There will be no Blacks in the U.S. Senate when he leaves office on December 30, a fact outgoing Sen. Roland Burris (D-IL) called "unacceptable" in his farewell speech.
Burris was the controversial appointment by the disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich who was impeached and convicted. Burris will be replaced on Nov. 29 by Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, who won election earlier this month to a six-year term starting next year and also for the several weeks remaining of Barack Obama’s original Senate term. In his farewell speech, Burris said he was proud of what he accomplished in just under two years in Washington, citing "more than 60 bills he sponsored and 300 others he co-sponsored during his time in office."
Burris, the great-grandson of a slave, also called for more diversity in the Senate and government.
Throughout 220 years of Senate history and 111 Congresses — only six black Americans have been able to serve. This is troubling in its own right. But when the 112th Congress is sworn in this coming January, there will not be a single black American who takes the oath of office in this chamber. This is simply unacceptable. We can — and we must — do better.
And although I have never allowed my race to define me, in a sense, it has meant that my constituency as a U.S. Senator has stretched far beyond the boundaries of Illinois. Letters, emails and phone calls have poured into my office from black Americans all across the country. And at times, as I have tried to bring their voices into this chamber, I have acutely felt the absence of any other black person to represent them.
Burris, who has also been a major supporter of repealing "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell", called on the Senate to quickly vote on repeal during the lame duck session. "Burris said he very much wanted to support DADT as one of his last votes," reports the Sun Times. "Burris quipped that he was so in favor of the measure to let soldiers serve no matter their sexual orientation, he just might come back. 'Don’t be surprised if I don't come back, because I’m from Chicago, and I’ll vote twice,' he joked."
Burris was the first Black elected to statewide office in Illinois. As Illinois' Comptroller and Attorney General he was one of the first state officeholders to hire prominent openly gay staff. Burris has also frankly discussed racism in the LGBT community and his support for black gays and lesbians.
Of the six Blacks who served in the Senate, two were in Reconstruction. Of the four remaining, three were from Illinois and all are Chicago Democrats: Obama , Burris and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, who is now running for Chicago mayor.
Speaking of that: There's also been a movement to draft Roland Burris for mayor, reports the Tribune. On Monday "a group of supporters filed petitions to place him on the ballot just before the deadline. ... Burris' supporters said they delivered nearly 20,000 signatures. Chicagoan Toni Randle, a longtime Burris friend, said the outgoing senator knew of the efforts and wouldn't promise to run — but he didn't stop it either."
Farewell to Roland Burris and bravo for bringing dignity and grace under fire. Watch the clip WHEN YOU JUMP ...