Leonard Boswell farewell thread (updated)

The U.S. House of Representatives took 40 minutes on the floor this morning to recognize Leonard Boswell’s public service during his military career, time in the Iowa Senate, and 16 years in Congress. Radio Iowa posted a link to the full audio from today’s proceedings. Republican Tom Latham, who defeated Boswell in IA-03 last month, opened the tribute with warm remarks about his colleague. He also read out comments sent by many Iowans, including Governor Terry Branstad and Ken Sagar of the Iowa Federation of Labor. Iowans can e-mail their own remarks to Boswell.Tribute@mail.house.gov today. Those e-mails will supposedly be part of the official Congressional record.

After the jump I’ve enclosed some excerpts from today’s speeches and public statements released about Boswell’s retirement. Any memories about Leonard Boswell are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: Added a touching story about Boswell below.

After Latham spoke, Representative Dave Loebsack shared his thoughts. He expressed his gratitude to Boswell for helping him learn the ropes in Congress during the past six years. Although he had met Boswell before being elected for the first time in IA-02 in 2006, Loebsack said he had no idea he and Boswell would become such good friends. He also said that Boswell wasn’t just "from Iowa," he was "of Iowa"—an Iowan "through and through."

Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland then told a story about calling Boswell to recruit him to run for Congress from IA-03 in 1996. At the time, Boswell was president of the Iowa Senate. Hoyer mentioned that Boswell already had a reputation for “decency” and “character” as well as being a skilled legislator. During their years of serving together, Hoyer said, Boswell had confirmed that the reputation was deserved.

Former IA-01 Representative Jim Nussle, a Republican, also came to Congress today to recognize Boswell’s service.

Representative Bruce Braley’s office posted his whole speech on YouTube:

Braley commented that Boswell had a somewhat “unique” career in that he was first drafted and later commissioned as an officer. He said Boswell is too “modest” to talk about the two Distinguished Flying Crosses he was awarded for his service in Vietnam. Radio Iowa quoted Braley as saying,

“Leonard has always been a strong advocate for military families,” Braley said. “He has a lot of proud achievements in this body, but Leonard to me your proudest moment was when the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act was passed in the House, passed in the Senate and signed into law by the president.”

Steve King reflected on representing the part of Iowa that includes Boswell’s farm in Decatur County, and serving with Boswell on the House Agriculture Committee for the past decade. He also commented on Boswell’s service in Vietnam:

“Everybody that he served with didn’t come back, but more people came back because of Leonard Boswell and I know that,” King said. “I heard some of those stories because I pulled a few of them out, but it’s not something that’s he’s brought out front. It’s not something that he’s worn on his sleeve. It’s something within the character of the man that sits here with us today.”

Several members of Congress from other states also spoke about Boswell’s work on legislation.

Finally, Boswell spoke. His remarks begin shortly before the 36-minute mark of the audio linked here. He said he felt so “blessed” to have been able to do so many things, having started life in a “tenant farmhouse.” He thanked his family members and several of his Congressional staffers.

Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky released this statement:

Des Moines – Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky released the following statement today on retiring Congressman Leonard Boswell’s service to the state of Iowa and the United States of America:

Each member of Iowa’s congressional delegation and other Republican and Democratic congressmen spoke during a Special Order Tribute on the US House floor today, arranged by his Republican colleague Tom Latham.

“Leonard Boswell has worked for his country, his state, and his community throughout a lifetime of public service.  Lieutenant Colonel Boswell had a distinguished 20-year career in the United States Army.  His service in the Iowa Senate, as President of that body from 1993 to 1996, was where he first took the lessons he brought from his military life, and brought them to bear in the political arena.  Those lessons included focus on the mission at hand, and get the job done.  Trust your team, and let them know they can trust you.  And perhaps most importantly, leave no comrade behind.   In 1997, Leonard brought those values to work for Iowans, and their neighbors across the country, in the United States House of Representatives.  His work on transportation issues has changed the face of Iowa.  But it has been his advocacy for his fellow veterans and their families, that has changed the heart of Iowa.

We are grateful to his wife, Dody, and his family, for sharing him with us these many years.  We are proud of the work he has done, and we welcome him home with open arms.”

Rep. Leonard Boswell served 16 years in the House of Representatives, as a member of Agriculture and Transportation committees. Rep. Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, said Congressman Boswell has “brought a greater level of civility and understanding to this institution” of congress.

UPDATE: Monica Fischer gave me permission to repost this memory, which she shared on Facebook shortly after the election.

I will never forget this about Congressman Leonard Boswell: When my friend Holmes Foster was dying, Leonard came to visit him at the hospice house while I was there. Other visitors understandably struggled with what to say, but Leonard honored Holmes and their relationship by simply and directly acknowledging his genuine sorrow about Holmes’ imminent death, and then telling Holmes he needed his advice (Congress was considering extending “cash for clunkers” at that time; Leonard asked Holmes for his insights about it, and they had a fascinating discussion about economic incentives and consumer behavior). To be needed and valued in his final days – and treated as someone not just who was dying but who had something to offer – gave Holmes real joy, and I marveled at the ability of our Congressman to get it so right in such an impossibly sad situation. He is a good man.

  • Boswell

    Wonderful statements all around. I wish we could get more young people and unemployed veterans interested in agriculture again. This was an issue that Leonard cared a lot about.

    I hope that history looks upon Leonard’s service in a balanced way.  I know there are votes that he regrets.  I also hope that no one thinks that he ever purposely allowed corporate ag interests to poison the water supply or whatever accusation some folks have thrown his way.

    I know I am one of the few who feel this way in either political party, but I truly believe that Leonard’s voting record was the most representative of Iowa within our delegation.  

    • what I appreciate most

      about Leonard Boswell is that he was a strong pro-choice vote in the Iowa Senate and in Congress when it would have been politically easier for him to be an anti-choice rural Democrat. Statistically, politicians who have daughters are more likely to be pro-choice than politicians who have only sons. I have sometimes wondered whether this was a factor in his thinking.

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