The Old Lion Has Died…

August 27, 2009

Senator Edward M. Kennedy

“The Old Lion Has Died.” These words which were originally written by Archibald “Archie” Roosevelt, the fifth son of Theodore Roosevelt, in a telegram on January 6, 1919  to inform the Roosevelt clan of the passing of their patriarch seem particularly fitting today, as Edward Kennedy (the Lion of the Senate) passed away Tuesday night after a prolonged battle with brain cancer. The nation has perceived that this event was coming, but still his passing marks an end of an era in American political history.

Edward (Ted) Kennedy (1932 – 2009)  is a complicated character in American History. He represents the grand tradition of the American political system, which stems from an affluent family who has  devoted itself to the cause of the general population, much like the Roosevelts of Theodore and Franklin’s  time.  The Kennedy’s have been an obsession for the American people for quite some time as their tragic fairytale has unfolded in the public arena for decades. Yet, this obsession originated with the good works of this family. As they are responsible for many radical changes within the American political structure and American society. This is clearly evident in the political ground forged by John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward Kennedy. But it may also be felt by the social change that Eunice Kennedy created through the Special Olympics. This passion that the American people have for the Kennedy’s was also, fueled by the unfortunate circumstances that surround the family. Those being most notably the assassinations of both John F. Kennedy, then 35thPresident of the United States, and Robert F. Kennedy, Senator from New York and Democratic Presidential candidate. Edward Kennedy did not escape the double edged sword of the Kennedy clan, as he gained political power he also gained public notoriety for his alcohol abuse, womanizing, and the ill-fated car accident in Chappaquiddick which ultimately lead to the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Where these events were tragic and and unforgettable, so to were the positive influence that Edward  held within the Senate.

In 1961, when Ted replaced his brother John as a Senator from Massachusetts. That position has been continually held since his passing Tuesday. From the beginning, Ted Kennedy has worked tirelessly on bills that would promote progressive change including:  civil rights acts, acts on “immigration reform, criminal code reform, fair housing, public education, health care, AIDS research, and a variety of programs to aid the poor. On the Senate Judiciary Committee, he upheld liberal positions on abortion, capital punishment, and busing.”1 Edward Kennedy, as the stalwart of Democratic thinking accomplished many of these feats on his pure power as a Democratic leader and his finely attunedpolitical oration; however, an equal share of these bills came into existence  through bipartisan friendships with conservative Republicans.  The most notable alliances were with Senators Nancy Kassebaum, John McCain, and Orrin Hatch. The latter being of particular significance as the friendship of Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy is well documented.

Even with all of these great legislative accomplishments, Ted Kenndy’s  most important piece of legislation has yet to be written, that being Healthcare reform, which the late Senator called the, “cause of my life.” Healthcare became an important position for Senator Kennedy after he suffered serious spinal injuries following a 1964 plane crash. That accident left left the Senator in constant pain. Since that moment, Senator Kennedy has paid particular interest to the cause of Healthcare. Even President Barack Obama recognized Edward Kennedy’s importance to the role of Healthcare reform, as the President beseeched Senator Kennedy to continue his efforts on creating a workable solution for the American people. 

At this moment this particular topic seems grimly ironic as Ted’s final year has been marred with emergency visits to the hospital, until he finally succumb to wide effects of brain cancer.   This is a topic, which will most likely gain more momentum with the passing of the senior Senator from Massachusetts.

Funeral arrangements have been made. There will be a funeral mass in Boston, Massachusetts and afterwards the body of the Senator will be moved to Arlington National Cemetery. There his body will be interred close to those of his brothers.

“I think about my brothers every day,” Kennedy told Reuters. “They set high standards. Sometimes you measure up, sometimes you don’t.” Senator Kennedy’s life fits this quote completely. For those of us remaining behind we need to reflect on his political career as one that has impacted our lives. And whether or not we be Republicans or Democrats we should take a moment to respect his accomplishments and pause in commemoration of his passing and of the passing of a great American family. 

For further biographical information, please look at the following stories, which aided this tribute.





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