His 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.”
The family thanked those who gave him care during his battle with brain cancer, as well as “everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.”
President Barack Obama, who served with Kennedy in the Senate and who Kennedy supported for president despite close ties to the Clinton family, said, “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 … 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.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid vowed that the Senate would rededicate itself to the causes to which Kennedy dedicated his life. “Because of Ted Kennedy, more young children could afford to become healthy,” said Reid. “More young adults could afford to become students. More of our oldest citizens and our poorest citizens could get the care they need to live longer, fuller lives. More minorities, women and immigrants could realize the rights our founding documents promised them. And more Americans could be proud of their country … The liberal lion’s mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die."
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called Kennedy “a great patriot,” noting, “Over a lifetime of leadership, Senator Kennedy’s statesmanship and political prowess produced a wealth of accomplishment that has improved opportunity for every American. Senator Kennedy had a grand vision for America, and an unparalleled ability to effect change. Rooted in his deep patriotism, his abiding faith, and his deep concern for the least among us, no one has done more than Senator Kennedy to educate our children, care for our seniors, and ensure equality for all Americans.”
Longtime friend and colleague Sen. Orrin Hatch, saying he had lost a treasured friend, added, "Today, America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant and leader of the Senate … Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy's name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber."
During his iconic speech at the 1980 Democratic Convention, Kennedy himself said it best: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”
Kennedy is survived by his wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.