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I first met Senator Kennedy on May 4, 1971, when he visited me at St. Alexis Hospital in Cleveland. I was then a Cleveland City Councilman recovering from an injury and, somehow, he discovered I was in the hospital and paid a surprise visit to my room. He was visiting hospitals as part of his national effort to raise awareness of the need for reform of our health care system. I was elated to meet him. The visit began a friendship which has spanned four decades, during which time I had the privilege of serving with Senator Kennedy in the United States Congress.
He had a powerful sensitivity to human emotion and his life writ large the range of human experience: great triumphs and sudden reversals. His tenacity often came against the heavy burden of deep personal tragedy, which enlarged the quality of his spirit, and made his frequent expressions of humor poignant and profound. Yes, he made himself into one of the greatest Senators, with his advocacy for human rights for health care, education and worker protections.
But Ted Kennedy was more than a great Senator. He was a great friend.