Tributes to Edward M. Kennedy

We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.

The Kennedy family

Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Sen. Ted Kennedy.
For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I’ve profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Sen. of our time.

And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.

Our hearts and prayers go out to them today — to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.

President Barack Obama

It was the thrill of my lifetime to work with Ted Kennedy. He was a friend, the model of public service and an American icon.

As we mourn his loss, we rededicate ourselves to the causes for which he so dutifully dedicated his life. Sen. Kennedy’s legacy stands with the greatest, the most devoted, the most patriotic men and women to ever serve in these halls.

Because of Ted Kennedy, more young children could afford to become healthy. More young adults could afford to become students. More of our oldest citizens and our poorest citizens could get the care they need to live longer, fuller lives. More minorities, women and immigrants could realize the rights our founding documents promised them. And more Americans could be proud of their country.

Ted Kennedy’s America was one in which all could pursue justice, enjoy equality and know freedom. Ted Kennedy’s life was driven by his love of a family that loved him, and his belief in a country that believed in him. Ted Kennedy’s dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought and his brothers sought to realize.
The liberal lion’s mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Today, with the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the American people have lost a great patriot, and the Kennedy family has lost a beloved patriarch. Over a lifetime of leadership, Sen. Kennedy’s statesmanship and political prowess produced a wealth of accomplishment that has improved opportunity for every American.

Sen. Kennedy had a grand vision for America, and an unparalleled ability to effect change. Rooted in his deep patriotism, his abiding faith, and his deep concern for the least among us, no one has done more than Sen. Kennedy to educate our children, care for our seniors, and ensure equality for all Americans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D)

It is with great sadness that Elaine and I note the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy, one of the giants of American political life, a longtime Senate colleague, and a friend.

No one could have known the man without admiring the passion and vigor he poured into a truly momentous life.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

Ted Kennedy was my friend. While there were few political issues on which he and I agreed, our relationship was never disagreeable, and was always marked by good humor, hard work, and a desire to find common ground.

Ted Kennedy was also a friend to inner-city children and teachers. For the better part of the last decade, Ted and I worked together to support struggling Catholic grade schools in inner-city Washington. By helping these schools keep their doors open and helping them retain their committed teachers and faculty, this joint effort made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of inner-city children, who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity for a quality education. It wouldn’t have been possible without Sen. Kennedy and his genuine desire to give something back to help inner-city students in the city in which he’d served for many years. I’m proud to have worked with Sen. Kennedy on this project, and I will dearly miss his friendship and his partnership in this cause.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio)

Teddy spent a lifetime working for a fair and more just America. And for 36 years, I had the privilege of going to work every day and literally, not figuratively sitting next to him, and being witness to history.

In 1972 I was a 29 year old kid with three weeks left to go in a campaign, him showing up at the Delaware Armory in the middle of what we called Little Italy — who had never voted nationally by a Democrat — I won by 3,100 votes and got 85 percent of the vote in that district, or something to that effect. I literally would not be standing here were it not for Teddy Kennedy — not figuratively, this is not hyperbole — literally.

He was there — he stood with me when my wife and daughter were killed in an accident. He was on the phone with me literally every day in the hospital, my two children were attempting, and, God willing, thankfully survived very serious injuries. I’d turn around and there would be some specialist from Massachusetts, a doc I never even asked for, literally sitting in the room with me.

He’s left a great void in our public life and a hole in the hearts of millions of Americans and hundreds of us who were affected by his personal touch throughout our lives.

Vice President Joe Biden, in remarks at an event Wednesday at the Department of Energy

Laura and I are saddened by the death of Senator Ted Kennedy.

Ted Kennedy spent more than half his life in the United States Senate. He was a man of passion who advocated fiercely for his convictions. I was pleased to work with Senator Kennedy on legislation to raise standards in
public schools, reform immigration and ensure dignity and fair treatment for Americans suffering from mental illness.

In a life filled with trials, Ted Kennedy never gave in to self-pity or despair. He maintained his optimistic spirit, his sense of humor, and his faith in his fellow citizens. He loved his family and his country — and he served them until the end. He will be deeply missed.

Former President George W. Bush

Sen. Ted Kennedy was one of the most influential leaders of our time, and one of the greatest senators in American history. His big heart, sharp mind, and boundless energy were gifts he gave to make our democracy a more perfect union.

As president, I was thankful for his fierce advocacy for universal health care and his leadership in providing health coverage to millions of children. His tireless efforts have brought us to the threshold of real health care reform. I was also grateful for his efforts, often in partnership with Republicans as well as Democrats, to advance civil rights, promote religious freedom, make college more affordable, and give young Americans the opportunity to serve at home in Americorp. I am glad the bill President Obama signed to expand Americorp and other youth service opportunities is named the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. Through it, his commitment to public service will live on in millions of young people across our nation.

Hillary and I will always be grateful for the many gestures of kindness and generosity he extended to us, for the concern he showed for all the children and grandchildren of the Kennedy clan, and for his devotion to all those in need whose lives were better because he stood up for them.

Former President Bill Clinton

Barbara and I were deeply saddened to learn Ted Kennedy lost his valiant battle with cancer. While we didn’t see eye-to-eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service — so much so, in fact, that I invited him to my library in 2003 to receive the Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service. Ted Kennedy was a seminal figure in the United States Senate — a leader who answered the call to duty for some 47 years, and whose death closes a remarkable chapter in that body’s history.

Former President George H.W. Bush

Rosalynn and I extend our condolences to the Kennedy family. Sen. Kennedy was a passionate voice for the citizens of Massachusetts and an unwavering advocate for the millions of less fortunate in our country. The courage and dignity he exhibited in his fight with cancer was surpassed only by his lifelong commitment and service to his country.

Former President Jimmy Carter

I am very saddened to learn of the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy last night.

Ted Kennedy will be remembered with great affection and enduring respect here in Ireland. Ted Kennedy was a great friend of Ireland.

In good days and bad, Ted Kennedy worked valiantly for the cause of peace on this island. He played a particularly important role in the formative days of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. He maintained a strong and genuine interest in its progress. He used his political influence wisely. He was the voice of moderation and common sense. He was unequivocal in his rejection of violence at all times and from all quarters. He believed that only politics would provide a sustainable and enduring way forward. His belief that the United States could play a strong role in solving our problems has been vindicated by the success of the Peace Process.

Today, America has lost a great and respected statesman and Ireland has lost a long-standing and true friend.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Brian Cowen, prime minister of Ireland

Sen. Edward Kennedy will be mourned not just in America but in every continent. He is admired around the world as the Senator of Senators. He led the world in championing children’s education and health care, and believed that every single child should have the chance to realise their potential to the full. Even facing illness and death he never stopped fighting for the causes which were his life’s work.

I am proud to have counted him as a friend and proud that the United Kingdom recognised his service earlier this year with the award of an honorary knighthood.  

Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom

I’m not sure America has ever had a greater senator, but I know for certain that no one has had a greater friend than I and so many others did in Ted Kennedy.

I will always remember Teddy as the ultimate example for all of us who seek to serve, a hero for those Americans in the shadow of life who so desperately needed one.

He worked tirelessly to lift Americans out of poverty, advance the cause of civil rights, and provide opportunity to all. He fought to the very end for the cause of his life — ensuring that all Americans have the health care they need.

The commitment to build a stronger and fairer America, a more perfect union, was deeply ingrained in the fiber of who he was, and what he believed in, and why he served.

That’s why he stands among the most respected senators in history. But it was his sympathetic ear, his razor wit, and his booming, raucous laugh that made him among the most beloved.

Whatever tragedy befell Teddy’s family, he would always be there for them. Whatever tragedy befell the family of one of his friends, he would always be there for us.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a close friend who in Kennedy’s absence took over the Senate Health,  Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee

I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. My heart and soul weeps at the lost of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy.

Sen. Kennedy and I both witnessed too many wars in our lives, and believed too strongly in the Constitution of the United States to allow us to go blindly into war. That is why we stood side by side in the Senate against the war in Iraq.

Neither years of age nor years of political combat, nor his illness, diminished the idealism and energy of this talented, imaginative, and intelligent man. And that is the kind of Sen. Ted Kennedy was. Throughout his career, Sen. Kennedy believed in a simple premise: that our society’s greatness lies in its ability and willingness to provide for its less fortunate members. Whether striving to increase the minimum wage, ensuring that all children have medical insurance, or securing better access to higher education, Sen. Kennedy always showed that he cares deeply for those whose needs exceed their political clout. Unbowed by personal setbacks or by the terrible sorrows that have fallen upon his family, his spirit continued to soar, and he continued to work as hard as ever to make his dreams a reality.

In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American.

God bless his wife Vicki, his family, and the institution that he served so ably, which will never be the same without his voice of eloquence and reason. And God bless you Ted. I love you and will miss you terribly.

In my autobiography I wrote that during a visit to West Virginia in 1968 to help dedicate the “Robert F. Kennedy Youth Center” in Morgantown, “Sen. Kennedy’s voice quivered with emotion as he talked of his late brothers and their love for West Virginia. ‘These hills, these people, and this state have had a very special meaning for my family. Our lives have been tightly intertwined with yours.’

I am sure the people of the great state of West Virginia join me in expressing our heartfelt condolences to the Kennedy family at this moment of deep sorrow.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.)

Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy’s name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber. When I first came to the United States Senate I was filled with conservative fire in my belly and an itch to take on any and everyone who stood in my way, including Ted Kennedy. As I began working within the confines of my office I soon found out that while we almost always disagreed on most issues, once in a while we could actually get together and find the common ground, which is essential in passing legislation.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of Kennedy’s closest Republican friends in the Senate

He had a gregarious personality. He had a keen sense of how to position himself with people. He had an old Irish wit and was a great storyteller.

But all of those things probably pale in — in comparison to the fact that once he was on an issue, he was relentless. And he — once he gave his word, then there was never any — any variance from that, to the point where he would cast votes on amendments that really were against his own position in order to keep a carefully crafted compromise intact. And when others from his own party and our party didn’t do that, I’ve seen him chastise them rather severely.

History judges all of us. And after a period of time, I think history will make a judgment about Ted Kennedy. All of us had our failings and weaknesses. But the fact is that Ted Kennedy was an institution within the institution of the Senate. And all of my colleagues, no matter how they felt about his causes or his positions, I think, would agree with that.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who often referred to Kennedy as a “good friend”, talked about what made the liberal senator likable to his GOP adversaries, about their time working together on immigration legislation and about his spirit in the end, in an interview with CNN’s “Larry King Live” on Thursday

We have known for some time that this day was coming, but nothing makes it easier. We have lost a great light in our lives and our politics, and it will never be the same again. Ted Kennedy was such an extraordinary force, yes for the issues he cared about, but more importantly for the humanity and caring in our politics that is at the center of faith and true public service.

No words can ever do justice to this irrepressible, larger than life presence who was simply the best — the best senator, the best advocate you could ever hope for, the best colleague, and the best person to stand by your side in the toughest of times. He faced the last challenge of his life with the same grace, courage, and determination with which he fought for the causes and principles he held so dear. He taught us how to fight, how to laugh, how to treat each other, and how to turn idealism into action, and in these last fourteen months he taught us much more about how to live life, sailing into the wind one last time. For almost 25 years, I was privileged to serve as his colleague and share his friendship for which I will always be grateful.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)

Ted Kennedy was a mentor, a guiding light, and a close friend — we all loved the man. In the Senate, Ted Kennedy was our sun – the center of our universe. To be pulled by his strong gravitational field, to bask in his warmth was a privilege, an honor, and, for many of us, even a life changing experience. His death leaves our world dark but, as he said in his own words, ‘the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.’ Ted, we will not let your flag fall.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Ted Kennedy was at once the most partisan and the most constructive United States senator. He could preach the party line as well as bridge differences better than any Democrat. I will especially miss his cheery disposition and his devotion to United States history of which he was such a consequential part.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

With the passing of Sen. Kennedy the United States Senate has lost one of its most effective and respected voices.
Sen. Kennedy’s colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — greatly enjoyed working with him and respected his views.

A handshake from Sen. Kennedy was all that was ever needed. His word was his bond.
When the history of the United States Senate is written, his name will be toward the top of the list of senators who made a tremendous impact on the institution.

Sen. Kennedy was never afraid to work across the aisle to get things done. We can all learn from the example he set and work together to build a stronger nation.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Today, America mourns the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. He was one of the most dynamic and influential legislators in our Nation’s history, and his legacy will live on in the work of the colleagues he inspired, and in the lives of the millions of Americans for whom his passion for social justice made a difference. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends; even though this day was anticipated, I am sure that little can soften the blow.

Throughout his final illness, Sen. Kennedy was privileged to have the best doctors and the best treatment. But he never forgot, in this as in all cases, those who were not similarly privileged: those waiting hours in emergency rooms this morning for a doctor’s care; those who went to sleep last night unsure that they were covered, uncertain that their families could cope with the financial burden of an illness. For their sake, health care reform was the cause of Ted Kennedy’s life. For their sake, and his, it must be the cause of ours.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)

I have known Ted Kennedy for more than 47 years. In that time, it has been my greatest pleasure to work with him in the Congress to try to tackle many human problems, but I am especially gratified by his contributions to the cause of civil rights and voting rights.

At some of the most tragic and difficult moments in this nation’s history, Ted Kennedy gathered his strength and led us toward a more hopeful future. As a nation and as a people, he encouraged us to build upon the inspirational leadership of his two brothers and use it to leave a legacy of social transformation that has left its mark on history.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)

Sen. Kennedy devoted his entire life to public policy. At any point he could have accepted a life of leisure. Instead he carried on his family’s commitment to public service.

The Senate will be a smaller and sadder place without his enthusiasm, his energy, and his persistent courage.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.)

The loss of Sen. Ted Kennedy is a sad event for America, and especially for Massachusetts. The last son of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy was granted a much longer life than his brothers, and he filled those years with endeavor and achievement that would have made them proud.

In 1994, I joined the long list of those who ran against Ted and came up short. But he was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary. I came to admire Ted enormously for his charm and sense of humor — qualities all the more impressive in a man who had known so much loss and sorrow. I will always remember his great personal kindness, and the fighting spirit he brought to every cause he served and every challenge he faced. I was proud to know Ted Kennedy as a friend, and today my family and I mourn the passing of this big-hearted, unforgettable man.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who ran against Kennedy in 1994

I would like to extend our sympathies to the Kennedy family as we hear word about the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy. He believed in our country and fought passionately for his convictions.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R)

Maria and I are immensely saddened by the passing of Uncle Teddy. He was known to the world as the Lion of the Senate, a champion of social justice, and a political icon.

Most importantly, he was the rock of our family: a loving husband, father, brother and uncle. He was a man of great faith and character.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and wife Maria Shriver, a niece of Kennedy