Remembering Teddy

Politicians from around the world honor Ted Kennedy


Vincent Rossmeier
August 26, 2009 7:25PM (UTC)

Reactions to the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy are pouring in from around the world. President Obama has already spoken about his friend and supporter, and other leading political figures from within the U.S. and beyond have been weighing in with their own statements about the senator's long and memorable career. Below, a roundup of some of those reactions.

Family statement: "Edward M. Kennedy -- the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply -- died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him."

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Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.: "We have known for some time that this day was coming, but nothing makes it easier. We have lost a great light in our lives and our politics, and it will never be the same again. Ted Kennedy was such an extraordinary force, yes, for the issues he cared about, but more importantly for the humanity and caring in our politics that is at the center of faith and true public service ... No words can ever do justice to this irrepressible, larger than life presence who was simply the best -- the best senator, the best advocate you could ever hope for, the best colleague, and the best person to stand by your side in the toughest of times. He faced the last challenge of his life with the same grace, courage, and determination with which he fought for the causes and principles he held so dear. He taught us how to fight, how to laugh, how to treat each other, and how to turn idealism into action, and in these last fourteen months he taught us much more about how to live life, sailing into the wind one last time. For almost 25 years, I was privileged to serve as his colleague and share his friendship for which I will always be grateful ... Teresa and I send all our love to Vicki, Teddy Jr., Patrick, Kara and their family, and to the entire Kennedy family for whom Teddy was always a rock at times like this. Massachusetts and our entire nation feels their loss and grieves with them."

Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.: "It was the thrill of my lifetime to work with Ted Kennedy. He was a friend, the model of public service and an American icon … As we mourn his loss, we rededicate ourselves to the causes for which he so dutifully dedicated his life. Senator Kennedy's legacy stands with the greatest, the most devoted, the most patriotic men and women to ever serve in these halls … Because of Ted Kennedy, more young children could afford to become healthy. More young adults could afford to become students. More of our oldest citizens and our poorest citizens could get the care they need to live longer, fuller lives. More minorities, women and immigrants could realize the rights our founding documents promised them. And more Americans could be proud of their country."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: "My friend, Ted Kennedy, was famous before he was accomplished. But by the end of his life he had become irreplaceable in the institution he loved and in the affections of its members. He grew up in the long shadow of his brothers, but found a way to be useful to his country in ways that will outlast their accomplishments … Many of his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, will note today that Ted was sincerely intent on finding enough common ground among us to make progress on the issues of our day, and toward that end he would work as hard and as modestly as any staffer. Many will recall his convivial nature, his humor, his thoughtfulness. We will praise as his greatest strength the integrity of his word. When he made a promise to you, he kept it, no matter what … What is harder for us to express is the emptiness we will feel in the Senate in his absence. Even when we are all crowded in the chamber for a vote, engaged in dozens of separate conversations, it will seem a quiet and less interesting place, in the knowledge that his booming voice, fueled by his passion for his convictions, will never encourage or assail or impress us again … I will miss him very much."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to Kennedy's niece, Maria Shriver: "Maria and I are immensely saddened by the passing of Uncle Teddy. He was known to the world as the Lion of the Senate, a champion of social justice, and a political icon ... Most importantly, he was the rock of our family: a loving husband, father, brother and uncle. He was a man of great faith and character ... Teddy inspired our country through his dedication to health care reform, his commitment to social justice, and his devotion to a life of public service ... I have personally benefited and grown from his experience and advice, and I know countless others have as well ... Teddy taught us all that public service isn't a hobby or even an occupation, but a way of life and his legacy will live on."

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: "The loss of Senator Ted Kennedy is a sad event for America, and especially for Massachusetts. The last son of Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph Kennedy was granted a much longer life than his brothers, and he filled those years with endeavor and achievement that would have made them proud … In 1994, I joined the long list of those who ran against Ted and came up short. But he was the kind of man you could like even if he was your adversary. I came to admire Ted enormously for his charm and sense of humor -- qualities all the more impressive in a man who had known so much loss and sorrow. I will always remember his great personal kindness, and the fighting spirit he brought to every cause he served and every challenge he faced. I was proud to know Ted Kennedy as a friend, and today my family and I mourn the passing of this big-hearted, unforgettable man."

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Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.: "Today there is an empty chair in our Senate and an empty feeling in our hearts … We all waited expectantly during Ted's struggle with cancer for the Senate doors to swing wide and that great Irish spirit to once again return … His voice roared as he battled for the poor and the victims of injustice yet he had a smile that could light a room, a laugh that would draw a crowd and a heart always ready to share your sorrow. America was blessed to have the gift of Ted Kennedy and I was blessed to count him as a friend."

Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.: "I'm not sure America has ever had a greater senator, but I know for certain that no one has had a greater friend than I and so many others did in Ted Kennedy … I will always remember Teddy as the ultimate example for all of us who seek to serve, a hero for those Americans in the shadow of life who so desperately needed one … He worked tirelessly to lift Americans out of poverty, advance the cause of civil rights, and provide opportunity to all. He fought to the very end for the cause of his life -- ensuring that all Americans have the health care they need."

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.: "Ted Kennedy was more than a Senate icon who fought tirelessly for the causes he believed in so passionately. He was more than a voice for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was a loving son, brother, husband, father, uncle and grandfather and friend. Working with him for the last 30 years was one of the great honors I've had as a United States senator … Senator Kennedy is simply irreplaceable, and the Senate will forever miss its great Liberal Lion … Yet, though Ted Kennedy is no longer with us, his legacy and his memory live on forever in the millions of people whose lives were made better through his work … In the true spirit of Ted Kennedy we will continue to advance the ideals and issues that were so close to his heart and such a part of his remarkable life … As we all mourn this great loss, his wife Vicki and his entire family will remain in our thoughts and prayers."

Democratic National Committee chairman and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine: "Today we mourn the loss of one the greatest and most consequential political figures in American history with the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy … Senator Kennedy was adored by millions of Americans and was respected by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for his energy, his passion, his humor, his compassion, his friendship and above all his commitment to serve his country in pursuit of a more common good for every American … It is not an exaggeration to say that Senator Kennedy devoted his entire adult life -- in the great tradition of the Kennedy family -- to public service. And, in his forty-six years in the Senate, Senator Kennedy's primary focus -- and the legacy he will be most remembered for -- will be his work to improve the plight of ordinary Americans, to empower the powerless and to end the scourge of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and economic background that was all too prevalent in an earlier time."

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Bob Shrum, former Kennedy speechwriter and advisor, writing about the senator's speech at the 2008 Democratic convention: "He was taken to a hospital almost as soon as we arrived, was released and then was rushed back again. He was in agony -- not from the cancer but from a sudden attack of kidney stones. He was determined to speak to the convention and left his hospital bed just a little more than an hour before his appearance, which much of the press and most delegates regarded as improbable or impossible. I stood and cried as he walked onto the stage. In 1980, he had gone there at the end of a long, hard quest through the primaries. This night was the expression of a lifetime's undiminished commitment, the culmination of three weeks of drafting and daily practice sessions -- we live only 25 minutes apart on Cape Cod -- and then a harrowing day and a half in Denver. It was courage and conviction about the true purpose of politics that brought him to this moment. He spoke of economic justice, of equality, of health care as a fundamental right, of war and peace. He passed the torch to Barack Obama -- to whose candidacy he had given a decisive endorsement the winter before. And he touched millions of hearts one more time: 'The work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on.'"

Conservatives for Patients Rights, which had been running ads against healthcare reform in Massachusetts: "With the sad news of Senator Kennedy's passing Conservatives for Patients Rights is immediately suspending our ad campaign for health care reform out of respect to the Kennedy family as well as the Senator's colleagues and supporters, to whom we extend our condolences. We know the debate will continue -- a debate Senator Kennedy embraced with vigor -- and we look forward to engaging in the debate in the months ahead. But now is a time for respect, reflection and remembrance. Senator Kennedy's lifetime of dedicated public service transcended multiple generations. His devotion to many issues and his relentless passion made him a hero to his supporters and worthy adversary to his opponents. His voice and presence will be missed."

House Minority Leader John Boehner: "The people of Massachusetts and the United States Congress have lost a tireless public servant. Ted Kennedy was my friend. While there were few political issues on which he and I agreed, our relationship was never disagreeable, and was always marked by good humor, hard work, and a desire to find common ground ... Ted Kennedy was also a friend to inner-city children and teachers. For the better part of the last decade, Ted and I worked together to support struggling Catholic grade schools in inner-city Washington. By helping these schools keep their doors open and helping them retain their committed teachers and faculty, this joint effort made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of inner-city children, who otherwise would have been denied the opportunity for a quality education. It wouldn't have been possible without Senator Kennedy and his genuine desire to give something back to help inner-city students in the city in which he'd served for so many years. I'm proud to have worked with Senator Kennedy on this project, and I will dearly miss his friendship and his partnership in this cause."

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair: "I saw his focus and determination first hand in Northern Ireland where his passionate commitment was matched with a practical understanding of what needed to be done to bring about peace and to sustain it."


Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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