- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 27, 2009

Political leaders around the world have talked about their moments in time with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, but Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stood apart this week with memories of an entire adulthood and career beside Mr. Kennedy.

“Through the grace of God and accident of history, I was privileged to be one of those people,” Mr. Biden said. “For 36 years, I had the privilege of going to work every day and literally, not figuratively, sitting next to him. And it was in that process … that he restored my sense of idealism and my faith in the possibilities of what this country could do.”

Mr. Biden recalled his first Senate bid, in 1972, when Mr. Kennedy came to Delaware to help in the final weeks of the race.

“I was a 29-year-old kid with three weeks left to go in a campaign,” Mr. Biden said. “He showed up at the Delaware Armory in the middle of what we called Little Italy, which had never voted nationally for a Democrat. I won by 3,100 votes and got 85 percent of the vote in that district, or something to that effect. I literally would not be standing here were it not for Teddy Kennedy.”

Mr. Biden, 66, said he spoke with Mr. Kennedy’s wife the morning after her husband died Tuesday night of brain cancer and talked about their 36-year friendship.

“Every important event in my adult life — as I look back this morning and talking to Vicki — every single one, he was there,” he said.

Mr. Biden recalled the car accident a few weeks after the 1972 election in which his first wife and infant daughter were killed and his two boys critically injured.

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“He was on the phone with me literally every day in the hospital,” he said. “I’d turn around, and there would be some specialist from Massachusetts, a doc I never even asked for, literally sitting in the room with me.”

Mr. Biden, who struggled at times to keep his composure, said Mrs. Kennedy told him, “He was ready to go, Joe, but we were not ready to let him go.”

Mr. Biden spoke at the Energy Department headquarters in Washington, where was supposed to award grants but quickly excused himself to talk about his 36-year friendship with Mr. Kennedy, 77.

Check out the Washington Times interactive Remembering Senator Edward M. Kennedy

“He was 30 years old when he was elected; I was 29 years old. You’d think that would be the peak of our idealism, but I genuinely feel more optimistic about the prospect for my country today than I have been any time in my life,” Mr. Biden said. “The unique thing about Teddy was it was never about him. It was always about you. People I admire, great women and men, at the end of the day it gets down to being about them. With Teddy it was never about him.”

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