(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Eric Cantor took to the House floor for the last time as majority leader Thursday, calling his service on Capitol Hill “a privilege of a lifetime.”
“Walking into this building and walking onto this floor is something that excited me every day since I was first elected to Congress,” he said. “As it should. Not one of us should ever take for granted the awesome honor and responsibility we have to serve our fellow Americans.”
Cantor has represented Virginia’s 7th District for 14 years, and his defeat in June by tea party-backed professor Dave Brat stunned Washington.
As he steps down as majority leader, there will be a few changes, notably his Twitter handle, @GOPLeader, and first-class office at the Capitol.
On Tuesday, the House Republicans uploaded a two-minute Cantor tribute video to honor his time as majority leader. But Thursday’s address marked a very public goodbye.
During the 10-minute speech, Cantor continually expressed pride and gratitude that he was able to take part in leading the country, thanking his colleagues, staff, family and Capitol Police.
Cantor recalled a story about his grandparents who had fled religious persecution in Europe, saying his own rise to majority leader served as an example of the American Dream but that the country has seen that “dream erode” in recent years.
He also expressed concern for the country’s education system and employment opportunities, as well as the state of American strength abroad.
“Instability and terror seem to be coming from every corner of the globe. The Middle East is in chaos, Iran is marching towards a nuclear weapon, Russia has reverted to a Cold War footing and invaded Ukraine,” Cantor said. “America does lead in so many areas, including innovation, scientific discovery, and medicine. But we must also make leadership abroad a priority. I shudder to think what the world looks like in five years for us and our allies if we don’t steel our resolve and stand tall with those who stand with us.”
It wasn’t all dismal news. Cantor said one of his proudest moments in office was when President Obama signed the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, which aimed to find cures and treatments for pediatric diseases.
Cantor ended by thanking three Republicans specifically. He thanked House Speaker John Boehner for his “firm leadership” while “not being afraid to show us all your kind heart and your soft spot from time to time,” to which the chamber erupted in bipartisan laughter.
He also named Budget Chairman Paul Ryan for his commitment to “conservative solutions” and incoming Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Both men were referred to as “dear friends.”
Before waving and blowing kisses to a bipartisan standing ovation, Cantor closed his speech in the most appropriate way he knew how, saying, “And with that, I yield back.”
Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Eric Bradner, Jeff Zeleny and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN
Scott Stuntz, Teton Valley News