WASHINGTON -- Wistful memories of better days and a call borrowed from Abraham Lincoln to heed the "angels of our better natures" marked the farewell of one of the most accomplished senators in U.S. history.
Sounds like flattery, but Senator Orrin Hatch's record is beyond impressive: more than 800 bills passed including landmark legislation, several committee chairmanships, the longest tenure of any Republican, and a final turn as President Pro-Tem making him third in the line of succession to the presidency.
"I was here when this body was at it's best," Hatch said, speaking of days when fierce fights ended with evenings sharing family dinners and building bipartisan friendships.
The most famous of those friendships was between Hatch and Massachusetts' Ted Kennedy.
"We were able to pass some of the most important legislation of modern times, from the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the Ryan White bill and the State Children's Health Insurance Program," Hatch said.
Hatch called for his colleagues to pursue comity and civility and to respect pluralism.
"Our challenge is to rise above the din and divisiveness of our nation's politics," Hatch said.
Note: Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was a Senator five years longer than Hatch, but he was a Southern Democrat for his first ten years in the Senate and then served 37 years as a Republican. Hatch has served 42 years, all as a Republican.