Senator Stennis …
“looked at me and said, “Joe, do you remember the first time you came to see me?” And I hadn’t. He said, I asked you. And I told my friend from Mississippi this story before as he walks through the floor about Senator Stennis. I asked — he asked me, “Do you remember?” I said, “No, I don’t.” And he said, “I asked you why you ran for the Senate?” And I said, “Oh I remember.” As a smart young fellow, wouldn’t I? And he looked at me and said — he said “Y’all going to take my office, aren’t you Joe?” And he caressed that table (inaudible) family members — the table he loved so much — he caressed it like it was an animate object. He said, “You’re going to take my office.” and I said, “Yes sir, I am.”
He said, “Well I wanted to tell you then, in 1970, what I’m going to tell you now. He said, “This table here was the flagship of the Confederacy.”
BIDEN: If you read “Masters of the Senate” about Johnson’s term, you’ll see in the middle of the book a picture of the table in my office, with the famous old southern segregationist senators sitting around that table, chaired by Senator Russell. And he said, “This was the flagship of the Confederacy. Every Tuesday we gathered here under Senator Russell’s direction to plan the demise of the civil rights movement, from 1954 to 1968.” He said, “It’s time this table passes from the man who was against civil rights into the hands of a man who was for civil rights.”
And I found it genuinely, without exaggeration, moving. We talked a few more minutes, and I got up and I got to the door, and he turned to me in that wheelchair, Thad, and he said, “One more thing, Joe.” He said, “The civil rights movement did more — more to free the white man than the black man.”
I looked at him, I said, “Mr. Chairman, how’s that?”
And probably Thad will only remember as well as I do, he went like this. He said, “It freed my soul. It freed my soul.”
Students then moved to the Russell Office Building for a lobbyists panel that included representatives from Macon Edwards Company, EADS, Deloitte & Touche and Delta Strategy Group. The message from the lobbyists was that effectiveness in the political and government relations world is built on relationships and trust.
Lunch was served in an elegant 5th floor dining room at the Reserve Officers Association looking out at the Capitol. The view was stunning in spite of the cold drizzle outside. Students were treated to remarks by Seantors Cochran and Wicker and Congressman Gregg Harper. Also at the luncheon were a dozen staff members representing Mississippi’s Congressional delegation.
After lunch the group was led on a special tour of the Capitol by members of the Capitol Historical Society.
The final presenter of the day was Jessica Grounds, Executive Director of Running Start, a nonprofit organization founded to inspire young women and girls to political leadership. Running Start furthers the work begun by the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee (WUFPAC). WUFPAC is a national women’s group dedicated to electing young women to political office.