Biden, Obama among those who praised Senate Titan Harry Reid at a memorial service: NPR

President Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Las Vegas.

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Susan Walsh / AP


President Joe Biden speaks during a memorial service for former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Las Vegas.

Susan Walsh / AP

In the hymn after hymn at his memorial service on Saturday, Harry Reid was remembered as a perfect politician, a loving husband and father – and perhaps more so than anything else, a man who rarely said goodbye before he hung up.

Leading Democratic politicians in the country, including President Biden and former President Barack Obama, gathered in Las Vegas to honor Reid, a former Senate majority leader and titan of democratic politics who died last month at the age of 82 after the life that brought him from a small town in Nevada to the Hall of Power in Washington.

“The desert shack he called his home, the miles he walked to school, the boxing ring he always stood up to, the family tragedies he had experienced, the cancer he and Landra had fought, the halls of power he had walked, the state he had transformed, the country he formed – was proof that nothing was common in America. “Ordinary Americans can do anything if they have a half chance,” said President Biden.

The list of speakers and participants in Reid’s services corresponded to the magnitude of his political influence. In addition to Biden and Obama, participants included Vice President Harris, Governor of Nevada Steve Sisolak, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer, Reid’s successor as Senate Democrat leader.

“His modesty has made him unique, one might say, in politics. But his humility has been rooted in his strong values ​​since the humble childhood that came from Searchlight to the spotlight and became one of the Senate’s most celebrated and watched leaders in decades, “he said. Pelosi.

Reid had a “deficit of vanity,” Obama said

For three hours, speakers told each other colorful stories about Reid – as he once asked to be dropped off in the middle of the Nevada desert for a training marathon; how he kissed television after the Democrats reoccupied the Senate in 2006; or how, when he saw the draft speech, in which he described himself as a “former boxer,” he crossed out the word “former.”

Reid’s five children – Lana’s daughter and four sons Key, Josh, Leif and Rory – remembered a loving father who wrote meaningful letters to his children for birthdays, graduations or simply because he was bored listening to a speech in the Senate.

“In an outwardly obsessed city, Harry had a real lack of vanity. He didn’t like cheaters. He didn’t like big shows. He was proud not to own a tuxedo,” Obama said.

In his mourning speech, Obama described his arrival at the Capitol as a junior senator from Illinois in 2005, where he felt frightened by the obvious differences between him and Reid – their age, skin color, political inclinations, even musical tastes (“I didn’t know what kind he liked music, but it occurred to me that he didn’t listen to Jay-Z, “said Obama).

But in Reid’s background from a poor family in the small town of Searchlight, Nev. Obama said the two men were able to find common ground.

“Harry understood that we don’t have to face each other to live together and be polite to each other, and that we can learn to bridge the background, race and region differences,” Obama said. that Reid was one of the first people to encourage him to run for president.

Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, pictured in 2011.

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Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images


Then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, pictured in 2011.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

From Searchlight, Nev., To Washington, DC

Reid was born in 1939 in Searchlight – “a city with more than a dozen brothels and no church,” as Schumer described.

Reid’s orphanage lacked running water, and Searchlight lacked high school; Reid would stay with relatives 40 miles away in Henderson so he could go to school. At the age of 19, he ran away with his wife Landra.

Reid graduated from Utah State University and then attended law school at George Washington University in Washington, DC, where he had his first job on Capitol Hill as a U.S. Capitol Police officer.

He returned to Nevada, where he soon began his political career. Reid served in the Nevada Assembly as a lieutenant and chairman of the State Gaming Commission before addressing Congress. After four years as a deputy, he was elected to the US Senate in 1986.

During his three decades in the Senate, Reid has built a reputation as a savvy tactician with an unrivaled ability to vote. From 2007 to 2015, he served as the leader of the majority in the Senate. At the time, he was pushing for groundbreaking democratic legislation, including the Dodda-Frank Financial Review Act, the 2009 Massive Stimulus Package, and Obama’s most important presidency, the Affordable Care Act.

“The agreements Harry made to implement the law didn’t always look nice – they got votes. Whenever I protested against the change he wanted to make, whether due to any political or optics concerns, Harry told me, with some irritation in his voice: “Mr. President, you know a lot more about health policy than I do, well, but I know the Senate,” Obama said.

Reid refused to run for re-election in 2016, and his last term ended in January 2017. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer the following year.

Reid died at home on December 28 at the age of 82. His body will lie in state in the rotunda of the Capitol on January 12.

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