President Barack Obama said Wednesday morning the late Sen. Ted Kennedy’s ideas and ideals are weaved throughout the nation’s best laws and that his friend is responsible for a more just and equal nation that has afforded opportunities for children, the poor and the sick.
He called the Massachusetts senator, who died Tuesday after battling brain cancer, a “colleague, counselor and a friend” who lived an “extraordinary life.”
“The extraordinary good that he did lives on,” the president said in brief remarks to reporters gathered on Martha’s Vineyard, where the first family is vacationing this week.
Mr. Obama said Mr. Kennedy was the “defender of a dream” who lived until 77 and became “one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.”
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There was speculation that Mr. Obama would visit Mr. Kennedy’s home in Hyannis Port, Mass., a short distance across the Nantucket Sound from his vacation spot, but the visit never materialized.
Mr. Obama said Wednesday he was grateful the nation had a chance to honor Mr. Kennedy in the year since his diagnosis, an opportunity “we were denied” when his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy were assassinated in the 1960s.
“His fight has given us … the blessing of time to say thank you and goodbye,” Mr. Obama said. The nation’s first black president said thanks to Mr. Kennedy by saying citizens “can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just, including myself.”
In a statement early Wednesday morning, Mr. Obama declared his friend’s death as the end to an “important chapter in our history.”
“Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of our time,” he said in the statement. “The Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.”
Click here to see a timeline of Mr. Kennedy’s life.
Mr. Obama was awoken at 2 a.m. Wednesday by friend and White House trip director Marvin Nicholson, who has known the Kennedy family many years.
The president called Mr. Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, at 2:25 a.m. with condolences.
“Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend,” Mr. Obama said. “For 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.”