Recognizing the 30th Anniversary of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Floor Speech

Date: April 20, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARPER. Mr. President, I am honored to be here on the floor with the Presiding Officer today.

I rise this afternoon to share my gratitude--and I know I speak for our Presiding Officer and every Member of this body, all 100 of us--for those who helped to ensure the passage of the Fire Grants and Safety Act through the Senate today and the weeks leading up to today.

As we all know, a bunch of us as kids, probably, like my sister and me, wanted to grow up and be firefighters. We ended up finding other ways to serve our States and communities, but, in the beginning, we wanted to be firefighters. I might add that our two sons, who are now grown and off into the world, wanted to be firefighters. Those were the role models they emulated and wanted to be more like. I think, maybe, one of the reasons why is that it is widely known that firefighters put their lives on the line for us not just occasionally or, maybe, during holidays or on weekends but every day--every day.

So, today, we honor them by passing this legislation and sending it to our colleagues in the House of Representatives. I think the final vote, if I noticed, was, I believe, 95 to 2. It is not every day we pass a bill with 95 votes. That means that just about every Democrat and every Republican in this body voted for it.

I know I hear a lot from people not just in Delaware but in other States that I have visited. People will say: Why don't you just work together? Why can't you guys and gals just work together and get something done? I would present this as a great example of what we can accomplish when we do work together.

I especially want to thank a couple of people among our colleagues whose hard work actually enabled us to work together and to pull together and to craft this bipartisan compromise.

Let me just start with our fellow Members of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and the colleagues on this bill. They include Senator Gary Peters, Senator Lisa Murkowski, Senator Susan Collins, and, the last time I checked, yours truly as well.

I also want to thank the entire Congressional Fire Services Caucus for their bipartisan work on this issue, including the chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, Senator Jon Tester of Montana.

There were also many organizations that helped us better understand the needs of our firefighters, and I want to thank them too. Let me just mention them briefly, if I may: the Congressional Fire Services Institute, the International Association of Firefighters, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the National Volunteer Fire Council, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, and the National Fire Protection Association. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that we could never have done this without their hard work and their encouragement even today.

I just want to say that most of us in this body will go to bed tonight--turn off the lights and go to sleep--and not have to worry about being awakened in the middle of the night to go out and save somebody's life. We are not going to have to be disrupted in our own families or in our own personal lives to go out and lend a hand if there has been an auto accident or a truck accident and put our lives at risk. We are not going to be drawn into a situation with a house on fire.

We had, not too long ago, in Delaware, a situation wherein firefighters literally rushed into a house that was on fire with the feeling that there were people literally in the basement of the house. The floor of the house collapsed, and we lost the lives of several firefighters.

But none of us have to worry about that--making that kind of sacrifice and undertaking those kinds of risks.

None of us will have to worry about being the young woman who was a volunteer firefighter. She worked in the healthcare field, as I recall, and was a volunteer firefighter. She worked late at night and was literally driving home on I-95 in Wilmington. It was when we were doing a reconstruction of I-95 right through the middle of our city.

There was an accident at about 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, and the volunteer firefighter, the woman, pulled off. She stopped to provide help to those who were impacted. The volunteer firefighter was killed. She was struck by a passing vehicle and lost her life.

None of us have to worry about any of that happening and having to put ourselves or members of our families in that kind of jeopardy.

The reason is that there are literally tens of thousands of people from all corners of this country--all different sizes and colors, men, women, young, and old--who understand that we all have an obligation to serve and look out for other people even when it puts us in danger and at risk with our own lives.

So, in passing this legislation--and it goes to the House of Representatives now; it is not a done deal--our hope is that the House of Representatives will see fit to embrace it and pass it and send it on to the President.

I presume that most Presidents--and I have had the privilege to have known quite a few of them--have great affection for the firefighters in their own States, where they come from. Nobody has greater affection in Delaware than does our President. He and I and Chris Coons, as well as Mike Castle and Pete du Pont, who came before us, share that affection and that high, high regard.

I heard our President, when he was a mere Senator, say that there are actually three political parties in Delaware. One of those is Democrat; one is Republican; and the other is of the folks who are the firefighters and their families. They stand out in the crowd.

I will just close with this.

I have asked people why they are willing to put their lives in danger to help save our lives and the lives of others who are in jeopardy. I have heard from hundreds of men and women who have said that the reason they do it is that it gives them joy. It gives them joy to know that they are making a difference with their lives and that they are serving other people.

One or two, every now and then, will actually invoke the Golden Rule: to treat other people the way you want to be treated. How would I want to be treated if my house were on fire? How would I want to be treated if my son or my daughter were in a traffic accident? If there were a forest fire surrounding our community, how would I want to be treated? Well, that is the way I would like to be; so why don't I treat other people the same way.

With that, this has been a good week, and we are ending here on a very high note. I want to thank the Presiding Officer for all of his good work. It has been a pleasure working with him this week and every week. To the neighbor right across the Delaware River, I am looking forward to many, many happy trails in the days to come.

We have these young pages who are sitting down here at the foot of the Presiding Officer and the floor staff. I don't know if any of them, when they were little kids, had the desire to be a firefighter. My guess is--actually, some of them are nodding their heads that, yes, they did. Hopefully, we will never outgrow the spirit that compels and encourages people to stand up and play the role of a firefighter whether it is in the middle of the night with a fire or an accident or whatever it might be. Hopefully, their example and that spirit will be contagious and infect all of us in a very, very good way.