Senator Ted Kennedy, the Liberal Lion, has succumbed to his battle with brain cancer. He was 77.
Kennedy, was the last son of “one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate.”
Last week, when the news broke of Senator Ted Kennedy’s letter to Governor Patrick concerning the issue of choosing his successor, I knew his time was near. Yet, this morning when I turned on my computer and found that Ted Kennedy had passed, the shock was no less for having known this day would come:
“Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port,” the statement said. “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.”
Like many liberals of the generation that lived through the loss of John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy was a hero to me. The great Liberal Lion of the U.S. Senate will roar no more, but his legacy in the Senate will be remembered:
Mr. Kennedy left his mark on legislation concerning civil rights, health care, education, voting rights and labor. He was chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions at his death. But he was more than a legislator. He was a living legend whose presence ensured a crowd and whose hovering figure haunted many a president.
Although he was a leading spokesman for liberal issues and a favorite target of conservative fund-raising appeals, the hallmark of his legislative success was his ability to find Republican allies to get bills passed. Perhaps the last notable example was his work with President George W. Bush to pass No Child Left Behind, the education law pushed by Mr. Bush in 2001. He also co-sponsored immigration legislation with Senator John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. One of his greatest friends and collaborators in the Senate was Orrin Hatch, the Utah Republican.
Mr. Kennedy had less impact on foreign policy than on domestic concerns, but when he spoke his voice was influential. He led the Congressional effort to impose sanctions on South Africa over apartheid, pushed for peace in Northern Ireland, won a ban on arms sales to the dictatorship in Chile and denounced the Vietnam War. In 2002, he voted against authorizing the Iraq war; later, he called that opposition “the best vote I’ve made in my 44 years in the United States Senate.”
Rest in peace Senator Kennedy. The indelible mark you left on Massachusetts, America and the world will live on forever.