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In farewell speech to Senate, Bond urges bipartisanship to solve problems

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 14, 2010 - WASHINGTON - Offering fellow senators "parting advice from an old bull," Sen. Christopher S. "Kit" Bond -- who is leaving the Senate after 24 years of representing Missouri -- called Tuesday for a spirit of "work together, play nice" bipartisanship to help solve the nation's problems.

"As I look back, the successes we have achieved during my time here have always come because people were willing to reach across the aisle for the common good," said Bond, R-Mo., in his farewell speech in the Senate chamber. He mentioned his work with Democrats over the years on issues such as the Clean Air Act amendments, public housing, the National Guard and reauthorizing the Intelligence Act.

"There will be issues where people of good conscience cannot come together," Bond told fellow senators. "But let us never let what cannot be done interfere with what can be done." He added that, given the external threats faced by this nation, "there is a lot of real estate between a political opponent and a true enemy."

Bond -- who has been elected to Missouri statewide office seven times, more times that anyone else in the state's history -- thanked the state's voters for their support and guidance during his 42-year political career that spanned four terms in the Senate and two terms as governor. He added, with his characteristic sense of humor, that "there is nothing like being eulogized while still breathing."

"The people of Missouri have been my most trusted and valuable advisers and I thank them for giving me support and helping me to identify not only the challenges, but the solutions to those challenges," Bond said. "I thank my political adversaries for keeping me nimble, and the media for keeping me humble."

Declaring that he is "neither shy nor retiring," Bond, 71, told senators that "I do not plan to retire because there are so many interesting and challenging things left to do. I plan to continue spending my time fighting for Missouri and national priorities, but from a different vantage point."

In an interview, Bond told the Beacon that he planned to establish a consulting firm in Missouri and also to "be associated with" a major law firm, which he declined to name. "I'm going to set up [a consultancy] to help develop businesses in Missouri," he said. "We'll be helping firms do business in Asia, trying to bring Asian business back here and also helping a lot of start-up companies in Missouri, taking advantage of the tremendous research and technology we have in the state."

Bond, who has co-authored a book about southeast Asia and traveled extensively in Asia as a senator and governor, said in his farewell speech that the U.S. should quickly approve free-trade agreements with Korea, Colombia and Panama and "participate in the Trans-Pacific partnership with countries on both sides of the Pacific to take down barriers to trade and increase export job opportunities."

He said Asia "provides huge opportunities for better American jobs through trade and investment across the Pacific." Calling for the use of Smart Power, he said this country -- rather than sending troops into every hot spot -- "can and must use trade, investment and education exchanges to build strong economies as we continue to deal with imminent violent threats through decisive military action."

On domestic issues, Bond called for more action to spur private-sector jobs, keep taxes down and reduce the federal budget deficit. He also endorsed the concept of a flat tax, which would lower overall rates in return for ending many deductions. "We have a debt problem that is caused by spending, not by having taxes too low," he said. "I am encouraged to see that there have been more discussions coming out of the [deficit-reduction] commission about a flat tax, which would have much lower rates and eliminate a wide range of tax deductions, credits and other tax bill earmarks."

Among the other senators who took a few moments to praise Bond were his Democratic colleague, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and the Senate Republican leader, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

"The magic formula of a ready smile, intellect, integrity, and an amazing work ethic has put him in the same category of some of Missouri's very greatest -- from Thomas Hart Benton to Sen. Christopher Kit Bond," said McCaskill. Saying that Bond knows Missouri "better than any living person," she added: "He has shown the world, and shown our country, what somebody who loves the middle of America and all that it represents can do." Her highest tribute: "Kit Bond is not afraid of a fight, and I think that is terrific."

McConnell said Bond "has had a tremendous career of public service. He's been elected seven times in Missouri from state auditor to his four terms in the Senate -- more than anybody else in the history of the Show-Me state. As his fourth term draws to a close, history will show he has served the people of Missouri and the people of this nation with passion, honor, and integrity. He will be missed."

At the end of his speech, Bond paid tribute to the people of Missouri.

"As a sixth-generation Missourian, I love my home state," he said. "Through 40 years in public life I have met many wonderful people. I have visited every county in the state at least once during every term. The people I have met along the way have made the job so rewarding that I stayed to serve as long as I have."

Rob Koenig is an award-winning journalist and author. He worked at the STL Beacon until 2013.