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Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean was scheduled to contribute to a health care book club over at TPMCafe today. Instead, he sends over a reminiscence.

"My mother, who was a solid Upper East Side Republican until 2004, once happened to sit next to him at a wedding of a mutual friend," Dean writes. "She had never met him before. I'm sure the exchange was lively, and being a Dean, I doubt my mother gave him much quarter. A week later, a beautiful, kind, and very personal handwritten letter arrived from Ted Kennedy. My mother, like so many other Americans, was hooked by the Kennedy charm and grace."

You can read his entire remembrance below the fold, or at this link.

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President Obama called the late Ted Kennedy "one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy" in remarks this morning at Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark, Massachusetts. Read the full transcript below.

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

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."

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Ted Kennedy's greatest legacy was as a legislator in the U.S. Senate. Over 300 bills bearing his name became law, most dealing with the day-to-day social and economic needs of children, families, or the elderly. What made him such an effective legislator?

According to David Rohde, a professor of political science at Duke and an expert on the legislative process, Kennedy embodied "a combination of very liberal impulses with a very practical sense of legislating."

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Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) called for the health care reform legislation to be named after the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. In a statement, Byrd said, "In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American."

Here is the full statement:

"I had hoped and prayed that this day would never come. My heart and soul weeps at the lost of my best friend in the Senate, my beloved friend, Ted Kennedy."

"Senator Kennedy and I both witnessed too many wars in our lives, and believed too strongly in the Constitution of the United States to allow us to go blindly into war. That is why we stood side by side in the Senate against the war in Iraq."

"Neither years of age nor years of political combat, nor his illness, diminished the idealism and energy of this talented, imaginative, and intelligent man. And that is the kind of Senator Ted Kennedy was. Throughout his career, Senator Kennedy believed in a simple premise: that our society's greatness lies in its ability and willingness to provide for its less fortunate members. Whether striving to increase the minimum wage, ensuring that all children have medical insurance, or securing better access to higher education, Senator Kennedy always showed that he cares deeply for those whose needs exceed their political clout. Unbowed by personal setbacks or by the terrible sorrows that have fallen upon his family, his spirit continued to soar, and he continued to work as hard as ever to make his dreams a reality."

"In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American."

"God bless his wife Vicki, his family, and the institution that he served so ably, which will never be the same without his voice of eloquence and reason. And God bless you Ted. I love you and will miss you terribly."

"In my autobiography I wrote that during a visit to West Virginia in 1968 to help dedicate the "Robert F. Kennedy Youth Center" in Morgantown, "Senator Kennedy's voice quivered with emotion as he talked of his late brothers and their love for West Virginia. 'These hills, these people, and this state have had a very special meaning for my family. Our lives have been tightly intertwined with yours.'"

"I am sure the people of the great state of West Virginia join me in expressing our heartfelt condolences to the Kennedy family at this moment of deep sorrow."

In a brief speech from Martha's Vineyard moments ago, President Obama praised Teddy Kennedy as "one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy."

"For his family he was a guardian, for America he was a defender of a dream," said Obama, whose campaign for the presidency was given a vital boost last year by the Massachusetts senator's endorsement.

Obama said that the encomiums that have been poring in this morning are "a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives."

Referring to Kennedy's long career, Obama added that the liberal lion's "fight has given us the opportunity denied when his brothers were taken from us."

And the president praised Kennedy's ability to remain beloved by Senate colleagues from both parties: "In the U.S. Senate, I can think of no one who engendered more respect and affection from both sides of the aisle."

Watch the video:

Economist James Galbraith--son of famed economist, and Kennedy-family confidant John Kenneth Galbraith--recalls Kennedy's fond remembrance of his father, who passed away in 2006.

"Kennedy spoke at my father's memorial--and I've just been looking for it.... He read a passage from the Pilgrim's Progress at the end of his remarks. The passage itself was totally breathtaking and the way he read it was even more so."

At that service, Kennedy said Galbraith "meant the world to all of us in the Kennedy family."

"There might not have been a 'New Frontier' without Ken.... In another age he would have been a Founding Father."

You can view a video of that speech--and the entire Galbraith service--at this link.

Vice President Biden will make remarks about the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy at about 10:15 a.m. Eastern time.

He will then announce stimulus grants at the Department of Energy with Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The Service Employees International Union released a statement this morning on the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy, urging Americans to "continue his cause" by passing health care reform. Here is the full text:



"In Senator Kennedy's vision of America, every family has access to affordable healthcare, every worker has a paycheck that supports their family and a secure retirement, every child has a right to a quality education, and every immigrant can achieve the American Dream.



"Senator Kennedy spent his entire adult life, through tragedy and triumph, in pursuit of this America. From his first major speech in support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to his last vote on President Obama's economic recovery plan, his vision of a more perfect nation never wavered.



"Because of Senator Kennedy, millions of children have access to healthcare, crucial immunizations, Head Start programs, and grants and loans to make college more affordable. Unemployed workers have access to COBRA and low-income mothers are able to get food, healthcare and other resources for themselves and their children. People with disabilities are treated with respect and dignity and workers are protected by an adequate minimum wage.



"Senator Kennedy's America is our America. It is the America of the nurse in Pittsburgh, the janitor in Miami, and the child care provider in Maine. It is the America that SEIU members continue to fight for. And Senator Kennedy stood beside us in that fight longer than anyone else.



"Senator Kennedy stood with SEIU members on countless picket lines and contract negotiations. He stood with millions of hardworking immigrants and SEIU members to call for comprehensive immigration reform in 2005. He stood with workers fighting for a voice on the job by championing the Employee Free Choice Act. And until his final days he stood with SEIU healthcare workers and other workers to win access to affordable healthcare for all Americans.



"Thirty nine years ago, Senator Kennedy introduced his first bill to overhaul our nation's broken healthcare system and provide affordable coverage to all Americans. We stand closer now than ever before to achieving what Senator Kennedy called the cause of his life.



"Let us continue his cause. Let us take action this year to pass healthcare reform. And let us continue to build Kennedy's vision of America."

TPMLivewire