Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following remarks this morning on the Senate floor in honor of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“‘A freshman Senator should be seen, not heard; should learn, and not teach.’
“These are the first words Senator Ted Kennedy spoke on the floor of this chamber.
“He was hesitant to rise and speak that April day. He had been a Senator for less than a year and a half. The country was still reeling from President Kennedy’s death just months before.
“But the question before the Senate was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Senator Kennedy knew he could hold his tongue no longer.
“He rose to speak because he loved his country. He waited as long as he did to give that maiden speech because he loved this institution.
“In that speech, as I mentioned, he said that a Senator of his stature at the time should be seen and not heard. But forty-five years later, we can still hear his great, booming voice. He said young Senators should learn, and not teach. But who can list all that we learned from his leadership?
“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.
“He was a patriarch to both the Kennedy family and the Senate family, and together we mourn his loss.
“At so many difficult times in their family’s history, the Kennedys have turned to their Uncle Teddy for comfort. And at so many critical times in our country’s history, America has turned to Ted Kennedy for the same.
“We remember how he walked solemnly with a grieving First Lady in Arlington;
“How his deep love for his brother helped him somehow summon the strength to deliver a defining eulogy in New York;
“How, as patriarch, he memorialized his nephew off the shores of Massachusetts.
“For decades, Ted Kennedy was a rock to his family. And the impact he has etched into our history will long endure. It is now left to us to remember the man who helped remember the lives of so many others. It is now up to us to celebrate the Senator who helped so many live better lives.
“I have long been a devotee of the Kennedys and an admirer of their service to our nation. As a student at Utah State University, I founded the first Young Democrats club, and worked for President Kennedy’s 1960 election.
“One week before he took the oath of office and implored us to ask what we can do for our country, John Kennedy sent me a personal letter of thanks for the work we did out West on that campaign.
“That letter still hangs at the doorway of my Capitol office, just steps off this Senate floor, where the three youngest Kennedy brothers ably served.
“Every time Ted Kennedy would come into my office, he would stop and read that letter. He was proud of his brother, proud of his own work in the Western states during the 1960 race, and proud that I kept that memento in such a prominent place.
“President-elect Kennedy’s letter was short, but it overflowed with optimism. He wrote that the incoming era would allow us to ‘make our country an even better place for our citizens to live as well as to strengthen our country’s position of leadership in the world.’
“Ted Kennedy shared that dream, and he never stopped working to realize it.
“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 college 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.
“Ted Kennedy came from a family of great wealth. He did not need to work hard for himself, so he chose a life of working hard for others. When he was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1959, the application asked him to state his main ambition. Ted Kennedy answered: ‘The public service of this state.’
“And to quote one of his favorite poems – the Robert Frost verses that now rest on his desk here on the Senate floor – that has made all the difference.
“Ted Kennedy’s America was one in which all could pursue justice, enjoy equality and know freedom.
“Ted Kennedy’s life was driven by his love of a family that loved him, and his belief in a country that believed in him.
“Ted Kennedy’s dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought and which his brothers sought to realize.
“The liberal lion’s mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die.”