Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward Kennedy

While Senator Kennedy was never President, there was certainly always speculation, so I wanted to acknowledge his death here. While Senator Kennedy never held the presidency, he put in 46 years in Congress and made his mark there:
Because Kennedy never made it to the finish line, he never had to endure a post-presidential twilight. Instead, by the time of his death on Aug. 25 in Hyannis Port at the age of 77, he had 46 working years in Congress, time enough to leave his imprint on everything from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act of 2009, a law that expands support for national community-service programs. Over the years, Kennedy was a force behind the Freedom of Information Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He helped Soviet dissidents and fought apartheid. Above all, he conducted a four-decade crusade for universal health coverage, a poignant one toward the end as the country watched a struggle with a brain tumor. But along the way, he vastly expanded the network of neighborhood clinics, virtually invented the COBRA system for portable insurance and helped create the laws that provide Medicare prescriptions and family leave.

And for most of that time, he went forward against great odds, the voice of progressivism in a conservative age. When people were getting tired of hearing about racism or the poor or the decay of American cities, he kept talking. When liberalism was flickering, there was Kennedy, holding the torch, insisting that "we can light those beacon fires again." In the last year of his life, with the Inauguration of Barack Obama, he had the satisfaction of seeing a big part of that dream fulfilled. In early 2008, when Obama had just begun to capture the public imagination, Kennedy bucked the party establishment. Just before Super Tuesday, the venerable Senator from Massachusetts enthusiastically endorsed the young Senator from Illinois, helping propel Obama to the Democratic nomination and ultimately the White House.

So does it matter that Kennedy never made it to the presidency? Any number of mere Presidents have been pretty much forgotten. But as the Romans understood, there can be Emperors of no consequence - and Senators whose legacies are carved in stone.

With Senator Kennedy's death, that leaves only one of the nine Kennedy children alive, Jean Kennedy Smith, who spent five years as the Ambassador to Ireland during the Clinton adminstration.

President Obama gave a tribute to Senator Kennedy this morning in Massachuetts:
The Kennedy name is synonymous with the Democratic Party. And at times, Ted was the target of partisan campaign attacks. But in the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle. His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth, and good cheer. He could passionately battle others and do so peerlessly on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintain warm friendships across party lines.

And that's one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.

The Senate page on Senator Kennedy includes the family statement as well contact information. There you can find Mrs. Reagan's statement on his death as well:
I was terribly saddened to hear of the death of Ted Kennedy tonight. Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family. But Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another. In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him.

You can also read a tribute from Vice President Biden. The White House website has a slideshow of recent pictures posted and Time has slideshow that is more comprehensive of his entire life posted. Time has plenty of material you can read on Senator Kennedy and you can also review a Kennedy family slideshow.

Senator Kennedy will have a Boston funeral and then be buried at Arlington with his brothers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

most interesting amongst the tributes was the lack of a response from the vatican.

while his letter to the pope was read graveside there has not been a response. time magazine online has an interesting take on this and comments that kennedy had no sway with the vatican: essentially that while ted professed to being roman catholic, the folks in rome didn't see it that way.

as to his long-term influence: we are too close to tell. it will be our children who can tell that tale.