Senator-Elect Al Franken

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Senator-Elect Al Franken  (2009) 
by Amy Jean Klobuchar

Senator-Elect Al Franken



July 7, 2009

Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Madam President, today, a new Senator from Minnesota is being sworn in. It is my honor, along with former Vice President Mondale, to escort Al Franken as the new Senator from our State. I think it was Al who told me the third year of his campaign would be the best, and he was right.

I did want to thank my staff, first of all--some of them, many of them, are here--for the hard work they did in the past 6 months doing double duty. They never complained, they did it without extra resources, and they are as happy as can be this has finally been resolved.

I also wanted to say something about Norm Coleman. Last week, he made a difficult decision. He had the right to pursue a legal challenge, but he did what was right for Minnesota. Norm was my Senate colleague for 2 years. We often worked together on issues for Minnesota, and we all wish him and his family the best.

So despite a little delay, to be exact, 246 days since election day and 183 days since the Senate convened--why would I know that--Al Franken now joins me in representing the State of Minnesota. I have gotten to know Al very well over the past few years. I know he will be getting acquainted with his fellow Senators in the coming weeks and the coming months. This a special place with special people. I know Al looks forward to working with every Member of the Senate.

I also know Al arrived in Washington ready to get to work and ready to serve the people of Minnesota. He brings with him that same high energy and passion and idealism of our friend Paul Wellstone.

I was telling Al when I first came to the Capitol I was stunned at how many people would come up to me, when I said I was a Senator from Minnesota, and say: That is where Paul Wellstone was from. It was not just other Senators, it was people such as the tram operators, the secretaries at the front desk, the cops who work on the front line. They remembered Paul because of his dignity and how he treated people. And Al, I know, will do the same.

Before seeking elected office, Al had a full career. Among other things he was an Emmy Award-winning television writer and producer, a best-selling author with three of his books going to the very top of the New York Times Bestseller List. He was the host of a national radio show and a Grammy Award-winning satirist, who, with the USO, has gone overseas several times--seven times in fact. He went four times to Iraq to entertain our troops and to visit our wounded solders.

We all know Al spent some time in comedy, but during this long campaign, he has demonstrated to Minnesotans that he takes his job very seriously. I know he is taking his new job as a Senator incredibly seriously.

Al's heart is with middle-class families who work hard, live responsibly, and follow the rules. He knows their hopes and fears, their dreams and their struggles. He knows it because he has lived it.

When Al was 4 his family moved to the town of Albert Lea in southern Minnesota. Al always tells the story about that move. His dad never graduated from high school and never had a career. But his mom's father owned a quilting business out East, and he gave Al's dad a chance to start up a factory in Albert Lea. After about 2 years the factory failed, and Al's family moved to the Twin Cities. Years later, Al asked his dad: Dad, why Albert Lea?

His dad said: Well, your grandfather wanted to open a factory in the Midwest, and the railroad went right through Albert Lea.

So then Al asked: Why did the factory fail?

His father said: Well, it went through Albert Lea, but it didn't stop in Albert Lea.

Eventually the family, including Al and his older brother, settled into a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park. His father became a printing salesman and his mom was a homemaker and worked as a real estate agent. Because of the security and opportunity his family enjoyed living in America, he says he felt like the "luckiest kid in the world."

While Al likes to tell jokes, and he has some good ones, he is not one to make fun of family values because there is no husband or father who is more devoted to his family than Al is.

He met his wife--I see her right now up there in the gallery--Franni during his first year at college. They have been married 33 years, and together they have raised two children.

Al often tells the story about Franni's family. Her dad, a decorated World War II veteran, died in a car accident when she was 17 months old. Her dad left her mom suddenly widowed and alone with five children.

It was a lesson for the family, and it was an example of how one family pulled themselves up with help. He knows how difficult it is for so many families who are struggling to make it, squeezed over high health care costs, college costs, housing costs.

During the past 2 years, Al has traveled to every corner of Minnesota, from the Iowa border to the Canadian border. He has had coffee at the Main Street cafes, and he has spoken at local bean feeds. He has toured homegrown businesses, and he has stood with workers. He has been to veterans halls, and he has gone to college campuses.

He has been there day in and day out listening to the people of Minnesota. Now he has the honor and the responsibility to serve them in the U.S. Capitol. The Senate is an old and established institution. For any newcomer, it takes some getting used to the arcane rules and unique customs, but I am confident Al can adapt.

This is a big moment for Franni and their kids as well. Al and his friends and relatives have been waiting for a while. The State has been waiting. The Senate has been waiting. But, most importantly to me, Franni has been waiting.

My favorite image from the last few months was this idea that Franni had actually packed a bag with her toothbrush in it; that she had it right next to her bedside in case at any moment the court would come with a decision and she and Al would have to rush to Washington so he could take a critical vote.

Well, today the time has come and Al will cast his first vote. If there is any silver lining to the past 8 months, it is that Al has had time to prepare for this moment. The times are tumultuous, the stakes are high, and history will forever judge whether we fail or succeed, whether we are courageous or timid.

Al Franken is ready for this job. It is time to get to work, and, Al Franken, there is a desk waiting for you in the Senate.

I yield the floor.

Mr. REID. I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

Mr. REID. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The VICE PRESIDENT. Without objection, it is so ordered.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).