Along with millions of Americans, my family and I were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jack Kemp.  Jack Kemp was a hero who became my friend and I will miss him dearly.

Jack Kemp was a great man whose character, optimism and compassion will shape his party and his nation for generations.

As a legislator and a thought leader, Jack Kemp shaped a rising generation of leaders in both parties with his ideas about entrepreneurial capitalism, enterprise zones and equality. Those ideas were the driving force behind the economic policies of President Ronald Reagan and the welfare reform of the Republican Congress.

His optimistic belief in the American dream - in the power of free markets and entrepreneurial capitalism - was a lodestar to millions of Americans. His devotion to ensuring equality of opportunity for every American regardless of race, creed or color helped ground the Republican Party in the true ideals of Lincoln. His integrity and personal Christian faith showed his colleagues how to build a career in public service without compromising the people and the values that matter most.

On occasion, there are giants among us - men like Benjamin Franklin and Booker T. Washington - who never held the highest elective office in the land but shaped their times by strong moral persuasion and political activism. Jack Kemp was such a man.

Our hearts are broken but our gratitude is boundless. Our prayers go out to his beloved Joanne and his entire family. The debt this nation owes Jack Kemp can only be repaid by imitation of his example.

I will always be proud to have known this good and great man and I will always say that I am, first and foremost, a "Jack Kemp Republican."