Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy was one of the most effective Senators in the last century, serving the institution longer than all but two other Senators in US history. But perhaps most impressive about Kennedy was his tendency to stick to his morals, even in the face of extreme derision. He was a favorite target of conservatives throughout his tenure, but seldom veered from his fight to provide basic rights and services to all Americans, focusing especially on the poor, the sick, the disabled, children, minorities, and immigrants.

Kennedy came from a very affluent family, yet followed in his brothers’ footsteps to work as hard as he could for those who do not have a voice. The words “liberal” and “conservative” are thrown around almost arbitrarily nowadays, and Kennedy has been dubbed the “Liberal Lion” of the Senate, but what is far more valuable is to look past his ideology and at what he was actually able to accomplish. He helped to pass landmark bills that gave hope to immigrants, funded research on cures for fatal illnesses, protected voter rights, made life easier for those with disabilities, gave rights to those who had been denied them, provided health insurance to the old and the young, and sought to improve the national education system.

Throughout his life, Ted Kennedy tried to provide quality, affordable health care to all Americans, including the 45 million who are still uninsured today. He saw government as a guardian and a helping hand, and a mechanism for helping those most in need. While the current conservative messaging platform centers largely on exacerbating public concerns about government spending and taxation, maybe it would serve the country better to, in Kennedy’s spirit, have an honest debate about the value of providing health care—as a fundamental human right—to all Americans.

We can all learn something from the Lion’s work ethic, perseverance, tolerance, and generosity. If there were more Senators like Ted Kennedy today, the discourse in this country would no doubt be far more civil, and far more Americans would be better off. Rest in peace, Senator.

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