Gardner Delivers Maiden Speech on Senate Floor

Washington, DC – Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) delivered his maiden speech on the floor of the United States Senate today.

Senator Gardner’s speech touched on a number of topics, including his upbringing in the small town of Yuma, Colorado, the importance of family, his Four Corners legislative agenda in the United States Senate, and his belief that through hard work, we can make a country worthy of the sacrifices of the generations who came before us.

Video of Senator Gardner’s Speech is available here.

The full text of Senator Gardner’s speech, as prepared, is below:

In 1893, Katharine Lee Bates made her way up the slopes of Pikes Peak and first wrote the words to one of America’s greatest patriotic hymns, poeticizing purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain.

One-hundred years ago, Enos Mills helped preserve “mountain scenes of exceptional beauty and grandeur” giving to the country the crown jewel of American splendor, Rocky Mountain National Park.

For over a century, visionaries like John Iliff helped settle the high plains of Colorado, described by Ian Frazier as a “heroic place.”  An expanse of splendid isolation with unparalleled sense of space, and generations of pioneers.  

This is Colorado.

From west to east and north to south, the beauty, heritage and vitality of Colorado calls and beckons across our nation and the world to those looking and longing for a place to call home. To live and work, to visit and vacation.

Our love for Colorado drives us to be better stewards of the land. To reach for solutions to great challenges.  And to find optimism in every vale and valley. 

For generations, we have challenged our sons and daughters to always look up – look up to that great Rocky Mountain horizon, as our ever-young state and ever-hopeful attitude lives peak to peak, the honor of living in the west, a land of opportunity and new beginnings.

It is this constant drive for a better future for our great state and nation that leads me to the floor of the United States Senate to speak for the first time, where my duties as Colorado’s newest Senator begin, walking in the footsteps of Colorado’s first Senators Jerome Chaffee, and Henry Teller, and alongside my colleague Senator Michael Bennet. 

It is an incredible and heavy obligation to fulfill – to well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office, defending our Constitution with faith and allegiance to the rights we cherish. But an obligation and duty every person in Colorado expects us to not just fulfill, but to excel at – from Beecher Island to the Book Cliffs, from Fisher’s Peak to the Pawnee.   

Somewhere in between is my home town of Yuma, home to hardy pioneers that have seen the high plains through great success and record harvests, depression and dust bowls, drought and tragedy.  Yet through it all, the good times and the challenges, it is still called home by generations who would live no where else. 

It is here in this little eastern plains town, weather worn and always thirsty, that Jaime and I are raising our children, Alyson, Thatcher, and Caitlyn, in a home that once belonged to their great-great grandparents and surrounded in town by family, Lala and Papa, great grandparents and more.

No matter where across Colorado’s four corners you live, or across this great nation, we all hope for the same thing for our children. To live in a loving community that values every citizen, that they learn the value of hard work and perseverance. Where hard work is met with merited reward. That they find a nation of liberty and freedom that they help make a little more free and little more perfect.  To carry on the tradition of our founding fathers – always endeavoring to be better tomorrow than they are today. 

Our nation has always understood that this endeavor isn’t something that is just passed on, hoping someone else does the work for us – it’s something we ourselves have to fight for today. We are responsible for the starting point we hand to the next generation – and we have a moral obligation to make it the best point possible, always advancing.

To accomplish this I have laid out a Four Corners plan, representing all areas of Colorado and those issues that matter most to the people of this country. Growing our economy and getting this nation back to work in the kinds of jobs with the kind of salary that allows them to achieve their dreams, develop North American energy security while enhancing the protection and appreciation of our environment, and making sure we give our children the tools they need to succeed in a world growing both in its complexity and its interconnection. 

In rural America, we must work to not only keep the generations of families who grew up there on the farm and ranch, but find new ways to bring new families back to our farms, ranches and small towns.  We must revitalize main streets that are slowly losing their place as the heart and soul of community, boarded up and forgotten.

To do this, I will introduce legislation that will help provide ways to infuse new investments and life into rural communities, called the Rural Philanthropy Act.  It will help struggling businesses find new private sector partners in their effort to serve their community, whether it’s a small town newspaper or a local clothing store, it will hope grow jobs and create more opportunities for start-ups and innovation. 

We must look to reimagine burdensome rules and regulations that tie the hands of people who want to start a business by revitalizing a main street and breathing new life into a tired city block.  Doing good things shouldn’t be so difficult and we need a government that recognizes this.  

Colorado’s economy will also benefit from value added trade opportunities with the passage of new trade agreements opening new markets and eliminating barriers to growing markets.  I will work to ensure small businesses have the resources they need to participate in trade, making sure the benefit of new markets doesn’t just stop at the biggest corporations.

Through my First in Space Initiative we will focus on policies that promote and grow Colorado’s leading aerospace economies, launching new jobs in space, engineering and aeronautics. 

And a healthy economy means everyone benefits, not just those who already have found success.  That is why I will work to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. By eliminating the waste, fraud and abuse all too common within the EITC we can save billions of dollars and then use that money to expand the credit, making a program that has already helped lift millions of people out of poverty do even more good for people throughout Colorado, and in our urban centers.  Measuring a successful economy shouldn’t simply be a matter of looking to see whether the haves have more, but what policies we have put in place that actually help the poor lift themselves up. 

We are living in a veneered economy – while the numbers on Wall Street look good and profits are looking up, scratch the surface and too many people continue to suffer.  Endlessly searching for jobs they desperately need, earning the kinds of salary their family needs to keep afloat.  While parts of Colorado may be succeeding, others are struggling. True success means every part of our state’s economy flourishes. 

Thanks to our state’s energy economy, parts of the state that seemed to have been left behind are now thriving.  A national policy geared toward North American energy independence will not only boost jobs and provide abundant and affordable energy upon which our economy relies, but it will boost our national security by providing our allies abroad with an energy partner that presents an alternative to regimes like Russia and Iran.

I look forward to continuing my push for an expedited export process for LNG, allowing Mesa and La Plata County energy producers the opportunity to play a leading role in national security while creating jobs at home. 

Common sense Colorado energy solutions also means focusing on renewable energy as well – harnessing the winds in Weld, the sun in the San Luis, and the power of water in the west, we can lessen pollution and help clean up our air.  Working across the aisle with Senator Chris Coons from Delaware, I will focus on Energy Savings Performance Contracts, an often overlooked private sector tool that has the potential to create thousands of jobs and save the taxpayer billions of dollars while reducing pollution. 

Reducing pollution and protecting our environment is a cornerstone of Colorado.

I look forward to working with Congressman Scott Tipton on legislation to help preserve and restore our great forest lands, and to protect Colorado landscapes. Whether its healthy forest legislation, reducing the maintenance backlog in our national parks, or finding collaborative solutions to challenging land conflicts, we owe it to future generations of Coloradans to pass on an environment that is cleaner than the one we inherited from previous generations.  

And future generations of Coloradans also deserve the opportunity to receive an education befitting of a great nation.  Whether that’s fighting to restore local control to states, school districts, and parents, or working to help make the dream of college a reality, our future depends on our ability to provide the skills and training for the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs. 

I will continue my work on legislation called the “Making College Affordable Act.”  This bill will help families save for college and meet expenses in primary and secondary education.  I look forward to promoting STEM education opportunities and transforming our immigration system from one that sends the best and brightest foreign students back home to compete against us, to one that allows them the opportunity to stay here in the United States to create jobs and innovations that we will continue to benefit from.

No doubt over the next six years many issues will arise that fall outside of these Four Corner issues and I look forward to meeting every one of these challenges by finding new opportunities that will help make Colorado a better place.

I look forward to working with Congressman Mike Coffman to finish the VA Hospital in Aurora, a hospital earned through sacrifice but tarnished by delay.  But when it is completed, it will give veterans a far better place for the care they deserve. 

And that always must be our focus – making Colorado and the United States a better place.  Giving the people of this country the confidence that we can work together to achieve common goals, to strive for brighter horizons, to deliver to the American people a government they can be proud of again.  And I will work with Senator Bennet and anyone who is committed to those common goals. 

Too many people believe government can no longer address the great challenges of our time.  An $18 trillion debt, mounting entitlement costs, a healthcare crisis that continues well into the new century and seemingly overwhelming foreign policy challenges.  Some leaders would try to have us believe that we can’t do anything about it, that a managed decline is better than rapid decline. 

The American people know better.  They don’t have to, and indeed they will not, accept second best.  A government that we can be proud of is one that solves the greatest challenges of our time, balances our budget, puts in place solutions that rise above the rhetoric.  A government we can be proud of again means an America always advancing and never in retreat. 

Our search for solutions, our search for a government we can be proud of, comes from the common bond, regardless of color, gender, or creed, and yes, even party, that we as Americans all hold -the shared story of our lives, the unrelenting American spirit. This is the American story.  

We owe our nation to the sacrifices made by millions of men and women for freedom, for each other, to countless generations in the past and present who have worn a uniform in defense of our nation. A nation made exceptional by pioneering people - a nation of innovation and opportunity, a nation that imagines and inspires, a nation that rises above – to be better tomorrow than we are today.

I grew up working at the family implement dealership, a family business started by my great-grandfather 100 hundred years ago.  Sweeping the floors and cleaning the bathrooms, I learned about the struggles businesses face.  I learned about the employees who made the business function, how to make sure these hard working men and women were successful so they could meet their aspirations, because when they were successful we were all successful. 

I learned from my grandma, a real life Rosie the Riveter, who welded liberty ships during World War II alongside her husband, my grandpa. They gave up everything, moving their family and all they had in life to be a part of the effort to win the war and to provide their four children with the opportunity to succeed and build their own families in a free world.

A few weeks ago, when going through some old pictures buried in a random collection of endless boxes, we discovered a stack of letters that were written by my grandfather to his parents and to my grandmother during World War II.  The letters, some written in near perfect cursive, others pecked out on an old fashioned hammer strike typewriter – no doubt the same kind of typewriter he would use until his final years working at the dealership.  In the letters he talked about his loneliness for home, new friends he had made, questions about his young son, and the new countries he was visiting, France and beyond. 

I’d like to share one of those letters today because it shares part of our American story.  It was written on the 15th of August 1945:

               Dear Folks,

Aha, that day, 14 August, is indeed a history making day, and last night at twelve o’clock when at last all the rumors were confirmed that the world was at peace I said a silent prayer and know that it won’t be long until we are all together again.  If you pull those reigns hard enough maybe I will be home for Xmas mother, certainly have a good chance of making it now, although anything can still happen and there are thousands of miles to cover, but one can’t help but be optimistic.  


What it must have felt like to know that the war you had been fighting, the war that had consumed the world and taken our nation’s young men and women thousands of miles away from home, was over, to have received word that the “rumors were confirmed that the world was at peace.” And after years of battle and weariness and a silent prayer, the optimism of one soldier – and that soldier’s nation – persevered.    

There are countless families across this country who share a similar story to my grandfather.  One of their aunts or uncles, parents or siblings.  People who have shared the honor and obligation of wearing a uniform for the United States of America and all the responsibility that comes along with it.  They are people we will most likely never meet, nor will we ever be able to fully thank them all, but still they fought for us.

Through the words of one simple letter, we recognize the power of peace over conflict, of love for family and country.  A silent prayer no doubt of thanks, thanks for answering so many other silent prayers, silent prayers asking for a day of peace and homecoming.  What it must have been like to know that that great darkness of war which threatened freedom not for some, but for all, had finally come to an end.  And just like that, you’ll be home as if nothing ever happened.

Somewhere in that silent prayer, under the new calm of a war torn horizon, was the thanksgiving of a soldier for his victorious nation. A soldier looking to go home a civilian to live out his life dreams far away from war and in the arms of his family.

And while we may disagree on the details of policy or the tactics of direction, let us make no mistake in our charge – to ensure we have a nation that is worthy of the sacrifice so many have made. To refuse to pass on to future generations a nation in retreat or decline. To make sure ours is a nation always worth fighting for. 

Because this is Colorado.

This is the United States of America.