Majority Leader McConnell on the Retirement of Harry Reid

‘Today the Senate recognizes the Democratic Leader for his many years of service to Nevada, to the country, and to his party.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks today on the Senate floor on the retirement of his long-time colleague Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada:

“It seems that any speech about the Democratic Leader requires a mention of Searchlight, Nevada.

“There’s a reason why that is.

“You can’t begin to understand the man until you understand where it all began. 

“And here’s where it began.

“A tiny mining town at the southern tip of Nevada. One teacher. Zero indoor plumbing. Miles of desert. That’s Searchlight — at least the Searchlight Harry Reid knew when he was growing up.

“It’s the kind of place where you might learn to drive at 13, or spend your summer roping cattle with a cowboy named Sharky. In fact, if your name is Harry Reid, that’s exactly what you did.

“Harry grew up in a tiny wooden shack with a tin roof. Hitchhiked more than 40 miles to school. Had a father who toiled in the hard-rock mines.

“It goes without saying that this was not an easy life. It taught some tough lessons. But Harry had his escapes.

“He found one in the snap and crackle of his radio. Now, Searchlight didn’t actually have a radio station of its own, but every now and then Harry could pick up a faint signal from California. And during the regular season, it carried his favorite baseball team — the Indians.

“He can still rattle off Cleveland’s 1948 roster. Just ask him.

“Harry played some baseball himself. He was the catcher in high school. And, during his sophomore year, Harry’s team was crowned Nevada State Champions. Later — after a close game on the California coast — his team won the Nevada-Arizona-California tri-state playoffs too.

“Harry still treasures the big white jackets each member of the team received.

“Not because he was the best player on the team — Harry says he wasn’t — but because of what that jacket represented: His hard work, his contributions, his worth.

“Harry, like many young men, once dreamed of a life in the majors, of cheering crowds and Commissioners Trophies.

“So did I.

“I wanted to throw fastballs for the Dodgers.

“Harry wanted to play center field at Fenway.

“We wound up as managers of two unruly franchises instead.

“As the leaders of our parties, we’re charged with picking the batting order, controlling the pitch selection, and trying our best to manage 100 opening-day starters.

“It isn’t always easy.

“Baseball, as Harry has often pointed out, provides a nice reprieve from the serious work of the Senate. So, no matter how contentious the issue before us, we try to put politics aside — at least briefly — to trade our views on the Nats and Bryce Harper.

“Harry is probably looking forward to having even more time to dedicate as a fan of the sport and never having to miss another game because of votes.

“But if there’s one thing that Harry loves more than baseball, it’s his wife Landra and the family they’ve built together.

“When Harry Reid first met Landra Gould, the two of them were in high school — and Harry was hardly conflicted about his feelings for her. ‘She looked like she belonged in the movies,’ he recalled, ‘She was smart [too]. And she’d been places. Out of my league, that’s for sure.’

“But if there’s one thing we know about Harry, he doesn’t give up easily.

“Wasn’t long before the two of them were heading off on their first date. It started as many dates do, with a movie, and ended as no dates do: with Landra push-starting his car. 

“Now, Harry worried — as many of us might — that this could well be their first date and their last date. But then he looked over at Landra. She smiled as she pushed alongside him. It was the kind of smile that said, ‘who cares about the car, I’m with you.’ It’s a smile that’s stayed with him ever since.

“’There are moments,’ Harry said, ‘that turn a life… that stay with you until the last breath, [and] this was one of those moments for me.’

“The Reids have never been strangers to pushing through challenges.

“They’ve confronted a lot over nearly six decades of marriage.

“But hand-in-hand, sweat on the brow, they’ve always moved forward — together.

“Through it all, Landra has never stopped smiling, and Harry has never stopped counting every lucky star for Landra.

“His idea of the perfect night out is still a quiet night in, with her.

“Landra’s his confidante, his high school sweetheart, his best friend.

“She’s his everything.

“And, for a guy who grew up with nothing, that’s something.

“Harry Reid didn’t have an easy childhood. He faced tragedy from a young age. There were times when he just wanted to leave Searchlight and never look back.

“But these experiences helped shape him too.

“This is a guy who’s seen it all. He’s been on the wrong side of electoral nailbiters. He’s been on the other side of them too. He even won a primary against someone named ‘God Almighty.’

“Harry will now retire as the longest serving U.S. Senator from his state, with some three decades of Senate service behind him.

“It’s clear that Harry and I have two very different worldviews, two different ways of doing things, and two different sets of legislative priorities.

“But, through the years, we’ve come to understand some things about one another, and we’ve endeavored to keep our disagreements professional, rather than personal.

“We’ve also found some common ground through baseball.

“I hardly know what it’s like to serve here without Harry — he came into office just a couple short years after I did — but I do know this.

“Come next month, you’ll know where to find him.

“Right next to Landra.

“Writing new chapters.

“Making new memories.

“Continuing a love story that began, with a smile, more than 50 years ago.

“Today the Senate recognizes the Democratic Leader for his many years of service to Nevada, to the country, and to his party.

“We wish him and Landra the best as they set off on their next journey.”

Related Issues: Tributes, Senate Democrats