Statements and Speeches

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons (both D-Del.) spoke on the Senate floor on Wednesday to commemorate Delaware Day. Since 1933, governors of Delaware have proclaimed December 7 as “Delaware Day” in honor of that day in 1787, when Delaware became the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, making Delaware the first state in the new nation.

- As Delivered on December 7, 2011 -

SENATOR CARPER: Mr. President, today is Delaware Day. Something important for our state and our nation occurred on December 7, 1787. Senator Coons is here. I ask him to take a moment and maybe share with our colleagues what that was all about. Senator Harkin was kind enough to give us a couple of minutes on his time to do this. Senator Coons, what did happen there at that Golden Fleece Tavern?

SENATOR COONS: Senator Carper, thank you for entering into this colloquy about Delaware Day. As some folks may know, if you look at the Delaware flag, as the Senator mentioned, there is the date, December 7, 1787. That is the day that 30 Delawareans, elected delegates, gathered at the Golden Fleece Tavern in Dover and voted unanimously to make Delaware the first State to ratify the U.S. Constitution. That is why our State moniker is—

SENATOR CARPER: The First State.

SENATOR COONS: The First State.

SENATOR CARPER: Small Wonder. The guys who were there that day - about 30 of them – I would like to say they were drinking hot chocolate at the Golden Fleece Tavern. I am not sure what they were drinking, but the outcome was a good one. For one whole week after that, Delaware was the entire United States of America. Who was next, Pennsylvania? Maybe Pennsylvania, maybe New Jersey. Then the rest followed and I think, for the most part, it turned out pretty well.

SENATOR COONS: And Senator, one of the things I have always been struck by is that it was 11 years before that that Delaware actually, on Separation Day, on June 15 of 1776, acted both to declare its independence from Pennsylvania and its independence from the King of England, and by doing so acted in an incredibly risky way, because had the Continental Congress on July 4 not chosen to ratify the Declaration of Independence, then Delaware would have stood alone, and arguably, hung alone for having taken the risk for stepping out first.

Delaware has a tradition of being first—first in declaring its independence and acting to secure its independence, and in ratifying the Constitution, that set the whole structure that ended the debate over the Articles of Confederation and moved toward the federal system, one where we look to each other as states and look to this government for the provision of and the securing of our liberty through the balance of justice and liberty that we rely on so much in this body. What else are we doing to celebrate this great day, Senator Carper?

SENATOR CARPER: The Constitution that was ratified that day—the thing about it is that it is the most enduring Constitution of any nation on Earth, the most copied or emulated Constitution of any nation on Earth as well, and a living document that provides provisions for us to change and update as time goes by. It is remarkable, and we are very proud of the role we played in getting the ball rolling in this great country of ours.

I want to go back to July 1776, if I can. Not far away from the Golden Fleece Tavern, there was a guy named Caesar Rodney, who rode his horse. Do you want to quickly share that story?

SENATOR COONS: That made it possible for our delegation to be represented in Philadelphia and for us to commit to the Declaration of Independence by breaking a tie between the other representatives of Delaware in the Continental Congress.

SENATOR CARPER: If you look at the back of the Delaware coin, you might say why is Paul Revere on the back of that coin? Well, that is not Paul Revere, that is Caesar Rodney riding the horse from Dover to Philadelphia. For people who are familiar with Dover Air Force Base, where big planes come in—the C-5s and C-17s that fly all over the world—as you come in on the approach, the runway heading north-northeast to land, you fly over an old plantation house where a guy named John Dickinson used to live. There is a John Dickinson high school in Delaware, which was named after him. He was also a guy who was involved in the Constitutional Congress and also involved in the Declaration of Independence, and the penman of the Revolution. So if you think about it, there at the Golden Fleece Tavern, the Constitution was ratified. Caesar Rodney, from Dover, departing from not far from there, casts the tie-breaking vote for the Declaration of Independence, and the penman of the Revolution, growing up in what is now the Dickinson plantation. There is a lot of history right there, especially for a state that doesn’t have a national park.

SENATOR COONS: Although we have a senior Senator who is tireless in his effective advocacy of our state.

SENATOR CARPER: Maybe we can do something about that with the Senator’s help and that of Congressman Carney, and our colleagues in the Senate and the House—and maybe including the presiding officer from North Carolina. Believe it or not, the economic value of national parks is actually charged for every one of our states.

The most visited sites in the United States among tourists from foreign countries are our national parks. The economic value to the state of North Carolina—I was told last year—from their national parks was $700 million. Not bad.

SENATOR COONS: If I might, just later today, we are having our first Delaware Day reception here in one of the Senate buildings. It is a way for us to promote and celebrate what is great about Delaware.

One of the things I treasure most about Delaware is our unique political culture—a culture that focuses on consensus, on reasoned compromise, on bringing folks together from across what is, in some other places, a sharp partisan divide to find reasonable, principled paths forward to tackling the challenges that face our state. It is that consensus, commonsense approach that I know my senior Senator brought to his two terms as Governor and has brought to the Senate. Our Congressman, who was on national television this morning with a Republican cosponsor of an initiative, has also made that a hallmark of his tenure. I know our Governor has as well.

I wanted to suggest that one of the things that makes Delaware unique, special, valued, and first isn’t just our agricultural products, it isn’t just our great and enjoyable food products, and it isn’t just our unique history in the beginning of our country but it is also how we continue to find ways to build bridges across the divide that so many Americans watch us here in the Congress wrestling with at this moment and that I think, in our home state, we have managed to find a good path forward.

SENATOR CARPER: Madam President, we call this the Delaware Way. As my colleague from Delaware knows, whenever I run into people who have been married a long time—50, 60, 70 years—I ask them what is the secret to being married so many years. They give some funny answers, but they also give some very pointed answers. One of the best answers I have heard—and I hear it over and over—as the reason why they have been married such a long time is because of the two Cs. I say: What are the two Cs? They say, “communicate and compromise.”

I would suggest that is what we do pretty well in our state. It is not only good advice for creating an enduring marriage, but it would also be good advice for us in this body, in this town, to do a better job—both parties—to communicate and compromise. We show, I think every day, in our state, if we do those things, take that seriously, the result is pretty good. We could get a better result here if we keep that in mind.

With that, I think we have said our piece. It is Delaware Day, one more time, and may the spirit of Delaware and the Delaware Way permeate this place as well.

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