Last Wednesday, Senator Chris Dodd announced his intention to retire from the Senate at the end of his current term. My polling firm has worked with Chris Dodd for thirty years and he was our first major political client, so he holds a particularly special place in our company's history. But Chris Dodd was much more than a long-term client, and this event is not simply a client retiring. Chris is a special person and an extraordinary public official.
Chris entered Congress in 1974 as part of the post-Watergate class, and moved quickly into the Senate in 1980, which was a very tough year for Democrats. During his career, Chris has exerted a great deal of influence in both international affairs as well as the major domestic issues of the day, something only a handful of Senators can claim over the past thirty years.
Chris was the leader in the effort to take on the Reagan administration's policies in Central America in the 1980s, an incredibly important battle to wage in a part of the world he understood well, having served there in the Peace Corps after college. He continued to play a big role in international issues throughout his career, and I learned from him how his Peace Corps experience shaped much of what he did.
Immediately after entering the Senate, Chris quickly became the leading advocate on children's issues at a time when they were not particularly salient or deemed as important by many in Congress. He founded the Senate Children's Caucus (there had never been any sort of caucus on these issues before), and was the leader in a wide range of groundbreaking legislation for children and families including Head Start, child care, and perhaps his signature achievement, authoring the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993. His record on issues pertaining to children and families is unmatched in the entire Congress during his tenure.
Chris was a strong and effective advocate for the state of Connecticut -- I doubt Connecticut has ever had a more influential Senator -- but he has also always been a national Senator who put the nation's well-being first, and who viewed his responsibility as doing what is best for the entire country. Over the years, he invested thousands of hours to advance and pass major pieces of legislation, or stop bad ones, for the benefit of all Americans. Sometimes this helped his political situation in Connecticut, and sometimes not, but he always did what he felt was right.
His efforts in the past two years have been extraordinary. As chair of the Senate Banking Committee he is leading the efforts on major financial reforms. At the same time he has essentially been in charge of the health care bill since Senator Kennedy became ill two years ago -- often leading behind the scenes without receiving credit. Few senators could have have taken on the range of responsibilities that Chris has over the past few years, but he did out of commitment to the country.
If you've ever heard Chris speak, you understood his motivation immediately and what drove him -- helping ordinary Americans reach their dreams of prosperity and a happy life. His favorite line to use in speeches was: "the best social program is a job" -- and he abided by that simple but powerful philosophy in all of his work.
Sure, Chris was a longtime incumbent who spent many years in the corridors of power in Washington. But he always understood people and their challenges, and was completely committed to creating opportunities for Americans to get ahead.
Simply put, Chris Dodd has been one of the most capable, thoughtful, serious and committed members who have served in the Senate over the past thirty years. In my conversations with other senators, his name always produces the same response: respect and admiration. And perhaps just as important as anything, Chris is a good man -- a sincerely nice person who embodies all of the values progressives admire. In the nearly twenty years I have worked with him he has always treated everyone around him with the utmost respect, regardless of the situation, good or bad. He is certainly not a perfect person, but those that know him have never doubted his true character.
It has been an honor to work for Chris Dodd through the years, and everyone at our firm is proud to have worked with him. We will not see many more like him.
Al Quinlan is President of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a DC-based polling firm. Senator Christopher Dodd was one of the firm's first clients.