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Helms' Retirement Remarks

Sen. Jesse Helms, R, N.C., said Wednesday he will retire at the end of his fifth term. Following are his remarks that were played on the evening newscast at WRAL-TV, Raleigh.


"A few weeks ago, my best friend from the last 59 years handed me a clipping quoting a 1973 statement by a longtime friend of a great many of us, Sen. Sam J. Ervin Jr. Senator Ervin is now deceased, of course.

"Dot Helms suggested — well, instructed may be a better word — that I share it with you on an appropriate occasion, and this is it.

"That was six days before Christmas in 1973. And unless Senator Ervin were to run again in 1974, Senator Ervin's Senate career would end on Jan. 3, 1975. And it was on that December day that Senator Ervin issued a public statement that ended speculation as to whether he would, or would not, seek re-election.

"Now, Senator Ervin did not run again in 1974. And he later explained it this way, and I'm quoting. He said, 'There's one inescapable reality that no man can ignore and that is that time takes a terrific toll which is of an increasing nature with those who live many years.' End of quote. And then Senator Ervin added, 'I would hate to, in Kipling's words, be in the Senate and have to force my heart and nerves and sinew to serve their turn long after they are gone.' End of quote.

"Now then, except for the fact that I am now already a few years older than Senator Ervin was when he made his decision on December 13, 1973, that he would not run for re-election in 1974, my family has counseled me that my situation today is not materially different from what Senator Ervin said in 1973. Here's what he said: 'Intellectual honesty compels me to confront this inescapable reality' and then he meant that if he ran again he would be almost 85 in 1980 when his distinguished Senate career would end.

"Now, the point is, I would be 88 if I ran again in 2002 and was elected and lived to finish a 6th term and this my family and I decided unanimously I should not do and, ladies and gentlemen, I shall not.

"Now that's my formal announcement.

"You see, if my health continues to be good when my present fifth term ends in 2002, adjournment, sine die as they put it, of the 107th Congress, I will be 81 years and I will then have served 30 years as a senator from North Carolina, longer than any other senator elected by the people of North Carolina, and not in my wildest imagination did it ever occur to me that such a privilege would ever be mine.

"To those who may be preparing news reports of the decision that my family and I have made, I will genuinely appreciate your doing me a few favors. Make clear my gratitude that I have been blessed since the first day I arrived in the Senate on January 3, 1973, with having the finest, hardest-working, most dedicated young people serving with me every moment I have been a United States Senator.

"They have joined with us because they are conservative, God-fearing oung people, genuinely willing to help all North Carolinians in so many instances have had such desperate crises in their lives and have turned to us for help. And without hesitation and without fail, these young people — we call ourselves the Helms Senate family — these young people often work around the clock and many times they have worked through the weekends to help people who needed a helping hand. So it has been they, this Helms Senate family, who have unfailingly made certain that the estimated 150,000 North Carolinians or more, and many from citizens from other states who brought their problems to us, were served promptly, with genuine interest in making sure that the problems were solved if at all possible."

"As early members of our Senate family have moved on to responsibilities with other branches of the government or with businesses, or with educational institutions, new young people were eager to join in our efforts to serve the citizens of our state and nation. And what a blessing. Now I love these young people. I love them all and they have known it, whether they have served in our offices in Raleigh or Hickory or Washington. And today, their careers are all over the landscape: Federal judges and teachers and business leaders and bankers and some have gone on to theological schools and now some are top advisers to the present president of the united states, George Bush."

"Now, needless to say, Dot Helms and I have thanked the Lord countless times for those remarkable young people and women, young men and women. I have often shared a commitment with young people, a commitment that I made to myself on election night 1972, that my commitment that night was that I would never, ever, fail to meet with a young person or a group of young people who wanted to see me. Now that 1972 campaign commitment enabled me to see personally hundreds of young men and women who otherwise I would never have met. And having been the beneficiary of more than 100,000 young visitors during the last 29 years, I can assure you that the future leadership of this state and our nation is in good hands. "

"Third and last and certainly not least, there is no way I can adequately express my gratitude to the thousands who pitched in and gave their support and prayers in all five of my elections to the United States Senate. Without that help and without the prayers of so many, I would never have made it and I know it.

"Now all of this is a long way of saying that I am not running again and that I thank you most sincerely from the bottom of my heart for letting me have my say. But let me make myself perfectly clear, as a former president of the United States often said, I have just confirmed speculation that I will not seek re-election next year, but I am by no means announcing my retirement because a great deal of work lies ahead of the United States Senate this fall, and next year, when there will be much significant legislation.

"For exampe, the Senate will be taking up and renewing the farm bill, which comes around just about every five years, and you don't need me to explain to you how important this particular farm bill will be to the farm families all across the state of North Carolina.

"In addition, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — yes, I'm no longer the chairman — the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider, among other important matters, significant legislation that will set the course for the future of America's defense system and then there's the necessity of monitoring the implementation of the Helms-Biden demands for reforming the United Nations, which by the way, has already saved the American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars."

"Now, in the years left to Dot Helms and me, we want to spend more time with our children and grandchildren, and we will do that. Needless to say, Dot and I intend, the Lord willing, to more actively involved in trying to be helpful to that remarkable foundation down in Widget. Now I don't know precisely how to say this, but Dot and I hope that one way or another, we can continue as private citizens, to be helpful to the great people of North Carolina. One thing is for sure: we will never forget you and we shall always be grateful for all that you have meant to us. Thank you, dear friends, God bless you, and, as Ron Reagan always used to say, God bless America."

© MMI The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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