Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., briefly spoke to the College Democrats Wednesday evening before rushing out to take part in congressional vote, possibly the last of his Senate career.
“I have to go vote now,” Burris said. “This may be my last time on the Senate floor.”
Before the event, Burris waited in the Marvin Center hallway and personally greeted each person who walked in the door.
He seemed chagrined at the possibility of having to leave early to go back to Capitol Hill because he did not know what time the vote would occur.
“I haven’t missed a vote yet,” he proclaimed proudly.
On Sept. 20, Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer announced that the Court will not hear Burris’ appeal to participate in a special election on Nov. 15 to remove him from his final two months of office. As a result, when the Senate reconvenes in November, Burris will no longer be a sitting member.
The court’s announcement is the latest in a string of controversies that have followed Burris’ brief Senate career. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich stood trial on corruption charges after appointing Burris to fill the seat previously held by President Barack Obama.
Regardless, Burris said he is still proud of his time as a senator.
“I wasn’t elected, but guess what?” Burris said. “I’m still a senator!”
During his speech, he discussed growing up during a time when being an African-American meant facing great adversity in the political arena.
“When I was 15, I knew my goals,” Burris said. “I wanted to become a lawyer and get elected to statewide office in the state of Illinois. Some people say ‘Burris is either crazy, or divinely directed.’ I’ll take the latter.”
Burris also emphasized the importance of youth involvement in politics. In order to “take our country back,” Burris encouraged all students in attendance to “stay involved, stay engaged. Try to get your friends engaged. That’s what makes America what it is.”
As the event moved to questions and answers, one of Burris’ aides warned the senator that the vote on three pending fiscal bills was due to start shortly.
Burris said the vote was a matter of extreme importance.
“Oct. 1 is a new fiscal year,” he said. “If the government does not have any money, it will stop running.”
Even as Burris left for his final vote, he left an impression on students at the event.
“As a freshman.to see such influential people literally rushing out to vote to potentially make history right before our eyes is inspiring because it’s different from getting an e-mail or seeing it on the news,” freshman Ditra Backup said.
College Democrats President Josh Altman found additional meaning for his organization in Burris’ speech.
“Burris never settled for what conventional wisdom told him to settle for,” Altman said, “and neither will the College Democrats.”