Statement of June O’Neill on the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy:

“The nation has lost the ‘lion of the Senate’ and a champion for those who are marginalized and disenfranchised in our country. Senator Kennedy was an American icon and a hero to millions who admired his strength, grace, intellect and conviction.

In 1980 I had the privilege of being elected a Ted Kennedy delegate to the Democratic National Convention held that year in Madison Square Garden. It was a memorable night when he gave one of the best, and most moving speeches of his career. He pledged then to fight for Americans who are unemployed and for national health care insurance.

Last year, as a delegate to the National Convention in Denver, I was among the thousands who were in the hall to see and hear Senator Kennedy deliver what would become his final major public address. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when he finished. He reminded us of how far we had come, and how far we have yet to go. He implored the country to support the ‘passing of the torch to a new generation’ and to make sure that health care became a right not a privilege. Ironically, that marvelous speech was delivered one year ago today. Although we mourn this great loss, Senator Kennedy’s legacy lives on.

Senator Kennedy was the standard bearer of the Democratic Party and our values but as a legislator he worked with his Senate colleagues across the aisle to make health insurance available to children in poor families, to raise the minimum wage, to expand job training programs, to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act that barred discrimination with people with physical disabilities, and the Women, Infants and Children Nutrition program to improve the health of mothers and infants. There isn’t a piece of major legislation in the last three decades that did not bear Senator Kennedy’s hand print. And, there will be no better way to honor Senator Kennedy than passing affordable health care insurance for all Americans.

We have lost a legendary giant and we will miss him dearly. On behalf of a grateful New York State Democratic Committee, we send our condolences to the Kennedy family and will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

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