I never asked Senator Kennedy whom he would like to serve in his seat when he was gone. For most of my life, I, like so many others, thought he would always be there. It seemed difficult to imagine life without him.
We have had a glimpse now of what the Senate is like in his absence. Sixty Democratic Senators, a Super Majority for the first time since I was a child, have been unable to pass the health care reform that we Democrats demand.
In many ways, this Senate election will be the most important in a generation. Senators from Massachusetts tend to serve long. When Senator Kennedy was first elected, many of his oldest constituents could remember General Custer. Whom we choose now, may well represent our great grandchildren in the Congress. During the next few years Congress must end two wars, solve an economic crisis, change the way health care and education are handed out and bring fairness to the workplace.
I am traveling across Massachusetts now with my friend Alan Khazei because I am certain he will be the finest Senator. I have known Alan for more than twenty years, and I know that no one cares more about education, jobs and health care than Alan Khazei. I stand with Alan because he shares the moral and political values that I grew up with, and because he has the competence, and joy in life that I want my representatives to share.
When my wife Vicki moved to Boston in 1987, so we could be together, she passed by a City Year sign in a Cambridge storefront window announcing its search for volunteers. Intrigued, Vicki walked in and met Alan Khazei who, fresh out of law school, was building a domestic peace corps from scratch. Vicki signed on and was among the very first volunteers. Soon, the volunteers flooded in and more than twenty years later, City Year has grown across the country and inspired AmeriCorps. All told, Alan Khazei played a central role in creating the infrastructure for 575,000 Americans to contribute 700 million hours of service educating our children, conserving our environment, comforting our seniors, and fighting poverty.
I do not know whom Senator Kennedy would have liked to have his seat. But I know that no one will work harder to fight for the values that I grew up with -- to force the Senate to enact meaningful health care, to improve education across this state and across this country, to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to allow everyone to share in the bounty this nation produces when we are at our best. Alan will challenge all of us to do more, to be better citizens and better neighbors. He will lead us and our children to build a better, stronger, more just America. And he will do all of this with joy in his heart, trudging the road by our side and taking us and our children into this new century united in our will to keep our nation great and our desire to leave a better life for our children. I hope you will join us, to change America.