The wonder of legislative service: Thoughts and advice from a retiring lawmaker
Guest Author: Nebraska Sen. Sara Howard | BILLD News | December 2020
As I conclude eight years of legislative service, my memories of that first day walking into the legislative chamber as a Nebraska state senator remain as clear as ever.
It was a bit intimidating. I was overwhelmed walking on the floor of the Legislature, realizing that I was one of 49 people in the state with the power to make laws that impact every Nebraskan.
Over time, and with experience, I became more comfortable with the processes of the Legislature, and my confidence grew.
However, I never lost my sense of awe to be a part of the institution.
I had a friend share with me a letter that Willa Cather wrote to her life partner, Edith Lewis. In it, Cather talked about watching the stars at night: “Edith,” she wrote, “we [humans] are the only wonderful things — because we can wonder.”
It has always been a wonder to me to get to work in the Legislature, with all of my colleagues, and to have shared incredible successes and agonizing losses. What an absolute wonder to have had this opportunity.
As my tenure came to an end this year, and I had an opportunity to deliver a parting speech to my colleagues, I talked about what I learned, and what had served me well during my eight years of service. Here are excerpts of that speech.
You will have a hard time in the legislature, and you will get close to losing your faith in yourself And Humanity. Just know that as the poet Ranier Maria Rilke said, “No feeling is final.” You are far
stronger than you know, and you get to decide how you get back up from all of your challenges.
I was told early on, on the floor of our legislature, there are two kinds of people: workhorses and showhorses. Be a workhorse, become an expert in a specific area of law, and never forget that there are people who are
depending on us to do this job well.
In this period of great change within our legislative institutions, it is important to be thoughtful about what the legislature means to us — and to our state. I believe the legislature isn’t one fixed thing. It can evolve,
and individual members can all look at the work differently. But it’s important to decide what it means for us to uphold our highest values in the legislature and represent [our state] with dignity, integrity and civility.