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Remarks at the Retirement Dinner for Senator Mark Hatfield

July 18, 1996

Thank you very much. Senator, Antoinette, members of the Hatfield family, the remarkable array of Congressmen here and your fellow Oregonians. I know the Chaplain of the Senate, Reverend Ogilvie, was here, and I think that's good, Mark. I was afraid the last time we had a vacancy, people would think with you in the Senate they didn't need a Chaplain. [Laughter]

I do have some news for all of you, and for our Republican friends it's good news and bad news. And it is that the founding of Willamette was one of two significant things that happened during President Tyler's administration. The bad news for the Republicans is that I am the first President since John Tyler where the deficit went down in all 4 years. [Laughter] The good news is that John Tyler was not reelected. [Laughter]

I'm honored to be here tonight. This is the biggest crowd of Republicans and Democrats sitting together in a generation. I was looking at them thinking I was also glad Mark Hatfield didn't run for President this year. [Laughter]

I came here to pay tribute to a remarkable man, his wonderful wife, and his career in public life, a man who was, like me, as he said, a Governor at a young age; unlike me, he didn't mess it up the first time and get defeated, a man who has served with distinction in the United States Senate and who has lived his convictions as well as any person I have ever known in public life. He has consistently opposed violence, he has consistently worked for every chance to eradicate the remotest chance of nuclear war, and he has consistently stood for the interests of his native State as he saw them. He has done so many remarkable things in Oregon that bear his stamp, and he will be able to see them for the rest of his life and always, I hope, have a deep and profound sense of pride.

But the most important thing to me about Mark Hatfield is the way he's done all this and the kind of person he's been and that he always seems to be becoming, for it seems to me he's always growing. His idol Abraham Lincoln said, "You can't fool all the people all the time." I think we should all say of Mark Hatfield he never tried to fool anybody any of the time.

I think every one of us here will say there has been at least one occasion, if not more, on which we have disagreed with him, sometimes deeply. But we always knew he was doing what he thought was right.

He embodies the humanitarian spirit that we all need a little more of in America and that gives public service its meaning and makes it worth the vicissitudes of public life. He is I think also, in the best sense, a committed Christian. He has followed the commandment to love the Lord and also to love his neighbor as himself.

Because he has tried to love his enemies, he has no enemies. And I think this town is the poorer for his leaving but the richer for his legacy. And I can only say, Senator, in the darkest hours of my life in the years ahead, I hope I can always remember the twinkle in your eye and the calmness of your demeanor and the generosity of your spirit and the honesty and openness and genuine charity with which you attempted to treat everyone and every issue. If all of us would be more like you, America would be an even greater nation.

Good luck, and God bless you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:57 p.m. at the Sheraton Washington Hotel.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at the Retirement Dinner for Senator Mark Hatfield Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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