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Goodbye, Byron


Thirty years representing North Dakota were acknowledged in a farewell speech by U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan on this date in 2010. He delivered the speech on the Senate floor four weeks before his third term ended.

“It’s hard to get here and it’s also hard to leave here,” he said, adding he was the 1,802nd person to serve in the Senate.

Dorgan, a Regent, North Dakota native, was elected to the post in 1992 following six terms as state’s lone congressman. He served 16 years in Senate Leadership, first as assistant Democratic floor leader and then as chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee. Dorgan also chaired committees and subcommittees on the issues of energy, appropriation, aviation and others.

A year before his third term ended, Dorgan announced his retirement to pursue other interests. He is the author of three books and a visiting professor at Georgetown University. He is also a senior policy advisor at a D.C. law firm and serves on several boards of directors.

His time in office saw a whirlwind of happenings for North Dakota. Weather brought record floods and droughts. The state’s population sank and swelled as young people left the state and then the oil boom brought people in. Dorgan also made several website lists for “worst” and “weirdest” hair in Congress in the 2000s.

Dorgan served with fellow Senator Kent Conrad and Congressman Earl Pomeroy for 18 years. The Democrats comprised “Team North Dakota” until Dorgan’s retirement coincided with Pomeroy’s 2010 defeat.

In his speech, Dorgan acknowledged the inevitability of change, saying “…all of us do leave, and the Senate always continues, and when finally you do leave, you understand this is the most unique legislative body in the world.” Today he lives in Bismarck and Washington, D.C.

Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura


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