Edward M. Kennedy did as much to promote the well-being of ordinary Americans as any Senator who ever lived. Every major civil rights, health care, and labor bill had his influence. Being the scion of a rich and powerful family, it would have been easy for him to simply fritter his life away, but he chose a life in politics instead. He was one of those all-too-rare wealthy people who genuinely cared about the poor and the disadvantaged. And bringing health care to all Americans was his life's passion. Yes, I am mindful of his flaws and his sins--the young woman who is dead because of him, the drinking, the convoluted private life. But he was more than the sum of his shortcomings. To him public service was a true calling, and the welfare of the forgotten in our country was never far from his mind.
I think what struck me the most, among all the statements issued on his passing, was this one:
I was terribly saddened to hear of the death of Ted Kennedy tonight.
Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family. But Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another. In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him.
My heart goes out to Vicki and the entire Kennedy family.
Yes, he will be missed. He had friends across the political spectrum, something not many can say. It seems that just about everyone who knew him liked him and had fond memories of him. And to his family, he was the heart and soul.
An era is closing now, the era of the Kennedy brothers in political life. Either John, Robert, or Edward has been in office from January 1947 until this evening. The impact of these brothers on America has been huge. Ted Kennedy will be ranked with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster as one of the greatest members of the United States Senate. My sympathies go out to his family and his multitude of friends.
Goodbye, Ted. And thank you for everything.