CHEYENNE - A day after leaving office, former Vice President Dick Cheney basked in a warm welcome from the Wyoming Legislature on Wednesday and steered clear of Washington politics.
Cheney and his wife, Lynne, came home to a standing ovation at the state Capitol, where he began his political career as a legislative intern more than 40 years ago.
Cheney used a wheelchair and carried a cane in his lap as he addressed both houses of the Legislature. He recently strained his back moving boxes into his new home outside Washington in McLean, Va.
Cheney spoke for about two minutes each in the Senate and House, musing on his start in politics as an intern the Wyoming Senate. He made no direct mention of his years as vice president or the presidential transition in Washington, D.C.
"I sit here on the floor of the Senate and think back to what I was doing 44 years ago," Cheney said. "It was my very first political job, my first exposure to politics and public policy."
After serving as an intern, Cheney went to Washington, where he became chief of staff to President Gerald Ford and then represented Wyoming in Congress for six terms. He also served as defense secretary under the first President George Bush and chief executive officer of Haliburton, the oil services company, before becoming vice president to President George W. Bush for the past eight years.
He told the Senate that coming to Cheyenne brought back memories. Wyoming Treasurer Joe Meyer, a friend of Cheney's from their high school days, wheeled him into both chambers.
"It's been an enormous privilege for us to have the opportunity to serve over the years," Cheney said. "It's been our life experience, if you will, and none of this would have happened if it hadn't been for the trust and confidence of the people of Wyoming that made all this possible."
Cheney said his ability to participate in historic events over the past 40 years in Washington was due to the support of friends around the state.
Lynne Cheney, a native of Wyoming, said the state has been an anchor for her family through years of tumultuous public service. "I have to say that being from Wyoming has been a constant base through times that were often chaotic and full of turmoil," she said. "There's something so solid and strong about the values that run through Wyoming."
Lynne Cheney said that Wyoming residents know that "experts don't know it all," and that people in the state know that the most important thing is having strong values.
Reaction to the Cheneys' appearance was enthusiastic in both legislative houses. Republicans outnumber Democrats 23-7 in the Senate and 41-19 in the House.
Both houses passed resolutions welcoming the Cheneys home. It invited them to "lay their heavy burdens down, and fish and write to their hearts' content."
The Cheneys have a home in Jackson and also plan to live part of the time in Virginia. The former vice president has said he plans to possibly write a book, while Lynne Cheney has written several books and has a deal with Viking to write a book called "Founding Genius: A Biography of James Madison," set to be published 2011.
Sen. Grant Larson, R-Jackson, who represents the Cheneys' home district in the Senate, said he's pleased to see the Cheneys arrive back home.
He said Jackson has become much more liberal in recent years with a steady influx of newcomers from both coasts. However, he said most longtime area residents strongly support Cheney.
"Whether they agree or disagree with his policies and some of the things he's done, I think he should be held in very high esteem because he was a loyal and dedicated servant to Wyoming and the United States," Larson said. "And I think he and Lynne gave tirelessly to what they envision as bettering our country."
Rep. Lori Millin, D-Cheyenne, said she was honored by the Cheneys' visit. But she noted that while the Legislature stopped its work to welcome the Cheneys, it took no break on Tuesday for President Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony.
Millin said House Democrats had requested a break for Obama's swearing in, but said House leaders determined there was no precedent for taking a break for the inauguration.
"But I was glad to be here to meet (Cheney)," Millin said. "Him and his wife have done a lot for this state, and I was very honored to meet them, because all they've done for this state."
Sen. Ken Decaria, D-Evanston, said it wouldn't be appropriate to criticize Cheney at this time.
"It's probably time with the change of the administration and kind of the new climate that we leave the past behind and move forward," Decaria said. "Mr. and Mrs. Cheney are from Wyoming and they have a home here, and I think everybody should be thankful for the time and the public service that they've provided to the country and just kind of welcome them home."