Nice to see that you, our students, are in good spirits this morning, and to hear you speak about junior statesmen of America and about community service; nice to see that spirt of service and public-mindedness so alive at our school.
I am wearing my mourning tie this morning, and feeling very sad, because we lost last night a great leader of public service, someone often referred to as the “Lion of the Senate,” Senator Ted Kennedy.
I met Senator Kennedy two times when I was in high school, when I was fifteen and sixteen, and it was an amazing and wonderful for me to experience first-hand his interest in young people, and receive personally his encouragement for public service.
Senator Kennedy, it must be said, made many mistakes in his life, some of them serious mistakes, and he experienced many hardships, many tragedies, but he never gave up, never stopped fighting for a more just America. We called him the Lion of the Senate, and I think we will continue to refer to him that way for many hundreds of years, because he worked for so long (nearly fifty years in the Senate) with so many people, with very conservative Republican Senators and with Americans of all backgrounds, all ethnicities, all incomes, all kinds of diversity, to make such a big difference for civil rights, for people with disabilities, for health care for all, for education and for youth.
He said his most famous words in 1980, when I was 13, and I have never forgotten them, and I think they are very fitting here at his passing, and after I read them to you, please let us have a moment of silence remembering and reflecting on the service of Senator Kennedy– he said about his never-ending quest for a more just America and more peaceful world:
the work goes on,
the cause endures
the hope still lives,
and the dream shall never die.