Over 40 years ago, the people of Albuquerque elected me to serve on the city commission, which later selected me as chairman. Six years later—and for the past 35 years - my friends and neighbors throughout New Mexico have given me the honor of allowing me to serve them as their United States Senator.
I cannot begin to tell you how much satisfaction I have gotten from working with New Mexicans of every background and station in life. The partnership New Mexicans and I have shared has been wonderful. I thank the thousands of people who have worked on hundreds of projects and ideas with me. We have accomplished so much and we have made our state a better place to live and grow.
I come here today, to the site of the school I attended as a boy, to tell you that I will not run for re-election to the United States Senate.
The reason is simple. I am suffering from a disease known as Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration, or FTLD. This disease is progressive and incurable. My physician at John Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, who is a foremost expert on this disease, has provided a short explanation of FTLD, which my staff will make available to the media.
For at least two years, I have felt very little impact from this disease. This past April, I went for a regular checkup. At that time, the disease had not progressed and I was feeling as well as I have in years. However, when I returned for another checkup in September, additional tests were conducted that showed the disease had progressed. While the progression was slight, I had to consider whether I could in good conscience run for re-election and serve you as well as you deserve for another six-year term. At this time, I am doing very well and have no doubts that I will be able to serve New Mexico for the remainder of my term.
After long consideration, and discussions with other doctors and my family, I concluded that it would be wrong to ask New Mexicans to support me if I could not pledge that I could ably serve another full term.
The progress of this disease is apparently erratic and unpredictable. It may well be that seven years from now, it will be stable. On the other hand, it may also be that the disease will have incapacitated me. I am not willing to take a chance that the people who have so honored me with their trust for 40 years might not be served as well as they deserve in the United States Senate.
When I first decided to run for city commission all those years ago, some of my friends tried to talk me out of it. They said that politics was a harsh affair and that people would attack me and my reputation. "Don’t do it," they urged me.
Obviously, I didn’t listen to my friends and I am glad I did not. I cannot imagine having spent my life doing anything more important or rewarding than working with New Mexicans to help New Mexico.
I have not found politics to be as harsh as my friends predicted - for the most part it has been quite the opposite. Along the way, I have met so many remarkable people. I cannot tell you the number of people who have helped me in my work on important issues and projects, but I would venture it is in the thousands. But, of course, no one has been as inspirational and supportive as my wife Nancy. So public service and politics have been rewarding, not harsh, and I appreciate those who have helped make it so - including my Senate colleagues.
My success as a Senator has come only through working together with my Senate colleagues - from all parties. We have been able to do some remarkable things together. I am proud of the bipartisan accomplishments that I’ve worked on that are leading to a renaissance of U.S. nuclear energy; that have made real progress in reducing nuclear weapons proliferation, and that have implemented fundamental changes in energy policy. I am proud of the Character Counts education effort.
I will continue to work in this same manner on energy legislation with Senator Bingaman and on enacting the Mental Health Parity Act with Senator Ted Kennedy. Senator Kennedy and I have labored more than 10 years to get this passed and we are committed to getting a bill to the President soon.
The bottom line is that my partners and I in the Senate have been successful on many issues by committing ourselves to people of our individual states and all of America. In all my efforts, I have kept New Mexicans first and foremost in my mind.
When I was elected, I pledged to work as hard as I could for all New Mexicans. I have done my best to keep that pledge. I will continue to do so until the day I leave office in January 2009. Once again, I thank you for the honor and trust you have placed in me.
Let me end by asking all of you and my colleagues to support greater research into diseases of the brain. No cure for my disease exists, yet. But, if we work hard enough, we may be able to find a way to cure people with diseases of the brain in the future. That would be truly a wonderful thing.