October 16, 1985

Ladies and gentlemen, one of the things I've been trying to figure out is why anyone as young as Russell Long would want to retire. [Laughter] Now, of course, that's only a cue for a story I want to tell you, because, you know, in my position anymore I have to be very careful of whether there is any ethnic note to any jokes that I tell, but I find that I can still tell jokes about people getting old. [Laughter] They know I'm not picking on anyone. So, this doesn't have any bearing on his being too young to retire.

But it is a story about an elderly couple who were getting ready for bed one night, and she said, "Oh, I just am so hungry for ice cream, and there isn't any in the house.'' And he said, "I'll get some.'' "Oh,'' she said, "you're a dear.'' And she said, "Vanilla with chocolate sauce.'' He says, "Vanilla with chocolate sauce.'' She says, "Write it down. Now, you'll forget, dear.'' He says, "I won't forget.'' She said, "With some whipped cream on top.'' And he said, "Vanilla with chocolate sauce, whipped cream on top.'' And she said, "And a cherry.'' And he said, "And a cherry on top.'' Well, she said, "Please write it down. I know you'll forget.'' And he said, "I won't forget. Vanilla with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.'' And away he went. By the time he got back, she was already in bed, and he handed her the paper bag. She opened it and there was a ham sandwich. [Laughter] And she said, "I told you to write it down. You forgot the mustard.'' [Laughter]

But, ladies and gentlemen, I'm delighted that I could be here tonight to salute one of the most important presences in the United States Senate for, yes, over 36 years. There's one thing about being able to talk first, and before you all have dinner because then no one can -- well, maybe I'm taking some material away from some others -- [laughter]. But the simple facts about Russell Long are that he's the son of an American political legend. He ran a celebrated campaign for student body president at Louisiana State University. He earned four battle stars in his country's service in World War II; was elected in 1948 to the United States Senate, and that was the day before he turned 30; and he became one of the most powerful Senators in that body's history, including a committee chairmanship and a leadership post.

Now, these are the simple facts, but, you know, in a curious way, they don't really tell the whole story. You see, for those who really know Washington well, Russell Long is regarded as one of the most skillful legislators, compromisers, and legislative strategists in history. Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and many others who knew the Congress intimately fully appreciated the enormous weight and power that Russell Long wielded on Capitol Hill and the tremendous savvy that he brought to any legislative enterprise. For example, Senator Long is famed for his capacity to anticipate the truly critical moments in the legislative process. He was the one legislator who had his mind on the conference, one observer noted, when the others were worrying about the floor debate. Indeed, it's true that this son of a political legend has become a legend on his own.

Russell Long is not one of the truly important Senators of our time simply because he's a skillful statesman or was a fine political mind. He also has a great capacity for personal friendship and a warmth and candor that has won him many friends. For example -- and I shouldn't be telling this until after the session is over -- he used to ask, and I am quoting him, "What is a loophole?'' [Laughter] And he answered, "That is something that benefits the other guy. If it benefits you, it's tax reform.'' [Laughter]

But to be serious, we're not here this evening simply because Russell Long was and is a distinguished and important United States Senator. We're here tonight because Russell Long, throughout one of the longest and most substantive careers in public life, has been a friend of ours, a friend of his country, and of the American people. Russell, I assure you that I speak not only for your friends on Capitol Hill but for the people of Louisiana and for the American people who say ``thank you'' for your devotion to duty, for the years of service to your country. You won four battle stars making amphibious landings in North Africa, Italy, and southern France. And if the truth be known, you won many more battle stars in your country's service on Capitol Hill. I want you to know how grateful we are to you. And, Carolyn, I especially want to thank you for your years of devotion to your family and your country.

Thank you all, and God bless you.

Note: The President spoke at 8:17 p.m. at the Madison Hotel.