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Mike Mansfield and Senate Leadership

Former Majority Leader Mike Mansfield Speaks in the Old Senate Chamber

In 1963 Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield wrote “The Senate and Its Leadership,” a speech he intended to deliver on the Senate floor. In it he addressed public and private criticism that his leadership style was inadequate for the times. A leader’s responsibility, Mansfield explained, “lies not in the seeking of shortcuts, not in the cracking of nonexistent whips, not in wheeling and dealing,” but in fulfilling the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to address the “legislative needs of the nation.” Congress should be measured not by its legislative output, Mansfield argued, but by “the effectiveness with which that responsibility is discharged.” On the day he planned to give the speech, November 22, 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated, and Mansfield quietly inserted it into the Congressional Record. Thirty-five years later he finally delivered this classic speech as the inaugural talk for Majority Leader Trent Lott’s Leader’s Lecture Series. Read the transcript of his talk here.