Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Memoriam - Sen. Edward Kennedy

We knew this day was coming, but it's still stunning to think the "Liberal Lion" of the Senate is gone. Sen. Ted Kennedy died today, he was 77. I've said before, it was the Kennedy family that sparked my interest in politics back in the 1960's ... and my interest never waned.

My Republican mother made sure I had a Kennedy for President campaign button. I wrote an extended piece on Robert Kennedy for a history class following his death. And I've always admired Ted's decision to continue to serve, even while facing all too human transgressions.

He was a wealthy young man, who could have walked away from politics to live a carefree life. But that's not how Kennedy's were raised. Instead he spend his life championing the disadvantaged, discriminated, and powerless among us. Civil rights, women's rights, and his passion, universal health care for everyone.

Sen. Kennedy won't see his dream realized, but Congress could do the right thing and make Teddy's dream a reality.

Here is the Washington Post report of his death:
Edward M. Kennedy, one of the most powerful and influential senators in American history and one of three brothers whose political triumphs and personal tragedies captivated the nation for decades, died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Mass., at age 77. He had been battling brain cancer.

His family announced his death in a brief statement released early Wednesday. "We've
lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," the statement said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all." [...]

"President Obama was notified about 2 a.m., aides said, and spoke to Kennedy's widow, Victoria, a short time later. In a statement released Wednesday morning, Obama paid tribute to Kennedy, pointing out that "virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts. . . .

Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time," the statement said. ". . . . Our hearts and prayers go out to" the Kennedy family.

Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, was the last male survivor of a privileged and charismatic family that in the 1960s dominated American politics and attracted worldwide attention. His sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, died two weeks ago, also in Hyannis Port. One sibling, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland Jean Kennedy Smith, is still alive.

As heir through tragedy to his accomplished older brothers -- President John F. Kennedy and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.), both of whom were assassinated -- Edward Kennedy became the patriarch of his clan and a towering figure in the U.S. Senate to a degree neither of his siblings had been. [...]

For decades, Kennedy was at the center of the most important issues facing the nation, and he did much to help shape them. A defender of the poor and politically disadvantaged, he set the standard for his party on health care, education, civil rights, campaign-finance reform and labor law. He also came to oppose the war in Vietnam and, from the beginning, was an outspoken opponent of the war in Iraq. [...]

Health care reform is "a defining issue for our society," Kennedy told fellow senators during a 1994 debate. "Do we really care about our fellow citizens?" It was a question he asked countless times, in one form or another, during his long Senate career. He faced opposition from most Republicans -- and more than a few Democrats -- who insisted that Kennedy's proposals for universal health care amounted to socialized medicine that would lead to bureaucratic sclerosis and budget-breaking costs and inefficiencies.
Sen. Kennedy is gone, but the ability to pass meaningful health care still exists. It's up to the president and Congress to see that it happens.

To the Senator's family I send my sincere condolences. May he rest in peace.

No comments: