WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following remarks on the opening day of the 110th Congress.
Remarks as prepared:
Senator Harry Reid Making a Difference
January 4, 2005
As I was growing up, I learned an important lesson from something that happened down in the mines where my father worked.
I was only about a week old when it happened. But I grew up hearing the story … about how a man named Carl Myers saved my father’s life.
It was in December of 1939. Dad and Carl were working a mine owned by the Bi-Metals Mining Company, not too far from Searchlight.
They were in what is called a “sinking shaft,” setting about 10 charges of dynamite. The way it was supposed to work was that the fuse would burn slowly, giving them time to climb up to safety before the charges were detonated.
But one of the fuses ran … and a dynamite charge exploded down at the bottom of the shaft before my dad could get away. The blast knocked him unconscious … drove hundreds of splinters of rock into his leg … and literally blew the soles off his shoes. He was lying down at the bottom of the shaft covered with rocks, and he would have been killed when the other charges exploded.
But Carl Myers saved my dad’s life. He climbed down a ladder to the bottom of the shaft, put my dad over his back, and climbed back up to a safe spot before the other charges exploded. Then he carried my dad out of the shaft and took him to the hospital.
When the story got around Searchlight, somebody said that Carl should get a medal for his bravery. He replied, “To hell with the medal … Harry’s alive, isn’t he?”
A few months later, Carl Myers did receive a medal, from the Carnegie Foundation. And he was always a hero to my family.
But he didn’t get up that morning and say, “I think I’ll be a hero today.” He just got up, went to work, and did his job. And on that day, in December of 1939, Carl Myers was put in the position to do something that had a tremendous impact on the lives of many people. Because of Carl Myers, my father survived that explosion in the mine. Because of what he did that day, my mother didn’t become a young widow with a week-old baby. And because of Carl Myers, I didn’t grow up without a father.
This story always reminds me that our actions have consequences. The things we do – or fail to do – really matter. When we drop a pebble into a pond, it creates ripples across the water.
Here in the United States Senate, our actions and our decisions also have consequences. Sometimes these decisions are easy. Sometimes they are hard. But they always touch the lives of the American people. That’s why Americans are counting on us … their elected Senators … to make the right decisions.
They are counting on us to help our public schools give every child a good education, so the door of opportunity remains open … just as it was open to me.
The 45 million Americans without health care are counting on us to expand access … and those who do have health insurance are counting on us to cut prescription drug costs.
Americans are counting on us to help create jobs … They are counting on us to protect and strengthen Social Security … They are counting on us to put our nation’s fiscal house in order … not add trillions of dollars to the national debt that our children will have to repay.
And they are counting on us to keep them safe by winning the war on terror.
They are counting on us … and we can’t let them down. As we move forward in the days ahead, I hope we’ll have a lot of opportunities to work together.
I also understand there will be times when we will not agree … and each of us will have to stand up for what we believe. But I hope none of us will ever lose sight of the fact that our actions here in the United States Senate really do matter. The things we do will touch the lives of the American people for years to come.
We cannot … we must not … let them down.