Obama: Ted Kennedy opened Oval Office door to people like me
President Obama, awakened by aides at 2 a.m. today with news that Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy had died, looked haunted and grief-stricken today as he tried to frame the legacy of the man they called the "Lion of the Senate."
“Even though we have known this day was coming for some time now,” he said, “we awaited it with no small amount of dread.” Unlike his brothers, both felled by assassins' bullets, Obama said, Ted Kennedy's 18-month struggle against brain cancer "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."
Calling him a “singular figure in American history,” Obama said Kennedy had done “extraordinary good,” becoming a guardian for his family and the “defender of a dream” for America.
Obama appeared without a tie or coat on the grass outside his rented compound on Martha's Vineyard, where he is vacationing with First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters. He stood at a makeshift podium. Without his usual teleprompters, Obama read from a paper that was flapping in the breeze.
There he grappled with the question of how much he and other once-marginalized Americans -- blacks and Latinos, women and the disabled -- owed to this youngest brother of the famous Kennedy clan.
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.
You can read the transcript of the president’s remarks below, as provided by the White House.
-- Johanna Neuman
Photo Credit: Associated Press
For Immediate Release August 26, 2009
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON THE PASSING OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY
Blue Heron Farm
9:57 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: 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 could passionately battle others and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintain 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. And the extraordinary good that he did lives on. For his family, he was a guardian. For America, he was the 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.
END 10:00 A.M. EDT