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Public Statements

Remembering Senator Edward M. Kennedy

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. STABENOW. Mr. President, I appreciate the opportunity to be here with colleagues, and I so appreciate the words of the Senator from North Dakota and those of the Senator from New York and all of our other colleagues who have been here, talking about our friend and colleague, the great Senator from Massachusetts.

I think for me, being in my second term and still a relative newcomer here, one of the greatest honors of my life was the opportunity to work and become friends with Senator Ted Kennedy.

I often have been asked what was the most surprising or exciting thing about being in the Senate. I always referred to Ted Kennedy, not only knowing him and the larger-than-life way he has been described, which was also true, but for me the images are of sitting in a small room going over amendments on the Patients' Bill of Rights when I was in my first term and having the great Ted Kennedy--not his staff but Ted Kennedy--sitting in a room with advocates talking about how we needed to mobilize and get people involved and what we needed to do to get votes or how to write something--doing the work behind the scenes.

Ted Kennedy, because of who he was--his family, his certainly great leadership and knowledge, and his length of time here--could have simply stood on the floor and made eloquent speeches, which he always did--the booming voice in the back that would get louder and louder as he became more involved in what he was talking about--he could have just done that, and that would have been an incredible contribution to the Senate. But that is not what he did. He was as involved behind the scenes in getting things done, more so than in the public eye. He worked hard and showed all of us an example of someone who was dedicated to the details, to the advocacy as well as to what was happening on the floor of the Senate. It was a very important lesson for all of us.

As chair of the Steering and Outreach Committee for our Senate majority, one of my responsibilities is to bring people with various interests together, usually on a weekly basis, to meet with Members on issues from education to health care, clean energy, civil rights, veterans. People always wanted to have Ted Kennedy in the room. Again, as a very senior Member with tremendous responsibilities, chairing the HELP Committee and all of the other responsibilities he had, he could have easily said to me: You know, I am just not going to be able to do that. We will have more junior Members come and join in these meetings. But he came, over and over again.

One of the things we joked about all the time was that he would see me coming and say: I know, there is a meeting tomorrow. I will be there.

He was someone who gave his all at every moment. He also understood that people needed and wanted to see him, to hear him, and the important leadership role he had here. It was important to people. And he treated everyone the same.

He was committed to a vision of making America the best it could be, where every child would have the chance to grow up and be healthy, succeed in life, have a job, at the end of life a pension and retirement, and be able to live with dignity. His service was great, but his legacy is even greater.

I believe his challenge to each of us is even greater. It is true that nearly every major bill that passed in the last 47 years bears some mark from Senator Ted Kennedy--the Civil Rights Act; the Voting Rights Act; Meals for the Elderly; the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition Program; the Violence Against Women Act; title IX, which is giving so many women and girls the opportunity to participate and move through education's highest levels, including the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the wonderful athletic abilities we have seen; the Children's Health Insurance Act; AmeriCorps; the National Health Service; the American Health Parity Act; legislation to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco; the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Act; the Americans with Disabilities Act--it goes on and on. These are just a few of the hundreds of bills Senator Kennedy sponsored or cosponsored during his time in the Senate, and each and every one of those bills made America a little bit better.

His commitment to achieve the best for America, for every child, every family, every worker was unmatched. We have lost the lion of the Senate, and he will be sorely missed. Personally, I have lost a friend, someone for whom I had the highest personal respect and someone I cared deeply about as a person.

To Vicki, to the family, we give our love and affection and thanks for sharing him with us. In his maiden speech in the Senate, Senator Kennedy spoke of his brother's legacy. Today, the same words can be spoken about him. If his life and death had a meaning, it was that we should not hate but love one another. We should use our powers not to create the conditions of oppression that lead to violence but conditions of freedom that lead to peace.

Ted, we will miss you.


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