Vice President Biden just gave a very emotional speech about the passing of his long-time friend, Ted Kennedy:
“You know, Teddy spent a lifetime working for a fair and more just America. And for 36 years I had the privilege of going to work everyday and literally — not figuratively — sitting next to him. and being a witness to history every single day the Senate was in session. I sat with him on the Senate floor, in the same aisle, I sat with him on the jUdiciary committee, physically next to him, and I sat with him in the caucuses.
“And it was in that process, every day I was with him — and this is gonna sound strange — he restored my sense of idealism and my faith in the possibilities of what this country could do. He and I were talking after his diagnosis, and I said, you know, I think you’re the only other person I’ve met who like me is more optimistic, more enthusiastic, more idealistic, sees greater possibilities, after 36 years than after we were elected. He was 30 years old when he was elected, I was 29 years old. And you’d think that would be the peak of our idealism. But I genuinely feel more idealistic about the prospects for my country today than I have at any time in my life. And it was infectious when you were with him.”
He also paid tribute to Kennedy’s abilities to fight for his beliefs, but not with malice towards his opponents:
And you know, he was never defeatist, he never was petty — never was petty. He was never small. And in the process of his doing, he made everybody he worked with bigger, both his adversaries as well as his allies. Don’t you find it remarkable that one of the most partisan, liberal men in the last century, serving in the Senate, had so many of his (long pause) so many of his foes embrace him, because they know he made them bigger. He made them more graceful by the way in which he conducted himself.
And Biden told a very personal story about how Kennedy helped him get elected, and then helped him very personally, when Biden’s first wife and a daughter were killed in a car accident, in which his sons were also injured, soon after Biden’s first election:
“And for the hundreds, if not thousands of us, who got to know him personally, he — he actually, how can I say it — he altered our lives, as well. Through the grace of God and an accident of history, I was privileged to be one of those people. And every important event in my adult life, as I look back this morning and talking to Vicky, every single one, he was there. He was there to encourage, to counsel, to be empathetic, to lift up.
“From 1972, as a 29 year old kid with three weeks left to go in a campaign, him showing 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 31,00 votes and got 85% of the vote in that district, or something to that effect. I literally would not be standing there, were it not for Teddy Kennedy. Not figuratively, this is not hyperbole, literally.
“He was there, he stood with me when my wife and daughter were killed in an accident. He was on the phone with me literally everyday in the hospital, when my two children were tempting, and God willing, God thankfully, survived very serious injuries. I’d turn around and there’d be some specialist from Massachusetts, a doc I’d never even asked for, literally sitting in the room with me. You know, it’s not just me that he affected like that. It’s hundreds upon hundreds of people.
“I was talking with Vicky this morning, and she said, “he was ready to go, Joe. But we were not ready to let him go. He’s left a great void in our public life, and a hole in the hearts of millions of Americans and hundreds of us who were affected by his personal touch throughout our lives. People like me who came to rely on him. He was kind of like an anchor.
“And unlike many important people in my 38 years I’ve had the privilege of knowing, the unique thing about Teddy was, it was never about him. It was always about you. It was never about him. There’s people I admire — great women and men — but at the end of the day it gets down to being about them. With Teddy, it was never about him.
“Well today, we lost a truly remarkable man, and to paraphrase shakespeare, I don’t think we shall ever see his like again. But I think the legacy left is not just in the landmark legislation he passed, but in how he helped people look at themselves and look at one another.”