While Marcelle and I and the country knew this day was coming, our home in Vermont is filled with grief today and our hearts go out to Vicki and to all of Senator Kennedy's family. It is the sad passing of an era.
For 35 years in the Senate Ted Kennedy was a close friend as he led on issues from education to health care. We often talked of the bond of the New England Irish and spoke again of this when we travelled to Pope John Paul II's funeral together. His sense of history and of our country and his firm and constant belief in America's promise and America's future was inspiring. His willingness to spend time with the most junior senators as with all others of both parties made him a senator's senator.
The powerful have never lacked champions. Ted Kennedy was a champion for ordinary Americans and for those who struggle. He believed everyone in this great land deserves the opportunity to pursue the American Dream.
It is easy in politics to appeal to the self-interest in each of us. Ted Kennedy appealed to the best in us, to the American verities that are written not on water but in stone. He appealed to our sense of justice, to our sense of responsibility to each other, and to our uniquely American sense of hope and possibility. In the Senate he labored to help reach bipartisan progress on health care, education, civil rights and voting rights, immigration reform and so much more.
Ted Kennedy was the distillation of America's hope and America's promise. He belongs to each of us, and now he also belongs to the ages.