Obama: "The extraordinary good that he did lives on"

In a short statement, the president calls Kennedy "one of the most accomplished Americans to serve our democracy"

Published August 26, 2009 2:25PM (EDT)

President Obama broke from his vacation in Martha's Vineyard on Wednesday morning to make a short statement about the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. The full text:

I wanted to say a few words this morning about the passing of an extraordinary leader, Senator Edward Kennedy.

Over the past several years, I've had the honor to call Teddy a colleague, a counselor and a friend. And even though we have known this day was coming for some time now, we awaited it with no small amount of dread.

Since Teddy's diagnosis last year we've seen the courage with which he battled his illness. And while these months have no doubt been difficult for him, they've also let him hear from people in every corner of our nation and from around the world just how much he meant to all of us.

His fight has given us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you and goodbye.

The outpouring of love, gratitude and fond memories to which we've all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives. His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives -- in seniors who know new dignity; in families that know new opportunity; in children who know education's promise; and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just, including myself.

The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party, and at times Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks. But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle.

His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth and good cheer. He compassionately battled others and did so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear and yet still maintained warm friendships across party lines. And that's one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.

His extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end. The extraordinary good that he did lives on.

For his family, he was a guardian. For America, he was a defender of a dream.

I spoke earlier this morning to Senator Kennedy's beloved wife, Vicki, who was to the end such a wonderful source of encouragement and strength. Our thoughts and prayers are with her; his children, Kara, Edward and Patrick; his stepchildren, Curran and Caroline; the entire Kennedy family; decades worth of his staff; the people of Massachusetts; and all Americans, who, like us, loved Ted Kennedy.

Update: Here's video of Obama's remarks. He begins speaking at about 1:50.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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