Thursday, August 27, 2009
Rest in Peace, Teddy Kennedy
You know, I was going to write a long and thoughtful post about the death of Ted Kennedy, who was one of my favorite politicians and my senator since I turned 18, but I'll leave the extensive coverage to Boston.com obituary page. I feel fortunate to have a Senator who actually represented me- almost every single time an issue I felt passionately about came to the Senate floor, I would look up the voting records to learn that Ted Kennedy had voted exactly how I would have.
His personal flaws were legion, and many of my older family members never forgave him for Mary Jo Kopechne's death (although I hate how it's often a knee-jerk response in an political discussion....Ted Kennedy supports universal health care...."but but but Chappaquiddick!"). However, in my lifetime I have seen no champion of human rights and liberal causes like Ted Kennedy.
He could have retired and lived a comfortable life decades ago, but instead he dedicated over forty years of his live as a public servant, working to make things better for ordinary Americans and acting as an outspoken advocate for more marginalized groups in our society- poor people, immigrants, gays, etc... This 1990 article from GQ has a nice summary of his legacy:
Even a partial listing of the major bills in whose passage Kennedy has played a part is impressive. Whether you admire them or not, these are the measures that transformed—mostly liberalized—America in our time: the first Immigration Reform Act; the Voting Rights Act and its extensions; the Freedom of Information Act; the Gun Control Act; the Campaign Financing Reform law; the Comprehensive Selective Service Reform Act; the Eighteen-Year-Old Vote law; the Occupational Safety and Health Act; the War on Cancer bills; the recodification of federal criminal laws; the Bilingual Education Act; the Fair Housing Acts; the Age Discrimination Act; the Airline and Trucking Deregulation bills; the Job Training Partnership Act; the South African sanctions; and the Grove City Civil Rights Restoration Act.
Far more than either of his brothers, who were lackluster senators, Kennedy, over the past three decades, has been responsible for changes in the complexion of this country and in the lives of its citizens. He has been an ally of blacks, American Indians, the poor, the sick, the aged, the mentally ill, starving refugees worldwide and immigrants. He has been an outspoken liberal, unafraid to take the controversial positions—on issues such as busing, abortion, gun control, the Vietnam War (late but forcefully), the nuclear freeze and capital punishment—that other senators clearly avoided.
Senator Kennedy spent his career standing up for the little guy, and we're a better country because of it.