U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, an American icon, dies

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U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, an American icon, lost his bout with cancer late Tuesday night (August 25). He was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in May 2008.

Kennedy served in the United States Senate for 47 years, the 3rd longest serving senator in U.S. history, and authored more than 2,500 bills throughout his public service career. Of those bills, several hundred have become Public Law.

There were victories and there were defeats, but Kennedy was a man with a sense of purpose, fairness and justice, an inspiration to many; even to those who never came in contact with him but watched him from afar.

He was an icon, a legend. He left his footprints in the sands of time, planting many good seeds throughout his public service career. He was a staunch advocate of healthcare reform and championed the cause for universal healthcare for all Americans.

In 2006, Kennedy was elected to an 8th full term. He worked with 10 presidents. He passed the torch onto President Barack Obama when he endorsed Obama over an establishment Democrat in the 2008 presidential campaign.

 In a statement released by the Kennedy family, it stated that “Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port (Massachusetts).”

Known as the “lion of the Senate”, Kennedy reached across both sides of the aisle and across party lines, yet, he was comfortable being a liberal. He was a great public servant and orator. He had a way with words that made many feel a part of…and he knew just where to place emphasis on words.

President Obama called him a colleague, counselor and friend who etched his place in history as a “singular figure” on the American political landscape.

“Even though we knew this day was coming, we awaited it with no small amount of dread,” said Obama. “For his family, he was a guardian. For America, he was a defender of a dream.”

Obama said he “cherished” Kennedy’s confidence and momentous support in his race for the presidency.

Obama added: “An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.”

Others voicing sadness over Senator Kennedy’s death were:

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch:

“Today America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant, and leader of the Senate. And today I lost a treasured friend. Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy’s name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi:

“Today, with the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the American people have lost a great patriot, and the Kennedy family has lost a beloved patriarch.  Over a lifetime of leadership, Senator Kennedy’s statesmanship and political prowess produced a wealth of accomplishment that has improved opportunity for every American.
 
Senator Kennedy had a grand vision for America, and an unparalleled ability to effect change.  Rooted in his deep patriotism, his abiding faith, and his deep concern for the least among us, no one has done more than Senator Kennedy to educate our children, care for our seniors, and ensure equality for all Americans. 
 
Ted Kennedy’s dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration.
 
Sadly, Senator Kennedy left us exactly one year after he inspired the nation with his speech of optimism, vitality, and courage at the Convention in Denver…”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:

 “The Kennedy family and the Senate family have together lost our patriarch.  My thoughts, and those of the entire United States Senate, are with Vicki, Senator Kennedy’s children, his many nieces and nephews, and his entire family.  “It was the thrill of my lifetime to work with Ted Kennedy.  He was a friend, the model of public service and an American icon.


“As we mourn his loss, we rededicate ourselves to the causes for which he so dutifully dedicated his life.  Senator Kennedy’s legacy stands with the greatest, the most devoted, the most patriotic men and women to ever serve in these halls.

Because of Ted Kennedy, more young children could afford to become healthy.  More young adults could afford to become students.  More of our oldest citizens and our poorest citizens could get the care they need to live longer, fuller lives.  More minorities, women and immigrants could realize the rights our founding documents promised them.  And more Americans could be proud of their country.
 
Ted Kennedy’s America was one in which all could pursue justice, enjoy equality and know freedom.  Ted Kennedy’s life was driven by his love of a family that loved him, and his belief in a country that believed in him.  Ted Kennedy’s dream was the one for which the founding fathers fought and for which his brothers sought to realize.
 
The liberal lion’s mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die.”

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan:

“I was terribly saddened to hear of the death of Ted Kennedy tonight. Given our political differences, people are sometimes surprised by how close Ronnie and I have been to the Kennedy family. But Ronnie and Ted could always find common ground, and they had great respect for one another. In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research, and I considered him an ally and a dear friend. I will miss him.”

As a news reporter, I met Senator Kennedy in 1983 when he visited the Windy City (Chicago) and endorsed Harold Washington, an African-American, for mayor of Chicago in the general election. It was a campaign where racism, early on in the primary election, had raised its ugly head. In the end, Washington, a former U.S. Congressman, won the primary election.

Kennedy, calling the mayoral election in Chicago a national election, urged unity despite the divisiveness of the primary election. He said “Washington has been a leader in Chicago and in the Congress.

“He won the Democratic primary fairly, and I’m confident he will be one of the great leaders in the history of the city,” Kennedy said.

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There are quotes from two speeches made by Kennedy that stay with many of us; the one after folding his campaign for President in 1980, and when delivering the eulogy at his brother’s (former U.S. Attorney Robert Kennedy) funeral.

Closing out his failing presidential campaign in Madison Square Garden, Kennedy stated: “For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

When delivering his brother’s eulogy, Kennedy stated: “My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life,” he said at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. “He should be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.”

Kennedy’s death is a sad time for America. A legend and icon, a devoted public servant, Kennedy left a great legacy of public service, one of sharing and caring for others.

 

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