The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy | University of Portland

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy

Patrick Leahy served as a United States senator from Vermont from 1975 to 2023. At the time of his retirement, his forty-eight year career made him the third longest serving senator in the country’s history. From 2012 to 2015 and from 2021 to 2023, he was president pro tempore, making him third in line to the most powerful position in the world. A member of the Democratic Party, he chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate Agriculture Committee at various points during his tenure. Leahy is humbled by his long and storied career. “I’ve had this sense of awe about the Senate from an early age,” he said, in a retirement speech on the Senate floor, and went on to describe visiting the chamber during his days at Georgetown law school and watching transfixed as members debated the most pressing issues of the day. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine having his name etched into one of the desks in the chamber, let alone casting 17,000 votes and serving alongside 400 different senators. And he did his best to work with as many of those senators as he could. Throughout his career he was a champion of bipartisanship, with more than half of the bills he sponsored gaining support from both Democrats and Republicans. Looking back, he has much to be proud of, including expanding the Violence Against Women Act, shoring up the Freedom of Information Act, advocating for DNA evidence to be used in criminal justice cases, cleaning up parts of Vietnam marred by the war there, and working to rehabilitate the nation’s relationship with Cuba. A lifelong fan of comics, Leahy has appeared in five different Batman movies. (Among all senators it’s a tie for the next closest, with zero.) For Leahy, the Senate, at its best, serves as the collective conscience of the country, and he laments the loss in recent years of certain norms and practices. “Everywhere is somewhere,” he said, emphasizing the importance of understanding the country as a whole. He embodies grace and statesmanship of a sort that anyone can appreciate, and he has been a beacon for tolerance and understanding no matter our differences.