Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave a tearful goodbye speech to a full House of Representatives Thursday morning as he stepped down from his position as speaker. Taking the floor shortly after 9:30 a.m. EDT and jokingly grabbing a box of tissues, Boehner thanked his colleagues and reminisced on his time in office. He is expected to officially resign when a new speaker -- Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan -- is elected.
"I leave with no regrets, no burdens," 65-year-old Boehner said in his speech, which was frequently interrupted by applause on both sides of the political aisle. "I'm still just me: the same guy who came here 25 years ago as a small businessman."
Boehner took office in January 2011 after about four years as House Minority Leader, taking over for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and announced his resignation Sept. 25. The news came one day after he had a private meeting with Pope Francis during the Catholic leader's visit to the United States and amid a legislative battle and party friction considered typical of Boehner's time as speaker. He wanted to avoid a government shutdown, but House Republicans did not want to pass a budget that funded the healthcare nonprofit Planned Parenthood, according to previous International Business Times reporting.
But Boehner's farewell address focused largely on his happier moments. He said he realized that come Sunday, he won't have a job for the first time since he was 8 years old. His tenure as a public servant "wasn't so much a calling as it was a mission," he said, adding that he was proud of the House's decisions to reform entitlement programs and protect people from tax increases.
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Boehner's family looked on proudly as he praised Ryan, who he said he remembered putting up campaign signs for him years ago as a college student. He said he knew Ryan would serve with grace and energy. Boehner himself revealed in a Wednesday exit interview that he planned to move back to Ohio, buy a car and play golf, Time reported.
Ending with a crying joke and a string of thank-yous to his staff and peers, Boehner told the House to never forget they were the luckiest people on Earth for living in a country where anything was possible. "If you falter -- and you will -- you can just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go do it again, because hope always springs eternal," he finished. "If you just do the right things for the right reasons, good things will happen, and this too can happen to you."