Reid, the wrestling former Democratic Senate leader who led epic legislative battles for three decades in Congress, died in December at age 82 after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
His service honored his love for the family, with the late senator’s five children speaking; his love for Nevada, the state he helped put on the political map during his decades in office; and the central role it played in introducing some of the most important laws of the past two decades.
Obama called Reid the consummate pragmatist, someone willing to work “with people he disagreed with or especially liked” to get things done. At a time when “compromise is often presented as a weakness, Harry had a different opinion,” Obama said, recalling how the former Democratic leader “did not believe in high-sounding theories or rigid ideologies” and “knew people where they were. , not where they were. ” he wanted them to be.“
“You wanted Harry in the trench with you. His willingness to fight by my side, to stay with me even when things were not going our way … his willingness to be there and fight would last my entire presidency. It is a debt to him that I was never able to pay in full, “Obama said.
Obama’s message served as a timely message for Democrats in Congress, with progressive and moderate lawmakers fighting over Biden’s agenda and dividing the party.
Throughout the service, those closest to Reid paid tribute to his unlikely life. A boy born into extreme poverty in a small part of a town called Searchlight, he became the most powerful politician in Nevada history, helping turn the western state into a Democratic stronghold that last backed a Republican president in 2004. defined Reid’s career, making him a champion of the impoverished working-class families he grew up with in the Nevada desert.
Biden remembered Reid as someone whose “toughness was clearly snowy” and whose “story was unmistakably American.”
“It was all Searchlight, without the limelight,” Biden said, adding later, “Harry Reid will be considered one of the most important Senate majority leaders in history … For Harry, it wasn’t about power; It was about for the sake of power. It was about the power of being able to use power to do the right thing for people. That’s why you wanted Harry in your corner. “
The memorial service unfolded on a perfect day in the Las Vegas Valley, with Reid’s flag-draped casket carried by an honor guard under a cloudless blue sky in the morning. His 19 grandchildren served as honorary pall bearers.
“People know his story. He lived the American Dream, you could say, from Searchlight to Washington,” said his son Leif Reid. “From my childhood days, even then it seemed fictional. But the reality was that he was a man who simply chose to do his best every day, do his duty, take care of his stewardship.”
A giant electronic billboard towering over the Las Vegas Strip honored Reid with the message: “Born in Nevada. Leader of Nevada.”
Reid, a practicing Mormon who did not drink or gamble, was a pioneer in the city that was transformed during his tenure. A fierce supporter, sure, but Reid also had close relationships with other city elders, including the late casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, one of the largest Republican contributors to American politics.
Representatives from Adelson’s office were in attendance for Saturday’s service, along with local Republican officials and Republican senators, including Richard Shelby from Alabama, Roy Blunt from Missouri and Susan Collins from Maine.
Hand-drawn posters thanking Reid hung on a fence outside the funeral, which was also interrupted by more than a dozen protesters carrying Trump banners.
In addition to Biden and Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke at the memorial service, recalling both comical and poignant stories about their former colleague.
Pelosi remembered how she told Reid that she wanted to host a big dinner when he left. Reid responded, “Save money, feed the poor,” Pelosi recalled.
Pelosi also recalled how she never heard Reid speak ill of any of her Senate colleagues. Speaking after Pelosi, Obama jokingly corrected the president.
“I heard Nancy Pelosi say that she never heard Harry say anything bad about any of his colleagues. I don’t know about that, Nancy, but he would work with them! I love Nancy, but me,” Obama said. to laugh.
Before the memorial, Reid’s wife, Landra Gould, said that she and her family were “honored to have such a distinguished group honoring Harry’s life and accomplishments … These are not just some of the most important leaders. of our time – they are also some of Harry’s best friends. “
Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of the Las Vegas-founded band The Killers and a frequent participant in Reid’s big campaign events over the years, performed the soulful “Be Still” and the Nevada state song, “Home Means Nevada.” Legendary songwriter and musician Carole King also performed.
Reid was remembered Saturday as a product of Nevada and as a man whose political career grew up with the state he called home. When Nevada went from one congressional district to two after the 1980 census, Reid ran for a newly created congressional district around Las Vegas in 1982 and won the general election. He was reelected in 1984. He then successfully ran for the open seat in the Nevada Senate in 1986.
He rose through the leadership ranks there, serving as the House Democratic whip from 1999 to 2005. From 2005 until his retirement in 2017, he served as his party’s leader in the Senate, during the time of both Democrats in the minority. as in most.
Obama praising Reid was a full-circle moment for the duo. Reid, then as the Democratic leader in the Senate, urged the then senator. Obama will run for president long before he is seen as a presidential contender. After Obama won, Reid became his biggest ally in the Senate, helping guide key pieces of legislation through the legislative body.
“Without Harry we would not have passed the Recovery Act … Without Harry we would not have saved people’s jobs … Without Harry we would not have passed Wall Street reform … Without Harry, there would be no Health Care Act to Low Price, “Obama said, adding that Reid” got things done. “