The Vermont Democratic Party has issued the following statement regarding the passing of Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy:
Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy of Massachusetts passed away late Tuesday night following a courageous battle with brain cancer. He was 77.
In his 46 years of service, Senator Kennedy was arguably the United States Senate's most renowned and recognizable Democrat. In keeping with his family's legacy of political activism and advocacy, Senator Kennedy worked tirelessly to better the lives of everyday Americans, to give a voice to those without one, and to end the various forms of discrimination that have plagued Americans over the past half-century.
While physically absent from the public eye during much of the last year, Senator Kennedy shocked many on the opening night of the Democratic National Convention in August when he appeared unannounced and delivered a speech that garnered a standing ovation.
"My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here, and nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight," Senator Kennedy said. "I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States."
Senator Kennedy's influence in Washington has been especially apparent recently, as Congress debates the largest overhaul of America's health care system in decades. The quest for quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans was an endeavor that Senator Kennedy referred to as "the cause of my life", one that he remained devoted to even in his final days.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Senator Kennedy chaired, passed health care legislation on July 15, and the conflict over the proposed reconstruction of the flawed current system is presently the central focus on Capitol Hill.
Senator Kennedy was beloved by many Americans, and respected by his Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He was admired for his compassion, vigor, sense of humor, and steadfast devotion to serving the greater good of the American public.
We send our deepest condolences to Senator Kennedy's family and friends as our nation mourns the loss and celebrates the life of such an extraordinary man.
Editor's note: Kennedy unsuccessfully ran for U.S. president in 1980. After 1969, the senator's political career was dogged by the Chappaquiddick Island drowning of companion Mary Jo Kopechne. Kennedy failed to report Kopechne's death until after body was discovered by police.