It’s almost impossible to imagine the U.S. Senate without Patrick Leahy fighting for the best interests of Vermonters and our environment, low-income and vulnerable Americans, women and minorities, and those around the globe suffering human rights abuses or at risk of losing civil liberties.
Leahy’s announcement Monday that he will not seek reelection next year to a ninth term was a wake-up call to the loss his absence from Capitol Hill will hold for our state and the nation. He spoke publicly from a podium in Room 11 of the Vermont Statehouse, the room where he first announced his candidacy for the Senate in 1974 at age 33, one block from his childhood home in Montpelier and a short drive from the Middlesex farmhouse he now calls home.
During his nearly half-century in the Senate, Leahy has remained a statesman in a Congress that increasingly struggles to maintain civility, a political leader who has been sent to Washington for eight terms from a state that itself has shifted from reliably red to progressive blue. It’s significant that in this challenging, polarized era, Republicans and Democrats alike praised Leahy’s tenure in the Senate and thanked him for his service to our state.
Leahy has been that rare leader with the ability to speak to almost all Americans, frequently showing up at official events — in which he is the main attraction — with a camera in hand, and surprising participants with beautiful photographs that capture their contribution to the day.
No doubt he was too liberal for some. But few Vermonters questioned Leahy’s commitment and value to our state — bringing federal funds in times of crisis, fighting for Vermont’s farmers, and working to ensure the best and brightest, regardless of party affiliation, lead our courtrooms.
After 46 years in the Senate, representing Vermont on such prestigious committees as Agriculture, Appropriations and Judiciary, there are few issues affecting the U.S. and the world on which Leahy has not cast a vote. He is well-known for his campaign to end the production and use of anti-personnel landmines, creating the Leahy War Victims Fund to help the survivors of the deadly explosives, many of them children.
That, Senator Leahy, is a lot to be proud of.
Best of all, Leahy has lived it with joyful relish. A renown fan of the Caped Crusader, the senator appeared in five Batman movies, usually playing himself beside famous actors like George Clooney, Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey.
And he was the ultimate Deadhead, attending Grateful Dead performances after his college-aged son invited him to tag along to a concert, finding his way on stage whenever possible. “Would I call myself a Deadhead?” he wrote in Roll Call. “With pride.”
The decision to not seek reelection in 2022 was no doubt bittersweet for Leahy. As always, his wife, Marcelle, was at his side for Monday’s announcement, just as she has been throughout the great events of his political tenure. They have both recently faced health challenges, and Vermonters across the state wish them the best.
“Marcelle and I have reached a conclusion,” he said. “It is time to pass the torch to the next Vermonter who will carry on this work for our great state. It’s time to come home.”
Welcome home, Senator Leahy. Thank you for your service.