Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) Tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy on Casting His 15,000th Vote

Posted on September 4, 2007

Mr. President, I would not want all the accolades to Senator Kennedy to come from that side of the aisle. Forty years ago, in 1967, I came to this body as a very young legislative aide to Senator Howard Baker, and Ted Kennedy was a very young Senator but already in his second term. All the talk for the first few months--and I imagine Senator Byrd can remember this--was about how long would it take for Senator Baker, a new Republican Senator, to break on some important issue with father-in-law, the Republican leader, Senator Everett Dirksen and after a few months we knew because Senator Baker walked across the aisle and joined with Senator Ted Kennedy and they fought against Senator Dirksen, Baker's father-in-law, and Sam Ervin, the most respected constitutional lawyer in the Senate, on the issue of one man one vote. I remember working with Jim Fluge, Senator Kennedy's friend who came back to work in the Senate 3 or 4 years ago. The upstarts won that debate; Baker and Kennedy beat Dirksen and Ervin on the one man one vote issue. That was my first exposure to working with Senator Kennedy. Several years passed and President Bush the first asked me to be the Education Secretary, and I came to Washington and what did I discover? I have to be confirmed by a committee chaired by Senator Ted Kennedy. That was 1991. That was 16 years ago. I was eventually confirmed and then we worked together for nearly 2 years on educational issues. Then, 4 years ago I came back and I am in the Senate and today I am serving on the committee that once confirmed me, and who is the chairman 40 years later? Senator Ted Kennedy. So I have had a very special privilege of working with Senator Kennedy and admiring him, both as a legislative aide and a Cabinet member and now as a colleague in the Senate. I can say as a practicing Republican what every Senator in this body already knows: Nothing will bring a Republican audience to its feet faster than a speech against high taxes, against Federal control, and against Ted Kennedy. But those outside the Senate might wonder, then, how could the Republican leader and others here hold him in such affection? I can give you one example. We have a tradition in the Senate still called the maiden speech. We think about what we might say when we first come here and make it a special occasion. My first speech was about what it means to be an American, how could we put the teaching of American history and civics back in its rightful place in our classrooms so our children could grow up learning what it means to be an American. This is the subject the Senator from West Virginia has worked on, spoken about, and legislated on many times. But after I made that remark and introduced a piece of legislation, who was the first Senator to come over and volunteer to go around among his Democratic colleagues and round up enough cosponsors so the legislation could pass and eventually funds be appropriated? It was Senator Kennedy. Who is the Senator who at least once a year takes his entire family to some part of American history and helps them all understand that? I remember his coming back and telling me how excited he was when the family went to Richmond and were in the church, I believe it was, where Patrick Henry was down on his knees and gave his speech about American liberty. That is a part of Ted Kennedy that those of us in the Senate, on both sides of the aisle, know. It is a part we respect and a part we appreciate. He cares about what it means to be an American because he and his family are such an important part of American history. It is a great privilege to serve in this body with Senator Kennedy.