WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The country’s longest-serving senator will have a unique perspective for Tuesday’s State of the Union. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has witnessed more presidential addresses to Congress than almost anyone else in history.
“They’ve all been meaningful,” he said reflecting on more than 40 opportunities to hear eight presidents speak before Congress. “It’s interesting because each one is a little bit different.”
Leahy sat down to chat with u ahead of Tuesday’s State of the Union — President Trump’s first.
Leahy praised speeches by former presidents of both parties. “Probably the two best speakers, whether you agreed with what they said or not, were Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama,” he saidl
Personal reasons kept Leahy from attending a few of the speeches in-person. In those cases, he followed along on TV with the rest of America.
In 2014, he sat out for the security of the nation when he asked to be designated survivor. As Senate president pro-tem, he fell third in line to the presidency in the event of a disaster. “So, they brought me to a place where my survival was pretty well guaranteed no matter what happened [in the capitol],” he said.
Leahy said anyone who takes on that role should seriously reflect on how they would lead should tragedy strike. He describes that experience as sobering.
He uses the same word to describe the first State of the Union he attended. “The state of the Union is not good,” President Gerald Ford declared in 1975 as he sought to heal the country’s wounds from Watergate. “While some were concerned that he said it, for most of us it was kind of a call to arms,” Leahy recalls.
Leahy sees big challenges currently facing the country – from the America’s addiction epidemic to a lagging education system. He said he hopes President Trump finds the words to pull the divided country together on the issues that unite those of all political stripes.