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Florida tributes to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

Ted Kennedy, says Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, calmed her nerves when she was asked to speak -- as a freshman Democrat -- at the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. Later that year, the veteran lawmaker offered advice on getting her signature swimming pool legislation through Congress.

"I was deeply saddened this morning when I learned of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy," she said today. "Americans have lost a giant in public service, someone who was never too big to reach out and lift someone else up."

And outgoing Sen. Mel Martinez, who worked closely with Kennedy on immigration reform, said he was "deeply saddened" by his death.

"Ted was an icon of passionate public service and gave selflessly to our nation," Martinez said. "I came to know him well through our work on immigration reform where he was a tough negotiator, and someone who knew how to reach bipartisan agreement for the good of an issue. He will be remembered as the Lion of the Senate for his voice, his style, his work, and his allegiance to always do what he thought was best for our country. Kitty and I offer our condolences and Senator Kennedy's family is in our thoughts and prayers."

Wasserman Schultz continued: "For me personally, this occurred when as a freshman in the House of Representatives, Senator Kennedy graciously gave me words of encouragement when I was asked to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing of Justice Samuel Alito. Later that year, he took the time to counsel me on the best way to move my pool safety legislation through the Senate. I was grateful and personally moved that this pillar of the Senate would take the time to help a brand new member of the House of Representatives get her bill passed and save the lives of young children.

"Senator Kennedy dedicated his life to improving the lives of others, and dedicated his entire career and his final months of life to crafting health care legislation that he described as 'the cause of his life,' so that 'every American -- north, south, east, west, young, old -- will have decent quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.' 

"When the time comes that each of us approaches the end of our time here on Earth and we look back over what we've done for others and how we've made the world a better place, we can only hope to come close to the record of selflessness and dedication that Senator Kennedy showed during his own life.

"Our country has lost one of its brightest stars. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family--to his wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family."

From Rep. Alcee Hastings: "Today our nation mourns the loss of a great man and a great public servant.  My thoughts and prayers are with the Kennedy family at this most difficult time. Senator Kennedy served our country proudly in the United States Senate for over four decades. His profound impact on American politics has taught us to serve our country with respect and to fight for those whose voices aren’t always heard. Although, Senator Kennedy is no longer with us, his life and legacy will always be remembered in the halls of Congress."

From Rep. Kendrick Meek: "Senator Kennedy did not simply live for the Senate – he was the heart of the Senate. Respected by all of his colleagues, Senator Kennedy’s thoughtfulness, conviction and passion were attached to signature pieces of legislation that have profoundly shaped our nation for the better.  From strengthening the quality of education for our students, to improving the quality of health care for our eniors, to ensuring equality and civil rights for all Americans, Senator Kennedy was a leader unparalleled in our nation.  

“Senator Kennedy was the patriarch of a family that gave this nation so much and as he comforted the nation time and again, we as Americans must now be there for the Kennedy family during this mourning period. Senator Kennedy dedicated his life to this nation and we are forever indebted to him. 

 “My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Kennedy family today. I’m especially thinking about my colleague Congressman Patrick Kennedy who is continuing his father’s fight in the U.S. House of Representatives. During this sad time, I hope the outpouring of support is comforting the Kennedy family.”

Sen. Bill Nelson: "Most Americans can not remember a time without Ted Kennedy. Whatever your political persuasion, you had to respect his lion-like conviction. It was that conviction that gave a voice to the powerless over the powerful. Grace and I came to know Ted and Vicki in his later years in the senate, and we count it a privilege to have known him."

Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to Senator Edward Kennedy’s family at this difficult time. We especially send our heartfelt condolences to our friend and colleague, Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island. We will always remember that Senator Kennedy dedicated his life to serving his constituents (who consistently reelected him to the United States Senate for almost 5 decades) and the nation."

Rep. Corrine Brown: "I want to send my thoughts and prayers to the family of Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  The American people have lost a great leader, and the Kennedy family has lost a beloved family man. Over a lifetime of leadership, Senator Kennedy’s statesmanship and political prowess produced a wealth of accomplishments that have given every American citizen greater opportunities. 

"Senator Kennedy’s extraordinary work in the areas of education and health care go unparalleled. Indeed, I always say, when you are born you get a birth certificate, and when you pass, you get a death certificate, but it’s what you do with the time in between that makes a difference. Unquestionably, this idea is encapsulated in the life of Senator Kennedy, who’s 46 years of service to this country demonstrated a remarkable vision for America and an unrivaled ability to reach across Party lines to bring about
extraordinary change for the betterment of our citizens. 

"I vividly remember him from the first Democratic convention I attended in 1980, in which I served as a Kennedy delegate. I was awed by the Senator’s vision and presence at the convention, and of course, by his memorable and inspiring speech in which he said, ‘for me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. 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.’ Similarly, the work that the Senator did in the areas of health care,
education, people with disabilities, and poverty alleviation will continue today and into the future as we attempt to fulfill his dream of providing quality health care and a solid education for all Americans, as well as security for our nation’s senior citizens.

“Again, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Kennedy family, his devoted wife Vicki, and with Kara, Teddy Jr., and of course, my colleague in the House of Representatives, Patrick Joe Kennedy, with whom I have worked for years on many important issues, in particular, on veterans’ affairs.  Our nation as a whole mourns this loss and prays for the Kennedy family at this sad time.” 

Rep. Robert Wexler: "I was deeply saddened to learn that Senator Ted Kennedy passed away late last
night, and my thoughts and my prayers are with the Kennedy family during this incredibly difficult time.

"Senator Kennedy was a devoted public servant whose work in the United States Senate touched the lives of all Americans. He was instrumental in ensuring voting and civil rights for minorities, enacting equal opportunities for women in education, athletics, and the workplace, preventing discrimination against Americans with disabilities, providing millions of Americans with affordable health insurance, and in countless other landmark legislative achievements.

"As we mourn the loss of Senator Kennedy and honor his many legislative accomplishments, we must all to work to ensure that his ideals and values live on. His commitment to justice, equality, and opportunity for all Americans must be remembered as we work to rebuild America’s economy and ensure all of our citizens have access to quality, affordable health care."