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A Tribute to Congressman Patrick Kennedy

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. LANGEVIN. Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor my colleague and good friend, Congressman Patrick Kennedy from Rhode Island.

I have known and worked with Patrick for more than half of my life now. Patrick and I were first elected to the Rhode Island General Assembly together in 1988. And I must say, I'm having a bit of a hard time imagining coming back to work in January without him serving in the Congress.

I still remember hearing about his first run for the State House, the young Kennedy taking on the establishment in Providence. People thought that he didn't have a chance, but they didn't know Patrick very well. He knocked on every door, shook every hand, and fought for every last vote. In the end, that race wasn't even close.

In the State House, he immediately showed his independence, refusing to toe the party line, much to the surprise of the House leadership at the time. I remember well one of his early efforts to enact responsible gun control measures, an issue that was and is very important to me as well.

Patrick soon arrived in the Halls of Congress, and as the nephew of President John Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy and the son of Senator Edward Kennedy, an intimidating legacy followed closely behind him. But Patrick didn't strive to fill anyone else's shoes. He worked hard every day to chart his own course and to fight for his constituents in Rhode Island. But, and perhaps without intention, he not only upheld his family's own enduring legacy, he carried it forward by knocking down new barriers as well. His compassion and commitment to promoting social justice for all Americans was clearly evident, particularly when he spoke out on behalf of those suffering from mental illness and addiction.

It is because of Patrick's efforts that I and many of my colleagues have gained a new awareness of the tens of millions of Americans who struggle every day with the hidden disability of mental illness or addiction. These people had no voice, no champion until Patrick stepped up and took on what so many others were afraid to say out loud. Mental health parity legislation passed this Congress because Patrick Kennedy fought for every vote, just as he did with that first State House run. He met with every chairman, he sat down with every Member, and he raised this issue at every event that he went to, even if it meant bringing attention to what he once considered his own greatest weakness, but he did so without hesitation once he learned that speaking openly and honestly about his personal battles could move the debate forward and help countless others seek treatment and overcome their own challenges.

Most people know Patrick as a passionate and outspoken advocate for millions of people, but to really know Patrick is to watch him sit down one-on-one with a constituent, a child or a senior citizen. And where politicians are often running from place to place to the next event trying to shake the most hands, see the most people, Patrick would rather sit down and talk with one person about their experiences, about their family, their opinions rather than jump from event to event. He really truly cared about what his votes and his actions and the things he did meant to each Rhode Islander, and I know how much each conversation, each meeting, and each interaction meant to him and how it helped him to grow as a legislator and as a person.

Patrick, I know your dad must have been so proud to serve with you for these past 16 years. Together, you forged a better path for social justice and equality for the people of Rhode Island and the people of our Nation. As you prepare to leave, know that you have made a profound difference during your time in this great institution, one that will endure and continue to resonate throughout our Nation.

I look forward to continuing our work together, both inside and outside the Halls of Congress. And to quote your dad, Senator Edward Kennedy: ``The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.''

With that, I yield to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Moran) the balance of my time.

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