Warren G. Harding photo

Departing Remarks to the Senate

December 06, 1920

I am pleased at this greeting by fellow members of the Senate. There is still greater satisfaction in having this opportunity to say to you informally some of the things in my heart which I could utter in no other way. I recognize that I am here today under somewhat unusual circumstances, and there is a delicacy about it that one in my position cannot escape except through some form of self-effacement which does not seem quite possible.

No member of this body could be more reluctant to leave it. I may say to this Senate that I came here with very high respect for this body, and I am leaving it with greater respect than that with which I came. If one could always direct his own political fortunes to his liking I should have preferred my membership here to any office a citizen may hold in this republic or elsewhere in the world.

I like the freedom, the association, the patriotic sense of responsibility which abides here. I am conscious of the great place which Congress holds under our Constitution, and particularly sensible to the obligations of the Senate. When my responsibilities begin in the Executive capacity I shall be as mindful of the Senate's responsibilities as I have been jealous of them as a member, but I mean, at the same time, to be just as insistent about the responsibilities of the Executive.

Our governmental good fortune does not lie in any surrender at either end of the avenue, but in the co-ordination and co-operation which becomes the two in a great and truly representative popular government.

This brings me to the thought particularly in my mind. Something has been said about the "Senatorial oligarchy." Of course, every one here knows that to be a bit of highly imaginative and harmless fiction. But I do recognize how essential is the helpfulness of the Senate in the making of a successful administration.

I want to express today the wish of a colleague for the confidence and the co-operation of the members of this body in the next four years which begin next March 4. I do not limit this sincere request to this side of the aisle. One cannot promise agreement in all things with an opposite party which is sometimes insistently wrong, but we may find common ground in the spirit of service, and I hope for that agreeable and courteous and of times helpful relationship with the opposite side which has added to the delights of fellow-service during the last six years.

We are facing no easy task. We have our full part in the readjustment of human affairs after the world tumult. We have our tasks at home, we have our part in the inevitable work of the civilized world. I am sure that the necessity of wise solution will inspire us to work together, to take common counsel, to be tolerant of one another, and give the best which is in all of us to attain the ends which become our Republic at home and will maintain its high place among the nations of the earth.

With propriety I cannot venture upon any suggestions now, even though I am speaking as a member of this body. Three months of the present Administration remain, and I would have House and Senate join cordially in making them fruitful rather than wasted months. There is so much to be done, and we have already had so much of delay, that I should like unanimous recognition that there are no party ends to serve, but precious days are calling for service to our common country.

I cannot resist the repetition of my regret that my association of this floor and in committee rooms is ending today. It has been a happy and a proud experience. Let me express the hope, to one and all, that, though there comes a change in official relationship, it will not interrupt our co-operation nor deprive us of the personal fellowship which I have found to be a great compensation for the sacrifices of conscientious public service.

Source: "Harding Urges Co-operation in Senate; Will Call Extra Session after March 4; Meets Leaders, Seeks Unity on Treaty," New York Times, December 7, 1920, p. 1.

Warren G. Harding, Departing Remarks to the Senate Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/345987

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