Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Death of Ted Kennedy

I have thought long and hard about whether, and how, I would comment on the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. There is no doubt he was an incredibly effective and powerful senator, and was integral in the passage of some incredibly important legislation. In addition, he was a man of who faced almost unfathomable tragedy, from the death of all three of his brothers, a plane crash, and bad health. Ultimately, however, he was a man who used his position of privilege and wealth to avoid responsibility for the death of another person. Like Robert Byrd's membership in the KKK, that incident is something that will, and in my opinion should, define his life.

However, there is no question that instead of dwelling on his life's limitations, he worked to overcome his past by doing great works for the public interest. His talent was the ability to craft and pass legislation with long lasting human benefits. Civil Rights was one of his focuses.

It was this arena in which his death has irony, poignancy, and in my position, is being under reported. President Barack Obama will be giving the eulogy at his funeral. The first major piece of legislation that Senator Kennedy pushed was the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A Bill that was intended, and did in fact, give African American's basic human rights in the United States. A bill that was in trouble at the time of the death of his brother, Jack Kennedy. Ted used the outpouring of grief to change the tenor in Congress, and push that bill through. 45 years later, the 45th President of the United States was sworn in; our first African American President. That was, and in an exclamation point on the success of that Bill.

Today, we face another civil rights issue, that being access to affordable health care. Without health care, noone is free from the fear of sickness without care. There was no more passionate Senator in favor of access to health care than Senator Kennedy. From Medicare to schip, Kennedy is was always pushing for increased access for all to health care.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if some senator and congressperson, from either party, took up the mantel of health care reform and used the death of Senator Kennedy to fulfill is mission and goal. In 45 years who will be giving his or her eulogy?

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