As the paramedic held my hand, I worried that might be the last human I would ever touch. I was 52 years old and in the middle of a severe stroke. The ambulance ride that day flashed by as I focused on that paramedic and my hand, all the while my stroke intensified.
More than a week later, I regained consciousness only to face more surgeries and a long, grueling regimen of rehabilitation.
But I was determined to climb the 42 steps of the Capitol, walk through the door and return to the job Illinois citizens elected me to do. When I climbed to the top of those stairs, I was greeted by my colleagues and friends — both Republicans and Democrats, people that I didn’t always see eye to eye with, but with whom I know we shared a foundation of deep patriotism.
That moment forged for me a renewed sense of clarity and purpose — that I will fight to do right for Illinois all the time. I know we all share this common goal; unfortunately the volume of rancor and partisanship in Washington makes it hard sometimes for us to achieve our full promise.
But, now more than ever, we must all focus on that shared common goal as we deal with the super-heated partisan rhetoric following the tragic loss of a great American, Antonin Scalia.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a giant in the history of American constitutional law. His legacy and contribution to our nation will long endure. And it is that legacy now that our actions should honor.
As a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy Reserve and as a United States senator, I swore an oath to protect and uphold the constitution. That oath is to our constitution, not to a party or any one individual, but to the ideals that bind our nation.
In that role, I recognize the right of the president, be it Republican or Democrat, to place before the Senate a nominee for the Supreme Court and I fully expect and look forward to President Barack Obama advancing a nominee for the Senate to consider.
I also recognize my duty as a senator to either vote in support or opposition to that nominee following a fair and thorough hearing along with a complete and transparent release of all requested information. The Senate’s role in providing advice and consent is as important and significant as the president’s role in proposing a nominee.
A partisan or extreme nominee would not be prudent nor would it provide a steady, scholarly hand to guide the constitutional ship of state.
My sincerest hope is that President Obama nominates someone who captures the sentiment he spoke about before the Illinois General Assembly this month — a nominee who can bridge differences, a nominee who finds common ground and a nominee who does not speak or act in the extreme.
Such a selection by the president would demonstrate a break from the rancor and partisanship of Washington and a real commitment to a new beginning even as his own term nears its end.
Mark Kirk, a Republican, is the junior U.S. senator from Illinois, first elected in 2010.
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