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Remembering Senator Ted Stevens

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I rise today to pay tribute to the life of a friend and former colleague, former Senator Ted Stevens, who passed away this August in a plane crash. I know that I speak for all of my colleagues when I say how difficult it was to receive news of Ted's passing this summer, and I would like to take this moment to convey my heartfelt condolences to everyone who knew, worked with, and enjoyed Ted during his life.

I believe that Ted will long be remembered as a man of the Senate. First appointed to his seat more than four decades ago, Ted Stevens became the longest-serving Republican in the history of this body in 2007. Throughout his tenure in Washington, Ted served in a number of key leadership positions, including as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and as President pro tempore.

Over the years, I had the pleasure of being able to collaborate with Ted on a number of critically important issues, including, perhaps most recently, legislation that I introduced during the 110th Congress to provide paid leave to workers under the auspices of the Family and Medical Leave Act. And while Ted and I did not substantively agree on much, he didn't shy away from reaching out across the partisan divide to get things done. In fact, it was his willingness to work with Democrats--to seek out common ground and compromise on areas of contention when necessary--that made him such a prolific, effective, and well-respected member of this body.

The incredibly strong bonds Ted forged with his colleagues over the years were in full display at his memorial service in Alaska over the summer. I made the trip up north to attend his funeral, and I found it incredibly moving to hear the words of Ted's longtime friend, my colleague Senator Inouye, who delivered Ted's eulogy, and our Vice President Joe Biden, who also made some remarks during the service. Clearly, this was a person who left not only an indelible mark on the Senate as a body, but on many of the individual Senators who had the opportunity to serve with him over the years.

That was certainly the case for me. Years ago, Ted Stevens and I participated in the U.S.-Canadian interparliamentary meeting together. It was one of the most enjoyable 4 days I spent in my 30 years in the Senate for one simple reason--in addition to all his substantive talents, Ted Stevens was great fun--he loved his family, Alaska, his country and his friends.

And on that last point, while it is true that Ted was a creature of the Senate, I believe Ted Stevens will be remembered far into the future first and foremost as a man of Alaska. Ted truly loved his home State, and over the years, he cultivated a strong reputation as one of its greatest champions.

Indeed, Ted's own life was inextricably linked to many of the major events and advancements that occurred in Alaska's history over the past half century. Having served with distinction in World War II as a pilot for the U.S. Army Air Corps in Asia, Ted graduated from Harvard Law School in 1950 and moved to Fairbanks to practice law. Several years later, Ted was brought on to work for the Interior Department under President Eisenhower. In that capacity, Ted advocated very persistently for Alaskan statehood, finally helping make that goal a reality in 1959. Later on, as a Senator, Ted once again worked hard on behalf of his State, its people and interests, fighting to direct federal resources to that vast, sparsely populated, and incredibly beautiful corner of our country.

Ted viewed himself as Alaska's chief advocate here in Washington, and throughout his four decades in the Senate, he never deviated from that mission. Known by many of the Alaskans he helped over the years simply as ``Uncle Ted,'' Ted Stevens was singularly devoted to serving his constituents and ensuring their needs and concerns were given a voice on Capitol Hill. And it is that level of dedication to the people who sent him here to represent their interests that will ultimately be Ted Stevens' greatest legacy.

Once again, I would like to express my sincere condolences to Ted's wife Catherine; his children Susan, Elizabeth, Walter, Theodore, Ben, and Lily; and his 11 grandchildren. And I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Ted for his years of tireless and selfless service on behalf of his State and country.


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