Editor’s Note: Sen. Leticia Van de Putte delivered her farewell speech in the Texas Senate Tuesday. She will step down from her District 26 seat next Wednesday, March 4, at 2 p.m., ending nearly a quarter century of service in the Texas Legislature, first as a state House representative from 1990-99, and then in the state Senate from 1999-present. State Rep. José Menéndez, who defeated state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer in a special election runoff on Feb. 17, will be sworn into office that same day. Van de Putte is one of four major candidates vying to become mayor of San Antonio in the May 9 City Election. Text of her speech today follows:
Thank you, Mr. President and Members. And thank you for recognizing me for the last time on this Senate floor.
We are all so very blessed to be a part of a legacy of service blazed long ago in this most deliberative body. The Texas Senate is the place where we work hard to find common ground despite our political differences.
We are family here, and we are family here forever. We are united in this most sacred chamber – in times of ecstatic joy and in times of the deepest personal sorrow. My Senate brothers and sisters have held me, Pete, and our family up in your prayers in the most difficult of times and, for that, I am eternally gratefully.
Over the past 24 years, I have seen the civility and humanity of this legislature prevail during the toughest of times. As Texans, we know we do the best of work in the toughest of times. I have seen how people of integrity and commitment can accomplish incredible feats.
I am grateful to have worked with many of you to make our state a better place to live, learn, and retire for our children and for our grandchildren. Many of you know that is probably the greatest reason of all.
What we do here matters. It’s about the next generation. I am forever thankful to the Dean of the Senate, John Whitmire, who always manages to remind us to “put a face on it” –because what we do here matters to families in our beloved districts and throughout this great state.
Senator Zaffirini, my dear friend. You have shown us not only how to do things properly, but how to do things with compassion. Your expertise on early childhood and higher education, on people with disabilities, will forever stay in my heart and mind.
Senator Ellis, you are the warrior of justice. One of the most compelling acts I have ever seen on this Senate floor was the time when we voted on the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act. It was a tough battle. I watched then Senator Haywood. He had a physical condition that barely allowed him to walk and talk. He sat next to me on the floor and, Senator Ellis, you didn’t have the votes to bring that bill up. I watched Senator Haywood cross the floor and tell you that you had one more vote to bring your bill up. He told me, you know, it may not have been the right thing to do politically, but it is the right thing to do.
That is what we are all about. Doing the right thing for healthier students — Senator Nelson. Doing the right thing for students who have dropped out – Senator West.
Senator Fraser, together, we have made sure that our electricity is reliable and affordable. Senator Estes, you are the champion of our small businesses. Senator Lucio, your work on behalf of children with autism and caring for the nutrition of all. Senator Seliger, our work on education and how to find a pathway to success for all of our students. Senator Eltife and Senator Nichols, you understand school finance, because you know that those in rural areas face the same challenges to access that people do in urban parts of my district.
Senator Huffman, I now leave to you the challenge of combating human trafficking. You understood from the beginning that this vile crime is modern-day slavery. I leave you with that portfolio, and I know that you will carry it well.
Senator Garcia, you understand that we have to give our students a head start in early college high schools. I will miss our work, but I know that I can always rely on you, because you understand the importance of quality options for our students.
Senator Birdwell, Senator Hinojosa, Senator Campbell, Senator Rodriguez, Senator Perry, Senator Uresti and Senator Taylor: thank you for being full partners in our efforts to make Texas the number one state for veterans, active duty military and their families.
Senator Hancock, Senator Larry Taylor, Senator Schwertner, Senator Creighton and Senator Kolkhorst, I know that you will continue the Senate tradition of understanding that we all work towards the common good. To our newer members, I know that my decision to return home to my beloved San Antonio leaves us without time to establish a strong friendship, but know that when you are here in the Texas Senate, you form those lifelong relationships.
And Governor Patrick, I will never forget our work, together, to improve school curriculum and the quality of charter schools on behalf of the children of this great state. I stand, always, as your full partner in love for this state. You will wield that gavel with the best interest of the people of this state.
President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” This Senate Chamber and each member hold immense power.
I am reminded of the scripture that I leave for Senator-elect Jose Menendez. It is Proverbs 3:27, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.” This has been my guiding scripture. We are very powerful in this Senate, individually and collectively.
Together, we have crafted many great policies but we also know that these great feats take more than just us; we would not have had such great successes if not for the hidden wiring of the Senate, our hardworking staff. Members receive the acclaim, but our staff also brave the long hours and sleepless nights in service to Texas.
To our families, a special thank you. It is all about our families. Thank you to my husband, Pete; my mom, Belle; my brothers and sisters, our children, nieces and nephews.
What we do here improves the lives of Texans, but few would know if it wasn’t for the people on the third rail of the Senate floor. Each of you in the capitol press corps has the awesome responsibility to take the stories from under this pink dome to the people.
Finally, nothing is possible without the confidence of the people in my hometown of San Antonio. It is all about their quality of life. I thank my fellow San Antonians for allowing me the privilege and honor of being their voice here at our beloved Capitol for almost a quarter of a century.
God bless all of you and God bless our Texas. Dios y Tejas.
Featured/top image: Outgoing Sen. Leticia Van de Putte stands with Sen-elect José Menéndez and Rep. Richard Raymond after her farewell speech to the Texas Senate. Courtesy photo.