WASHINGTON, D.C.- Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) issued the following statement following the passing of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who died of brain cancer Tuesday night, Aug. 26 at the age of 77.
"I join the nation and the world in mourning U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy. He was truly gallant, both in public and in private. He was a magnificent example of grace, courage and valor. He cared about others and was modest about himself. He was a dedicated colleague, a loyal friend, and a loving father, husband, son and uncle. He kept faith with the American people. He was my friend.
"We were first brought together by the War on Poverty in the 1960s. Medicare had just passed and I was a young social worker in Baltimore organizing seniors to troubadour the new programs. I was invited to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Aging, which was chaired by Senator Kennedy.
"Little did I know then that a decade later I would be elected to the House of Representatives and have the honor of serving as a national co-chair for his 1980 Presidential campaign or introducing him at the convention.
"Twenty years after I first met him, I was elected as a U.S. Senator from Maryland. I was just one of two women Senators and the first Democratic woman elected to the Senate in her own right. Though I was all by myself, I was never alone. Maryland's senior Senator Paul Sarbanes and Senator Kennedy were what I call my ‘Sir Galahads.'
"When I arrived, Senator Kennedy was on the Democratic Steering Committee. He wanted me to join him on the health committee and served as my precinct captain for committee assignments. He knew how to operationalize good intentions. He understood the legislative framework. We called it doing good by doing well.
"So by January 1987, I was on the HELP Committee, but also on Appropriations Committee because Senator Kennedy knew you can take the best ideas to create real opportunities in an authorizing bill, but it doesn't mean much unless there is money in the federal checkbook.
"Senator Kennedy was a fierce and determined advocate for women and for equality. I absolutely know that millions of women are alive today because of what we did together in establishing an Office of Women's Health at the NIH.
"We knew there was big a problem. Study after study showed women were being systematically excluded from clinical research at NIH. The famous study about aspirin and heart disease was conducted on 22,000 men, but not one woman. A study on heart disease risk factors examined 13,000 men, but not one woman. We heard about a study on the normal process of aging that didn't include women. Yet the results of these studies were being applied to both men and women.
"After years of getting nowhere under Republican administrations, in 1990 I said to Senator Kennedy, let's establish an Office of Women's Health at NIH. So we took the whole legislative framework to Senator Tom Harkin who chaired the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NIH. He put it into the NIH appropriations bill and, as the authorizer, Senator Kennedy allowed it to move forward.
"The impact has been profound. The Office of Women's Health successfully lead the large scale ‘Women's Health Initiative' clinical trial in 2002. It found that the use of hormone treatment in women for symptoms of menopause lead to slightly higher breast cancer rates. After the release of the study findings, breast cancer rates dropped by 15 percent. We found definite gender differences in heart-disease. We established mammogram quality standards. We have increased breast cancer research funding by 700 percent since 1992. I think that's phenomenal. And he was phenomenal.
"In his 47 years in the Senate, he was a titan on issues that strengthen our opportunity structure. Issues like education, civil rights, voting rights, and expanding Medicare and Social Security. In addition to our work on women's health, I am proud and honored to have teamed up with Senator Kennedy on the HELP Committee to establish AmeriCorps and increase access to higher education.
"People know Senator Kennedy as an icon, but what they don't know is what a support he is to his colleagues. There were some rough spots in being the only Democratic woman Senator while the nation was in the midst of a generational change. But Senator Kennedy was always encouraging. He was always on my side. He lifted my spirits.
"Senator Kennedy drew people to him because truly liked people and was genuinely interested in their lives. He brought out the best in those around him. He was the same good-hearted guy whether he was at a bowling alley or meeting with international leaders.
"Senator Kennedy and I had a lot of fun together. He was a bit of a prankster. He liked to tease and to banter. We also had a lot in common. We are Catholic. Our parents both were in business. My father had a small grocery store. His father owned Boston. We had devoted mothers. We shared chunky genes and many, many diets over the years.
"Senator Kennedy had tremendous personal energy that he shared generously with those around him. He was a good sport and had a boundless wit.
"He was one of a kind. My motto is that each and every one of us can make a difference, but together we can make change. Senator Kennedy changed the people and the world around him for the better."