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Published December 10 2010

Farewell, senator: Dorgan offers some advice, optimism in outgoing address

Never mind Byron Dorgan’s leadership of the Red River Valley Research Corridor.

His power to fund much-needed flood protection projects in communities across North Dakota.

His advocacy for Indian affairs issues and expertise on energy policy.

Or, any of the accomplishments North Dakota’s Democratic senator could name after serving 30 years in the U.S. Congress.

During his official farewell Thursday, Dorgan said his biggest achievement wasn’t a legislative act – just a few precious moments during his first month in Washington that changed his life forever.

“Thirty years ago next month, I stepped into the elevator on the ground floor of the Cannon Office Building,” Dorgan recalled. “Between the ground floor and the fourth floor, I got her name.”

The name was Kimberly, now Dorgan’s wife of 25 years.

It’s common for outgoing lawmakers to give farewell speeches, in which they’ll often discuss their various accomplishments from their time in Congress.

But Dorgan humbly said little on his own successes – instead, using his 30 minutes to instill advice to the next Congress and ask Americans to see the hope Dorgan says lies ahead.

Dorgan reviewed his legislative career representing North Dakota in Washington and thanked the colleagues and staff he’s worked with and his family for their support.

In his 40 years of public service, Dorgan said he strived to represent the views of “ordinary folks,” like the family farmer, the small businessman or the labor worker.

“It is important, it seems to me, that we do the right thing as best we can and as best we see it,” he said.

Dorgan said he’s served with 211 senators during his 18 years in that chamber of Congress – calling his Senate colleagues “the most talented men and women with whom I have ever worked.”

Dorgan recalled poignant memories of past lawmakers, who influenced him over the years: Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.; Bob Dole, R-Kan.; Strom Thurmond, D-S.C.; and Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va.

He highlighted four “big, big issues” that he says leaders should focus on:

Dorgan’s life and political career

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541