Smith says goodbye

<I>Eagle file photo</I><BR>Gordon Smith

PENDLETON - A solemn - and at moments almost tearful - Gordon Smith delivered his concession speech last week and thanked Oregonians for his two terms in the U.S Senate.

"There was simply a tide too strong for us to stem and we understand that," Smith said with his arm around his wife, Sharon Smith, who fought back tears.

Smith lost a run for a third term to Democrat Jeff Merkley, the Oregon speaker of the House, in the Nov. 4 general election.

"Winston Churchill once wisely observed democracy is not always a polite employer, but its judgments must be respected and observed," Smith told a small crowd of news media this afternoon at his home in Pendleton. "We respect the judgment of the people of Oregon."

The Republican from Pendleton then thanked the people of Oregon for his two terms in the Senate.

"It has been a remarkable 12 years," he said, noting the calamities that have affected the U.S. while he's been in office, from the terrorist attacks of 9/11 to natural disasters and two wars.

The senator said his constituents and his conscience have guided him in his service. He noted his achievements in passing legislation dealing with mental health and youth suicide prevention, an issue he led because of the suicide of his son, Garrett Lee Smith.

Smith became emotional and had to stifle tears when said his greatest achievement in office was the creation of the suicide prevention program he named for his son.

Smith also said he was proud to have represented all of Oregon.

"When I say all of Oregon I mean Pendleton and Portland, I mean the longshoreman and the wheat farmer." Smith said. "People in rural Oregon need to be understood and included, because they are often excluded or not understood."

Smith also stressed Oregon needs to be a place of livability and where someone can make a living fishing, ranching or logging, which he described as Oregon's bedrock industries.

Smith also said he had no plans for the immediate future.

After the news conference, Smith took a moment to reflect on what President-elect Barack Obama will face.

Smith said no one person will be able to calm all the economic turmoil America is in, but we all will need to support the new president.

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