McConnell Honors the Life of George Voinovich

‘Senator Voinovich had a storied political career that took him from Cleveland to Columbus to Washington and around the world…the citizens of our country have lost an outstanding public servant.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor today honoring the life of former Ohio U.S. Senator George Voinovich:


“I’d like to say a few words about a colleague we lost this weekend. George Voinovich was the oldest of six children and, until his late teens, an aspiring doctor. Then he realized he ‘didn’t get along’ with the sciences. So he joined the Boy Scouts. He got involved in student government. And he told his friends that, one day, he would become mayor and governor. He was right.

“This is the guy voters chose to turn around Cleveland after a wrenching fiscal crisis. Mayor Voinovich came to office with a simple motto—‘Together, We Can Do It’— and together they did. Debts were paid down. Jobs were added. And, slowly, the ‘buckle of the Rust Belt’ became ‘Comeback City.’

“His success propelled him to the Governor’s mansion, where he served for two terms, and then to the U.S. Senate where he served another two terms.

“Here in the Senate, he was at the forefront at a number of important policy debates. He was an advocate for more efficient and effective government. He was an advocate for an all-of-the-above energy approach. And this son of Eastern European immigrants cited his work to help spearhead two rounds of NATO expansion as one of his proudest achievements.

“‘[When NATO’s Secretary General] officially announced the decision to invite Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia,’ he recalled, ‘This was truly one of the most thrilling days of my tenure as a Senator.’

“Senator Voinovich had a storied political career that took him from Cleveland to Columbus to Washington and around the world. All along, he kept himself guided by his Catholic faith and anchored by his family. He ultimately retired to spend more time with the people who really mattered. At the top of that list was the woman who made him whole.

“If you don’t think storybook romances can start at a Cleveland Young Republicans Club, then you didn’t know George and Janet Voinovich. George and Janet were best friends, they were political confidants, they were deeply in love.

“Here in Washington, you could find them strolling to the Capitol for work or to St. Joe’s for mass. When Janet came to visit the office, George would greet her with a kiss and a hug. When the Voinoviches flew back to Cleveland—which was most weekends—they would hold hands and say a prayer across the aisle to prepare for takeoff. And when it was wheels down, Janet would put Ohio’s Senior Senator to work on their home in Cleveland. They purchased that house in the 1970s, by the way, in the same working-class neighborhood where George was raised. They spent the rest of their lives there together. But they never got around to installing an air-conditioner. Too expensive, George said.

“George Voinovich was known for many things in his decades of public service. He was honest, he was plainspoken, he was loyal to those who worked for him, and—yes—he was frugal. Janet may not have appreciated it when the heat waves hit, but these are qualities that served him well in office.

“When asked about his legacy, Senator Voinovich said he just wanted to know he’d touched people’s lives and made things better. The mark of his impact across his city and across his state are clear enough to see. There’s the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University, the Voinovich Trade Center in Columbus, the Voinovich atrium at Cleveland’s Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, and there’s the George V. Voinovich Bridge. The bridge, named for a man known for building bridges of his own, went dark in his honor last night.

“The City of Cleveland, the State of Ohio, and the citizens of our country have lost an outstanding public servant. Many of us have lost a friend. The Senate marks his passing with sorrow. We will keep Janet and the rest of the Voinovich family in our thoughts.” 

Related Issues: Tributes