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Mr. WALKER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Texas for yielding.
Today, as we wrap up three terms, we could not be more overwhelmed with the privilege that it has been to serve the people of North Carolina, specifically, central North Carolina, in the United States Congress.
I am the oldest of three boys, Mr. Speaker, of a Baptist preacher from the Panhandle of Florida and have had the privilege to live in North Carolina since 1991. Coming out of college, and having the opportunity to work, spending 16 years as a pastor, and then the last 6 years of serving in a different capacity.
What an honor to be able to walk the halls and to be able to think about the history that has made this country what it is today.
We were blessed to hit the ground running, becoming the first Member since its inception in 1973 to be elected chairman at the end of their first term of the largest caucus, the conservative caucus of the Republican Study Committee.
Recently, I have enjoyed extending and wrapping up a term as the vice chair of the GOP Conference. What a privilege it has been to serve the bulk of that time as cochairman with Senator James Lankford of the Prayer Caucus. It has been a wonderful time to gather each Monday evening--in fact, many people don't even know the Prayer Caucus exists--for us to gather on that Monday evening after we fly in and for many years to gather in room 219, right off to my right, and seek God's guidance as we prayed for constituents and we prayed for the Lord to give us the hope and direction for this country.
I have lots of reflections over these last 6 years. I think of having a chance to be the starting pitcher for the Republican baseball team, an exhibition game for charity. Every year has been quite a treat.
I am sure many of my Republican friends are glad to see that the Honorable Cedric Richmond is now senior adviser to another gentleman and no longer in the House.
But what a privilege it has been to see the efforts that goes to the Boys and Girls Club, Mr. Speaker. And it has been neat that this has been a tradition since 1909.
And there have been other times. There was the moment when I saw Steve Scalise, our whip, come back from our teammates being shot at that morning, and how he came back and has come back strong; and how he has always represented his faith in a way that I think has impacted potentially far beyond any political work that he may do in this House.
There have also been times to engage in a more stern manner, serving on the House Oversight Committee with Chairman Jason Chaffetz. Chairman Chaffetz did a wonderful job as the House Oversight Chairman as we went after and questioned some of the unscrupulous behavior of James Comey and Pharma Bro. In fact, I still think Peter Strzok doesn't really care for me, but that is okay because sometimes the job requires it.
One of the moments that stand out on the House Oversight Committee was questioning Cecile Richards, Mr. Speaker, when I asked her specifically: Does it bother you that there are more African-American babies aborted in New York State than actually born? I will never forget that she was not even aware of that statistic.
Nor did I shy away from the fights on this floor. Probably the darkest or the heaviest moment was when we were working and going back and forth late into the night on the born alive amendment. And I cannot help remembering just the heaviness and the oppression of that night, as only three of my colleagues on the Democratic side stood up and said a baby that survives a botched abortion should have the right to stay alive.
I struggled with that. I still struggle with it. In fact, I think it is apparently evil not to be able to stand up and fight for all of us who are created in the image of God.
We have heard other comments. The dogma lives loudly. Even a good friend and colleague from Illinois that was pro-life, that was someone who advocated, is no longer part of the body and was basically run out of town. I struggle with those things.
If our rights come from our Creator and, as our Founding Fathers said they have in the past, do they not also come from the Creator in the present and in the future?
Not too far behind us here is the rotunda. There are eight pictures in the rotunda. The first four are depictions of our settlers, the people who founded this country who came here. In all four of those pictures, there is a depiction of Christianity.
The other four are depictions of our Founding Fathers. The last one is my favorite. It is George Washington. The picture is of George Washington, December 23, 1783, and in his hand he has his resignation.
For 8 years, he had been the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Army. Yet, in that letter he writes, though he had, potentially the ability, the military power behind him to be something of almost a monarch again, he captured something. He realized that if this country was going to be great, he had the foresight in that letter to write that the power had to come from we, the people. What a powerful expression.
As I think back over the last 6 years, I have traveled different places, 20-something different countries. No place at all has impacted me more than standing there on the shores there at Normandy. And as our guide began to talk that day, I thought about this for the first time.
History shows us that those young men were supposed to have air cover but, because of the horrific weather, there was none. That day wasn't won by military might; wasn't won by great generals or colonels and military genius. Our freedom today, we can trace back to that moment, was won by 18- and 19-year-old young men who kept running up that hill, one wave after the other. What a powerful place and what a privilege it is to see these real heroes.
Arthur Ashe put it this way when he talked about heroism. He said: True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve all others at whatever cost.
In our 6 years, we have tried not to stick with the talking points. Maybe we have had a little bit of a different approach serving in Congress. I never surrendered my voting card either to the establishment, to leadership, or any special interest group.
Mr. Speaker, I believe the best kind of representative that you could have is someone who is pledging to represent all communities. You see, America is the greatest country and the longest-lasting republic in the history of the world; but the truth is, we didn't get it all right to start with.
We first launched this idea of individual liberty and opportunity, but it took a few people and a few years to get it right: The likes of Frederick Douglass, George White, Shirley Chisholm, Jackie Robinson, Mahalia Jackson, my friend, Clarence Henderson, and so many more heroes. But here's the cool part of the story: We never quit trying until our actions matched our words that in America all men would be created equal.
One of the privileges that I have had is to serve with John Lewis and cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and to spend some time hearing his story and hearing his history, because I believe this, whether Republicans or Democrats, relationship is the conduit for good policy. People before the politics.
You don't have to throw out what you believe or your values or your principles. But are you genuine? Do we show up? Do we always have to be the keynote speaker at times?
I was committed to doing this, to be both a conservative and a bridge builder, and our team committed to that. Hardly a week went by that we didn't answer the question, are we making an argument, or are we making a difference?
In this town, those who make the most noise sometimes get the key roles. But in looking back, making the difference is ultimately the prize.
The successes? I believe it is simple; staying close to the Lord and having the people pray and wrap their arms around us.
So many times, after spending a week in this arena, this gladiator arena, you go back home depleted and kind of worn out. And I will never be able to express my gratitude to the people who lifted their arms up and prayed for us week after week.
A couple of months ago, I met Freddy in New Bern, North Carolina. Freddy's a little street vendor with his guitar, and he had his guitar case open and was hoping to make a few bucks. I had a chance to harmonize with him as he played Let My Little Light Shine.
What a reminder this season that, ultimately, what our calling is, it is to let our light shine.
I think of Luke 2; I think of all the different things in this season that mean so much.
In this city, there are some ups and downs, there are some double- crosses, but I can tell you, I leave today with no bitterness, no axe to grind, not jaded, with a genuine love for my colleagues.
I specifically have to point out three that I have had the privilege of getting to know and having dinner with, basically, for about 3\1/2\ years, almost once a week, Tuesday evenings with Trey Gowdy, Senator Tim Scott, and the Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe. I love these men. They have impacted my life. There were times the fellowship and the joy and the laughter, and even the merciless cutdowns from Mr. Gowdy, were incredibly rewarding and timely.
But there are people behind the scenes here in Washington, D.C., names that you will never know, but people like Everette, Carmelita, Lloyd, the people behind the scenes that continue to impact.
In closing today, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the people that made this possible, both in North Carolina and here in Washington, D.C. My appreciation to Janine, Grace, Joel, Bradley, Kyle, Phillip, Emily, Dwayne, Olga, Jerome, Amber, Cory, Ryan, Kevin, Madeline, Dan, Alexa, Carson, Sruthi, Sean, Janae, Alison, Rudy, Kate, Katie, Louis, Davis, Rusty, Zach, Scott, Arian, Josh, Carter, Keifer, Dwayne, Luke, Graham, Lauren, Brian, and two chiefs, Scott and Jack, and a deputy chief, Julie, who has been with me since the very beginning. I am proud of you guys. We made a difference.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to conclude by thanking my family, Ryan, Rachel, Anna Claire, and Kelly. Thank you for allowing me to do something that is considered pretty special by many.
To my mom and dad, thank you for investing in me and putting in the values.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to close right now by expressing it may be in the words of Andrae Crouch:
``How can I say thanks for the things You have done for me? Things so undeserved, yet You gave to prove Your love for me; the voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude. All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Thee. To God be the glory.''
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