to take part in “so many things that I’ve never thought would happen.”