Washington, D.C.- Democrat Robert Menendez was sworn in on Thursday as the 64th U.S. senator from New Jersey, the state’s first Hispanic congressman becoming its first Hispanic senator.
Menendez, a member of the Hellenic Caucus in Congress, is one of the stronger supporters of the Hellenic Issues, has taken many times strong positions in favor of a fair and just solution of the Cyprus problem, the withdrawal of all Turkish troops from Cyprus and the protection of the religious freedoms and the human rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople.
He has traveled to Cyprus and walked across the Green Line, sending a strong message for the unification of the island.
“I will never stop fighting for Cyprus, until the boot of the last Turkish soldier withdraws from Cyprus”, Menendez has often said speaking in various occasions on Cyprus.
Many of his Greek American supporters traveled to the nation’s capital, on Thursday, to attend the ceremonies. Amongst them, his close friend, vice president of the Cyprus Federation of America, Tasos Zambas, the President of the Federation Peter Papanicolaou, Former President Savas Tsivicos, PSEKA President Philip Christopher etc.
The new senator will face election in November for a full six-year term. Republican state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. plans to challenge him.
Menendez said he plans to focus on his new job rather than the campaign ahead. “Good policy and good performance make for good politics,” he said.
Greek American communities across the country have already announce their full support for Menendez’ re-election campaign.
The 52-year-old Cuban-American stood on the Senate floor before a gathering of mostly Democratic lawmakers as he swore allegiance to the Constitution and vowed to faithfully discharge the duties of his new office.
“Congratulations, senator,” said Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the senior Republican in the Senate, who administered the oath. That prompted a standing ovation from a crowd of several hundred of Menendez’s friends and supporters in the Senate gallery.
A moment later, Menendez stood beaming in the well of the Senate not far from the desk Daniel Webster once used, as Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid (R-Nev.) affixed a hiny new Senate pin to the lapel of his dark suit.
Then, with handshakes, hugs and pats on the back, Menendez’s new colleagues welcomed him to what has been called the world’s most exclusive club. He is the 1,885th person to join.
“I am obviously excited and ecstatic. It is a privilege I am going to work my heart out to honor and to earn it in the long term from the people of New Jersey,” Menendez said later at a reception where he also addressed the crowd in Spanish.
Menendez was named by Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine to serve the final year of his six-year Senate term. Corzine, sworn in Tuesday as governor, officially relinquished his Senate post on Thrusday.
At a second reception last night sponsored by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Corzine said of Menendez: “As important as it is that he is an Hispanic-American is that he’s an American that will do the right thing for the people all of the time.”