Farewell remarks by Speaker David H. Wilkins - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Farewell remarks by Speaker David H. Wilkins

(Columbia) June 2, 2005 - I always knew this day would come. But I never really reconciled myself to it – until now. I guess I never wanted it to come. But it has. And now it’s time to say goodbye. I'm really going to miss all of you.

In early March of this year, I received the call from the White House informing me the President wanted me to serve as our country’s Ambassador to Canada. On that very day, Reverend Seastrunk opened up our session with the 34 the Psalm, verse four: "I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears."

God has perfect timing and I'm confident he sent me the sign I needed right when I needed it.

Leaving all of you – and this institution I have loved so much for so long – is truly an act of faith. It comes on the heels of much prayer and careful consideration. But I know it’s the right decision for Susan and me.

It’s time to move on. And it’s time for all of you to let me go. (For some I suspect that will be a lot easier than for others!)

It’s been said, "Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all." Well, this is about as daring as it gets for Susan and me.

And we are both humbled and awed by the faith and trust President Bush has placed in us. We intend to make him – and all of you – proud.

We're thrilled about the opportunities and challenges that await us in Canada. Thrilled to make new Canadian friends. Thrilled to be given this opportunity to help build more bridges between our country and our neighbor to the north.

Mostly I'm honored to represent my country – and my state – in the nation that shares not only our borders, but our longstanding commitment to independence.

It’s a privilege I haven't fully grasped yet and like I've said so often to the countless teams who have graced our chamber over the years, one I'll probably appreciate even more 20 years from now than I do today!

And yes – you keep winning and I'll keep celebrating!

If you had told me 25 years ago that I'd be standing before all of you now, 11 years as your Speaker, leaving to become Ambassador to Canada , it would have defied all logic.

Back in 1981, when I was one of only 18 Republicans in the South Carolina House, I had every intention of serving only a couple of years before heading back to Greenville.

But as all of you know so well, this place just gets in your blood and decades pass while you're busy looking ahead.

Now I stand between the chapters of my life.

And it is with profound gratitude that I conclude this chapter and prepare to write the next.

I have been richly blessed and I truly understand that the credit first belongs to God and then to my family and friends like you who've given me both roots and wings.

So if I've soared it's because I was propelled by that support.

And I am thankful.

I have a beautiful and supportive wife who is willing to make this great adventure with me. I have two healthy sons and our daughter-in-law who have brought nothing but pride and joy to Susan and me.

And I have years of wonderful memories in this House.

I have spent most of my adult life – a quarter of a century in this body – and it truly has been the privilege of a lifetime.

I love this institution.

I love the process of lawmaking – those times when you know you've really made a difference and touched the lives of others.

I have an abiding respect for our forefathers who envisioned a government run by the people for the people.

And as we watch citizens of the world in faraway places like Ukraine and Iraq risk everything in freedom's name, we appreciate even more the blessings of liberty.

As all of you know – this democracy of ours sure isn't perfect. But it's good.

And it’s always worth protecting and defending. And improving.

My great hope is that I leave this state a little better than I found it.

People ask me: "What is your legacy?"

If there is such a thing it certainly is not for me to decide.

That's history's decision.

But I go knowing that working together we brought accountability to our classrooms, greater justice for the victims of crime, more money kept by taxpayers, and ultimately less government intrusion in their lives.

I hope history will note that this chamber handled with honor and dignity the flag debate and successfully steered our ship of state through the perilous waters of a national recession and fears in the wake of 9-11.

Some of you have disagreed with me over the years. But you have always been respectful, kind and gracious.

And that humbles me deeply.

Over the course of these last few months, so many of you have paused to thank me and to tell me you'll miss me. Wish some of you weren't so enthusiastic!

But I'm the one who owes you the thanks.

For 11 years, you have allowed me to serve as your Speaker.

And each of you has taught me about leadership and character and courage.

Everything that is good and right about South Carolina is represented right here in this body. And I believe that with all my heart.

Forevermore, when I think about South Carolina, I'll think of folks like my friend Ken Kennedy who grew up in a segregated South – who refused to accept someone else’s limitations for his life – whose service is devoted to improving South Carolina for his children and grandchildren – and all of ours.

I'll think of my friend Denny Nielsen who faced down death and soared back to life on the wings of a thousand whispered prayers. She reminds us that God is still in the business of performing miracles.

I'll think of folks like Gloria Haskins who stood by her husband every step of his journey here on earth – who picked up and now carries his torch – faithfully representing everyone and everything Terry cared about.

I'll think of my new friend Carl Anderson who has endured the greatest sacrifice of all: the death of a child. A son who laid down his life for his country.

Every time Carl walks into this chamber and makes himself part of this democracy, he pays tribute to his son – a soldier – who did not die in vain.

I'll think about my friends Ralph and Alex, Grady and Tom, Roland and Lanny, Herb and Olin, folks who've been here as long – or longer than me – who care just as deeply and are just as engaged today as the day they were sworn-in.

All of them and all of you represent the heart and soul of South Carolina .

Farmers and fathers, mothers, lawyers, accountants and educators, small business owners all devoted to one cause: making a difference.

It is so hard to leave you.

And yet it is time.

The Bible tells us there is a season for everything. And under a new Speaker you will soon begin a new season of work here.

When the chips were down, you always rallied around me and gave me your full support. My request now is that you do exactly the same thing for your next Speaker.

Put the race behind you. Look at where you're going – not where you've been. And rally behind Speaker Harrell.

I know he will work everyday to win your total confidence and trust.

And he has a great leadership team behind him. I know – because it's the same team that has stood by me all these years.

Our Speaker Pro Tem, committee chairmen, and majority and minority leaders bring experience and integrity to the table.

Anything that I may have achieved in the legislative arena is a direct result of their labor, wisdom and support.

To each of them I extend my heartfelt thanks and deepest appreciation.

This House is also blessed with the finest employees in the country. To them: You will never know how much I appreciate and respect each and every one of you.

Thank you for your tireless work ethic and for bringing honor and dignity to this chamber.

Finally to Speaker Harrell: May God bless you in this new endeavor. I know that you will faithfully carry out your duties. You have my heartfelt prayers for success. You also have my phone number. So if you need me just call!

By the way, plans right now are for me to be sworn in at the State Department at noon on June 21st . All of you will receive an invitation and it would be my great honor for you to be part of this special day.

And I want you to visit us in Ottawa and stay at the residence. If you don't come, I'll be disappointed! I'll have my roll call sheet and I will be keeping a tally!

With that invitation – I'll say goodbye.

May God grant each of you His wisdom and courage in your leadership.

May you seek His guidance and grace in all you do.

And may He keep all of you tightly in His grip.

I salute you.

I will miss all of you so very much.

But I carry with me the gift of your friendship and the memories of a lifetime.

I am truly blessed to have served here with you.

Thank you.

God bless you.

And God bless South Carolina .

Posted 3:00pm by Bryce Mursch
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