Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.
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.
I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
An important chapter in our history has come to an end. 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.
And the Kennedy family has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad.
Our hearts and prayers go out to them today--to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.
UPDATE: Here's the tribute to Senator Kennedy shown at the Democratic National Convention on the first night, August 25, 2008 - almost exactly one year prior to Kennedy's death from cancer at age 77.
UPDATE #2: Statements of condolence and mourning are starting to pour in from Democrats and Republicans alike. The Kennedy family issued a statement saying, "We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever...We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all." Nancy Reagan says, "that her husband and Kennedy 'could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another.'" John Kerry says that Kennedy was "the best senator, the best advocate you could hope for" and calls him an "irrepressible, larger than life presence who was simply the best." Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to Ted Kennedy's niece Maria, says, "Teddy inspired our country through his dedication to health care reform, his commitment to social justice, and his devotion to a life of public service." Nancy Pelosi says that "No one has done more than Senator Kennedy to educate our children, care for our seniors and ensure equality for all Americans." Sen. Orrin Hatch says that Kennedy was "a 'great elder statesman' and a 'treasured friend' whose influence could not be overstated."
UPATE #2: Tim Kaine's statement is in the comments section.
UPDATE #3: Two great photos, courtesy of Mary Lee Cerillo, from last year's Democratic National Convention, to which Ted Kennedy made a surprise trip to Denver to be with his fellow Democrats.