Biden praises Minner as most inspiring public servant

January 9, 2009
It’s safe to say that Vice President-elect Joe Biden, after three decades of working on the national and international stage, has been around impressive people. In Dover this week, Biden singled out the person who has impressed him most.

“Gov. Minner, you are the most remarkable – the most inspiring – public servant I’ve ever worked with.”

Biden joined more than 600 people from around Delaware in the Rollins Center at Dover Downs in saluting Ruth Ann Minner as she prepares to retire from public office after 34 years of service to the first state.

Always an impressive orator, Biden pulled out all the stops in honoring Minner, whom he has known politically and as a friend since he was first elected a U.S. senator in 1972. “I remember campaigning, and winning in Milford, as an Irish Catholic and a civil rights activist. I won there not because of me, but because of the efforts of Ruth Ann Minner, her family and friends.”

Biden cited Minner’s humble beginnings: having to drop out of high school to help work on the family farm, raising three sons after being widowed at the age of 32 as well as losing a second husband, operating her family’s towing business and rising nonetheless to become Delaware’s first female governor and the nation’s longest-serving female governor. “Gov. Minner has always been about opportunity. And if people wonder why she understands the aspirations of so many poor kids, all they have to do is look at her own life. She understands there is an American dream – it’s not just the stuff of Hollywood.”

Biden said when he was campaigning for the presidency, a citizen from another country asked why he always referred to the American dream – why it wasn’t the human dream? – that you can rise as far as your talent and drive will take you. “’Why in America?’” I told him. ‘Because in America the dream is real.’ Ruth Ann Minner is living proof. She understands that anyone given a chance has a real prospect for success.”

Speaking to Minner, Biden quoted former Mississippi Sen. John Stennis, who was a mentor for him in his early days in the U.S. Senate. “He would always say: ‘Plough the field to the last row, to the end of the furrow.’ You’ve done that all your life. You’re a lady with a backbone like a ramrod.”

Biden said he was never so proud of Minner as when she led the fight to pass the nation’s most protective Indoor Clean Air Act which banned smoking in public places. “You said at one point to the critics: ‘The life of a worker in a restaurant or other indoor place where there’s smoking is not as important as the life of another?’ When we were watching your poll numbers falling precipitously, you did not budge. You were willing to risk your political life to get it done. In this business of politics, the most important question is what are you willing to lose over.

“If you can’t answer that question then it’s all about ego and power and not about principle.”

Biden cited Minner for “an uncommon brand of common sense” and praised her for her fight to lower cancer incidence rates in Delaware, the implementation of full-day kindergarten, and the Student Excellence Equals Degree (SEED) program which enables students who keep their grades up and stay out of trouble to go to college free in Delaware. “In all my years of being in politics I’ve never suggested how Delaware legislators should run the state,” said Biden, “but I’ll break that tradition tonight by suggesting that the SEED program be renamed the Minner Scholarship Program.”

Minner thanked all who attended and who helped her serve over the years. Most of all she singled out the employees of the state. “They work hard for Delaware and they’ve been great to work with,” she said.


Other comments made at the Jan. 5 Salute to Gov. Ruth Ann Minner:

Roger Jones, director of Delaware Nature Conservancy: “Since her days in the Legislature as a lead sponsor of the Delaware Land Protection Act – the top-funded program in the U.S. - 130,000 acres of land have been permanently protected in Delaware. That includes 505 farms with a total of 88,000 acres. And during her tenure as governor, 62,000 acres of farmland and open space have been preserved in Delaware. Her new title should be Chief Land Preservation Officer Emeritus. You are one of Delaware’s finest natural resources.”

Henry duPont Ridgely, Delaware supreme court justice: “During your terms as governor, Delaware has sustained its reputation for government at the speed of business. Fifty percent of the publicly traded companies in the U.S. are incorporated in Delaware and 63 percent of the Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in Delaware.”

Mike Castle, Delaware’s congressman: “You are the first governor to have and hold the Triple A bond rating for all eight years of your administration. That saves our taxpayers millions of dollars.”

Jack Markell, governor-elect: Speaking of his service with Minner on the Delaware Board of Pardons, he said Minner knew how to be compassionate and tough at the same time. “Many said she was the one who got through to them with her call to stay on the right path.”

Tom Carper, U.S. Senator: “You have the heart of a servant and that’s that it takes for all of us in this work of public service. One of the unsung accomplishments of your administration is establishment of the Department of Information and Technology which has helped our government operate more efficiently than ever.”

William Bowser, Delaware Cancer Consortium: “With more than $55 million allocated for fighting cancer, Delaware’s cancer incidence rate has declined four times faster than the national rate and our cancer fatalities have declined more than two times the national rate. Because of your leadership, Delaware has the only program in the nation that pays for cancer treatment for uninsured patients.”

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