Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy (1932-2009)

What a tremendous, sad loss. One of the most influential senators in U.S. history is dead before his time at 77. Here's his family's official statement:

Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. 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. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.

Here's the Washington Post and New York Times obituaries. (Their related features should be linked on those pages.) Ted Kennedy's older sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics, died earlier this month on August 11th. The line that's always stuck with me comes from a 2002 interview Ted Kennedy did with Esquire: "There isn't a day that goes by when I don't think about my brothers."

The WaPo has a 5 minute clip of his 1980 concession speech, and via Digby comes this from last year:

Ted Kennedy admitted to his flaws. Politics can and does appeal to egos and vanity, and a healthy self-image is a necessity. But politics can also appeal to those who want to serve. As the obituaries note, Kennedy was tremendously popular in the Senate, and while he was a staunch, proud liberal, he was willing to work with those Republicans interested in practical solutions. Despite being born into privilege, Ted Kennedy was one of Congress' most stalwart champions for the underprivileged. He fought passionately for raising the minimum wage, for health care, and other measures to help average Americans and the poor. I'm hard pressed to think of an American family that has given and sacrificed more for the country than the Kennedys. I'm quite sad Ted Kennedy didn't live to see a good health care bill finally passed, and I wish he had been healthy enough to fight for it in committee. Passing a good bill would be the best and greatest tribute to his life's work. But condolences and best wishes to his family and many friends, and rest in peace.


Tom Degan said...

“….to speak for those who have no voice; to remember those who are forgotten; to respond to the frustration and fulfill the aspiration of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land….for all those whose cares have been our concern, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

Edward Moore Kennedy, August 12, 1980

The lion sleeps.

I’ll never forget the night Ted Kennedy gave that speech at the Democratic National Convention after failing to win his party’s nomination for the presidency. I was staying in a one-room kitchenette in Liverpool, NY, just outside of Syracuse. It was - and remains - the greatest political oration of my lifetime. Watching the event on a small, black and white TV I instinctively knew I was witnessing one of those sublime moments in American history that would be remembered a century into the future.

Teddy Kennedy died late last night at the age of seventy-seven. In a life that is littered with ironies, here’s the biggest one of all: His three older brothers - Joe, Jack and Bobby - are eternally frozen in our imagination as the personifications of youth. How poignant that our final image of the baby of that family will be as an old man, frail and mortally ill.

When he first ran for the senate forty-seven years ago, I was all of four years old. Had I been writing about politics then it is a fairly good bet that I would have vehemently opposed the candidacy of Edward Moore Kennedy. Let’s be honest; in 1962 the guy was a lightweight. He ran for the Democratic nomination against another young man, Edward McCormick, whose uncle was the speaker of the House of Representatives. During a debate McCormick told him that were it not for his name, his candidacy would be viewed as a joke. It was a point well made. It is obvious when looking at film of that campaign that our boy Ted is in way over his head.

Whom among us would have dared dream all those years ago that this punk would one day evolve into the greatest senator ever to walk those halls?

An incredible realization just came to me: Teddy represented the state of Massachusetts for forty-six years, eight months and nineteen days. That is nearly three months longer than all the years his older brother Jack lived on earth. This truly is the end of an era, folks.


Tom Degan
Goshen, N

derek said...

That’s a terrible thing for American…and the world; we all lost a great man and also a long legacy of family patriots and supporters to the American people and politics. We will miss you. Condolences to the family.