I never really got Ted Kennedy – actually, I never really got any of the Kennedys. OK, maybe Bobby in retrospect, but not Jack or Ted. I don't think that I have ever recovered from reading The Best and the Brightest or my dismay over Chappaquiddick. And I feel bad about that.
I believe everybody when they say he was the most influential Senator ever. I believe everybody when they say he did more for me than most presidents. I really appreciate that he endorsed Barack Obama early – when it was a risk, when it really made a difference. He seemed to be on the right side on most issues (the definition of "right side" being the side I agree with). And I am sad that he will not be around to see Universal Health Care passed (hell – maybe none of us will be around to see UHC passed).
A while ago, Michele and I (separately), got an heartfelt email from Obama on Kennedy (we like to think that we are on Obama's short email list of 1.75 million).
Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
For nearly five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
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 me.
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 battled passionately 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.
I personally valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've benefited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
His fight gave 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.
For America, he was a defender of a dream. For his family, he was a guardian. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today — to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.
Today, our country mourns. We say goodbye to a friend and a true leader who challenged us all to live out our noblest values. And we give thanks for his memory, which inspires us still.
President Barack Obama