Monday, September 7, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy (1932-2009): Born Into Wealth, Dedicated To Those In Need

Senator Ted Kennedy passed away while I was on vacation, and I would be remiss not to note a few tributes to the Liberal Lion of the Senate. Kennedy provided a counter-example to the many politicians born into wealth who are dedicated to increasing the benefits of the privileged. President Obama put it well in his eulogy:

The landmark laws that he championed — the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children's health care, the Family and Medical Leave Act — all have a running thread. Ted Kennedy's life's work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard; to add a rung to the ladder of opportunity; to make real the dream of our founding...

...We can still hear his voice bellowing through the Senate chamber, face reddened, fist pounding the podium, a veritable force of nature, in support of health care or workers' rights or civil rights.

Robert Sheer, in AlterNet, compared Kennedy to FDR–and both to Bush:

In the first year of the George W. Bush presidency, I wrote a column for the Los Angeles Times entitled "Bush Could Really Use a Fireside Chat With FDR," stating: "This is a president who never learned that it is possible to be a leader born of privilege and yet be absorbed with the fate of those in need. … Not so Roosevelt, a true aristocrat whose genuine love of the common man united this country to save it during its most severe time of economic turmoil and devastating war." Kennedy wrote a note thanking me for the column, adding, "I can think of at least fifty on the Senate side of Capitol Hill that could benefit from a good fireside chat as well."

That's also a worthy epitaph for Ted Kennedy: Born of privilege, and yet absorbed with the fate of those in need.

The Nation asked the administration and the Democrats to follow the example of Kennedy in reforming healthcare:

Senator Edward Kennedy was a fighting liberal, a lion to the very end--often among timid cubs. His final fight was for quality, affordable healthcare for all. As recently as July, Kennedy called it "the cause of my life" and argued eloquently that "quality care shouldn't depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face."

...If Obama gives up this fight and caves in to lobbyists--and if Congressional Democrats and the grassroots fail to deliver the support he needs--that window will slam shut, and with it the chance for reform, which might not come for another generation.

That would be a tragedy--and no way to honor the Lion of the Senate.

May Ted Kennedy's fighting liberal spirit live on and inspire his colleagues to ensure that the cause of his life is enacted.

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