box. You pull open the drawer, and you see the names of all the Leaders carved in it, andother senators, all those who used the desk before you. As they sit at those desks, senators take on the challenge to safeguard our freedom,the same challenge that American soldiers have met for more than two centuries, and for which more than a million men and women have given their lives in more than thirty wars.I represented South Dakota, first in the House of Representatives and then in theSenate---- the two bodies that comprise the U.S. Congress---- and served my last ten years asSenate Democratic Leader, including stints as Minority Leader and Majority Leader,depending on which party held more seats. For twenty-six years, the people of SouthDakota---- and colleagues from across the country---- allowed me to live my passion.I was raised Catholic, and my Catholicism was a huge part of my life when I was young. For many, from ordained clergy to the millions who volunteer through faith-affiliated groups and activities, the church is a calling, a way of serving something beyondthemselves, a way of helping others. I rode my bike to mass every morning before school,even in numbing South Dakota winters. For me, the one action that evokes many of the samesensations as walking into a church is stepping onto the Senate floor. The majesty, therichness, the history, and sometimes the hush of the Senate chamber are akin to that of asacred place. It was my secular temple.
It’s a rare privilege to serve in the U.S. Senate. It’s not easy to get there, or to stay there. Before you can try to realize your goals and visions, though, you have to convince yourneighbors that you can best represent their views and interests in Washington. AlbenBarkley, a Senate Majority Leader and later vice president, was asked what makes a greatsenator. ‘‘To be a great senator,’’ Barkley replied, ‘‘first you have to get elected.’’But in America, you don’t have to be rich or connected or go to ‘‘the right schools’’ to win a Senate seat, or even become Majority Leader. You can come from a farm family in asmall Midwestern state, and be the first in that family to graduate from college, like me. You just need to be thirty years old by the time you take office, a U.S. citizen for nine years, live inthe state in which you run, and make the best case to your neighbors why they should send you to Washington.Once you’re in, the Senate itself---- the Capitol, the chamber, your colleagues, thedesks, the statues, the art, the history---- should channel what Abraham Lincoln called the‘‘better angels of our nature’’ and buttress you. Mike Mansfield, the great and longest- serving