Kerry On Appointment of Paul Kirk to Fill Kennedy Seat

BOSTON–(ENEWSPF)–September 24, 2009.  Senator John Kerry today spoke at a press conference in which Governor Deval Patrick appointed Paul Kirk to temporarily fill Senator Kennedy’s seat.

Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.

“Governor Patrick, I think we all agree that the mark of a good Chief Executive isn’t just making the difficult decisions, but getting them right. We are blessed in Massachusetts to have an enduring surplus of political and civic talent. There are a number of highly qualified people the Governor could have appointed. This was no easy call. But I believe the choice the Governor has made is completely in keeping with the intent of the change in the law by the legislature and the intent of all of us who advocated for the changes, including Senator Kennedy. This is a caretaker appointment, a gentle transition, a kind of stewardship —  and Paul Kirk will be a superb steward of this seat. Governor Patrick found the person for this moment and did what’s in the best interests of our state.

“I also want to thank Speaker DeLeo and Senate President Murray, without whose leadership and legislative skill the forces of taking the easiest route and the path of political least resistance would’ve prevailed, and this day would never have come. Like Ted Kennedy, they weren’t afraid to sail into the political winds and do what’s right for Massachusetts.

“And none of us here today forget the fact that Ted Kennedy spent the final weeks of his life just as he had spent his life in the Senate looking out for Massachusetts.  He reminded us that it was “vital for this Commonwealth to have two voices speaking for the needs of its citizens and two votes in the Senate” – especially in these times. He asked us to act, not for him, but for Massachusetts, and we did.

“Vicki, Teddy Jr, and Patrick keep his memory alive –and understand that Paul Kirk shares Ted’s love of this state and this country as well as his passion for public service.  And they well understood we’re facing an historic moment in this country, the most critical legislative work in Washington since the New Deal – work in which every vote will count and in which Massachusetts must be fully counted.

“In that work, Paul Kirk will ensure Massachusetts has a voice and a steward in these next months. Paul never ran for public office, but he’ll hit the ground running in the Senate with a familiarity with the Teddy’s Senate staff, a command of all the issues, an understanding of the politics at play in Washington, and with such a kinship with Teddy’s public values.

“But more than that, he understands that public service is a higher calling and that we have a responsibility to carry on. This is not the first time that the passing of a Kennedy brother brought Paul back into service to his state.  After Robert Kennedy’s assassination, Paul was ready to quit politics but after Ted told him he had a responsibility to fight on, he signed on to Teddy’s staff in 1969 and became one of Teddy’s most important advisers, a role he continued even after he left the Senate staff in 1977 through Teddy’s final days. And it was during Paul’s tenure on Teddy’s Senate staff that Paul was first drawn into the debate over health care and drawn in with passion. He will represent Massachusetts now in the fight to make Teddy’s life’s work a reality.

“It wasn’t always politics that pulled Ted and Paul together, however.  It was a deep and abiding friendship between these two great men.  They celebrated Thanksgivings together with their families or the weekends of the Harvard-Yale football games or, in recent months, long visits of shared reminiscing. It is no wonder that in his memoirs, Teddy refers to Paul as ‘my dear friend.’

“All of us were touched these last weeks to see Teddy’s desk in the Senate, adorned with his favorite flowers and a simple cherished poem by Robert Frost, Teddy’s favorite. But the selection of Paul to replace his friend in the Senate brings to mind a line from one of Frost’s other poems.  Frost wrote:

“Men work together,” I told him from the heart, ‘whether they work together or apart.’

“Teddy and Paul worked together for much of their lives, and even though they are apart now I have no doubt that they will still be working together in the United States Senate — working together for Massachusetts.”



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