The death of Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts late last evening is an immense loss to the nation.
Kennedy certainly had his critics and naysayers, and not all of the criticism is undeserved.
This man was exasperating much of the time in his personal life, particularly when he was middle aged and stupid and reckless, as for instance when he was driving drunk in Martha’s Vineyard, and drove his car into a canal at Chappaquiddick, nearly causing his own drowning death, and actually causing the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, who was with him at a party he should not have been at, since he was a married man. Many have said he murdered her, but that is not true, but still his wild, reckless behavior is rightfully condemned.
Ted often seemed undirected, as when he decided to challenge President Carter in 1980, and yet could not explain WHY he wanted to be President. That, plus the fact that the Chappaquiddick affair besmirched his reputation for all time, prevented him from ever reaching the Presidency.
But after continuing to womanize, drink too heavily, and divorce the mother of his three children, he finally grew up and married his second wife in 1992, and that seemed to stabilize his existence, and one could say that FINALLY at age 60, he grew up and began to act responsibly.
At the same time that Ted misbehaved in a horrible way for so many years, he also dedicated himself to a life’s work fighting for the poor, the disadvantaged, the sick, the elderly, the working people, and racial and ethnic minorities. He headed the Judiciary Committee and later the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, fought for a higher minimum wage and education reform, and promoted the concept of universal health care, his last great battle of many in the Senate.
He managed to make friends of Republican colleagues, who often fought him on many issues, but respected him greatly despite their ideological differences. Among those he worked well with were Arizona Senator John McCain and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch.
Kennedy gained the name LION OF THE SENATE, and he is going to be much missed by all of his Senate colleagues who knew him to be a man of great energy and tremendous commitment to the causes he believed in.
Kennedy also did many small deeds in his home state of Massachusetts and in the city of Washington, DC, without wanting attention or publicity to be brought to his activities, such as reading to elementary school classes in the capital city and visiting hospitals.
He was constantly in the limelight, but did not seek constant attention, and always demonstrated a good sense of humor and tons of compassion, seeing his luck of being born wealthy as the opportunity to serve others and give back to the nation.
Franklin D. Roosevelt once stated that a person who dedicates his life to those less fortunate is more to be remembered and revered, than one who spends his lifetime enriching himself and displaying greed and lack of concern for those below him. This is the true meaning of our existence, and our western religions teach that we should follow the road of compassion, concern, and good deeds and not be greedy, selfish, or self centered.
Ted Kennedy was a great servant to his country and the world, and he is really irreplaceable.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that Ted Kennedy will be ranked as one of the most prominent, influential senators of all time, certainly in the top ten of our history since 1789, and as the giant of the last 30 years in particular, for sure. He might have been in opposition most of the time with Republican Presidents, but he still left a heavy footprint on his times and provided us with an amazing legacy.
It can be hoped that his death will promote a substantial reform of health care in his honor, and because it is right to bring about such a change.
He will be buried alongside his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, so Americans will be able to visit and come to realize the tremendous impact this family had on American history.
Ted, we will never forget you, and may you rest in peace!