“What we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.” ~ Senator Ted Kennedy

“I came to believe that soon, very soon, affordable health coverage will be available to all, in an America where the state of a family’s health will never again depend on the amount of a family’s wealth.” ~ Senator Ted Kennedy

The following is taken from a post by Populista at Daily KOS. I am reprinting some of it here because I believe that this information far outweighs every stupid sign that makes my blood boil.

A few noteworthy statistics:

32 million of our brothers and sisters who would not have had healthcare coverage will have it because of this bill.

150,000 people who would have died will live because of this bill.

Our deficit will be reduced by $138 billion over the next decade because of this bill.

“The great unfunished business of our society” ~ Senator Ted Kennedy 

Before he died, Senator Ted Kennedy wrote President Obama a letter:

Dear Mr. President,

I wanted to write a few final words to you to express my gratitude for your repeated personal kindnesses to me—and one last time, to salute your leadership in giving our country back its future and its truth.

On a personal level, you and Michelle reached out to Vicki, to our family and me in so many different ways. You helped to make these difficult months a happy time in my life.

You also made it a time of hope for me and for our country.

When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the President who at long last signs into law the health care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. For me, this cause stretched across decades; it has been disappointed, but never finally defeated. It was the cause of my life. And in the past year, the prospect of victory sustained me—and the work of achieving it summoned my energy and determination.

There will be struggles—there always have been—and they are already underway again. But as we moved forward in these months, I learned that you will not yield to calls to retreat—that you will stay with the cause until it is won. I saw your conviction that the time is now and witnessed your unwavering commitment and understanding that health care is a decisive issue for our future prosperity. But you have also reminded all of us that it concerns more than material things; that what we face is above all a moral issue; that at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.

And so because of your vision and resolve,  And while I will not see the victory, I was able to look forward and know that we will—yes, we will—fulfill the promise of health care in America as a right and not a privilege.

In closing, let me say again how proud I was to be part of your campaign—and proud as well to play a part in the early months of a new era of high purpose and achievement. I entered public life with a young President who inspired a generation and the world. It gives me great hope that as I leave, another young President inspires another generation and once more on America’s behalf inspires the entire world.

So, I wrote this to thank you one last time as a friend—and to stand with you one last time for change and the America we can become.

At the Denver Convention where you were nominated, I said the dream lives on.

And I finished this letter with unshakable faith that the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.

With deep respect and abiding affection,
—Ted

The Least Among Us . . .

In good conscience, when I tried to choose which parts of the letter to reprint, I realized that I had to post all of the late Senator’s words. Ted Kennedy fought decades for healthcare reform, knowing that a country is only as great as its citizenry. If even a fraction of its citizenry is oppressed by economic factors that inhibit the ability to prosper—intellectually, physically, emotionally—then that country can never truly call itself great. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 15.9 percent of Americans do not have healthcare. Wow. Staggering.

For every angry tea bagger out there who carps that healthcare reform will take us down a dark road, I have one question: Are you proud of the fact that the United States, this glorious powerful country, is ranked with some of the smallest third world countries when it comes to infant mortality? All of your bombastic declarations will not hide the more shameful realities of how we as a nation treat the poorest in our population.

I am fairly certain that our Constitution says something about “we the people,” not “we, the fortunate people,” or “we, the only people who matter,” or “we, the people who are fine and everyone else is f*cked.” To form a more perfect union we first have to right the wrongs, rid the injustices, and create a more balanced playing field. Oh there I go again, being a wide-eyed idealist. How very stupid of me.

More later. Peace now, more than ever.

Ruthie Henshall, “I Dreamed a Dream”

The End of an Era

ted-kennedy_SLAHv1-horizontal

A Young Senator Kennedy

 

“I hope for an America where we can all contend freely and vigorously, but where we will treasure and guard those standards of civility which alone make this nation safe for both democracy and diversity.” ~ Senator Ted Kennedy, On Truth and Tolerance (1983)

Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy died today at the age of 77 after working tirelessly for the American people for over 47 years. This son of privilege focused his energies on those without: the underprivileged, the homeless, the children, the aged and infirmed—the ignored, the under-served, the invisible.

Senator Kennedy’s name is connected with some of the most groundbreaking bills to come to the floor of the U.S. Senate. He was a staunch supporter of healthcare reform, civil rights, immigration, Medicare and Medicaid, health insurance for children of the working poor, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Meals on Wheels for the elderly, family leave, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A Roman Catholic, Kennedy supported a woman’s right to choose, and was a powerful ally for the fight for abortion clinic access.

“Many in the scientific community are concerned that the president’s decision will delay development of cures for dread disease for many years, at the cost of countless lives and immeasurable suffering.”

Openly critical of former president Bush, especially over the war in Iraq, Kennedy still managed to work across party lines for the “No Child Left Behind” act, which increased funding for schools. And although the Senator stood behind former President Bush in the Rose Garden for photo ops, Kennedy never relented in pushing for those issues in which he so fervently believed.

Senator Kennedy lamented what he saw as the former administration’s short-sightedness in stem cell research and the issue of healthcare in general.

He decried the recklessness of the war, the waste of lives, the deception: “It’s now clear that from the very moment President Bush took office, Iraq was his highest priority as unfinished business from the first Bush Administration. His agenda was clear: find a rationale to get rid of Saddam.”

 “The Constitution does not just protect those whose views we share; it also protects those with whose views we disagree.”

A liberal’s liberal, Kennedy possessed a characteristic so lacking in most politicians of any party: He was willing to work both sides of the aisle, to fight, and most importantly, to compromise. Perhaps his death will help those involved in the current attempts at healthcare reform to regain focus, to move past the divisiveness, to move the spotlight back onto what really matters and away from the name-calling and inane comparisons to Nazis and genocide.

What Kennedy wanted most, and what he did not live to see, was a country that truly cared for its citizens, a country that embraced the idea of good healthcare for all, regardless of employment status, pre-existing conditions, age, race, or annual income. It was this fight above all that made me truly admire the Senator.

And my concerns over Senator Kennedy’s replacement stem from my strong desire to see actualized that which he fought for so vociferously, sometimes heatedly, always passionately.

“His voice roared as he battled for the poor and the victims of injustice yet he had a smile that could light a room, a laugh that would draw a crowd and a heart always ready to share your sorrow.” ~ Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin

Petraeus testifying photo by Chip Somodevilla
Senator Ted Kennedy (Photograph by Chip Somodevilla)

Kennedy, the last of the original Joseph Kennedy dynasty, spent many years as a man plagued by personal demons. In 1991, after years of being lambasted by critics and lampooned by comedians, Kennedy admitted to his foibles in a speech at Harvard: 

“I recognize my own shortcomings, the faults and the conduct of my private life,” he said in the distinctive Kennedy accent. “I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them.”

After marrying Washington lawyer Vicki Reggie, his second wife  in 1992, Kennedy seemed to be able finally to grow into the mantle of the Kennedy legacy. He lost weight, started taking better care of himself, and stopped partying as if he still belonged to another generation.

Many political pundits agree that Ted Kennedy came into his own in the latter part of his life. His “salad days” long gone, the senior senator took to the political battlefields with renewed energy and dedication.

In 2008, Senator Kennedy was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, but he surprised everyone when he appeared at the Democratic National Convention and declared his firm support for then candidate Barack Obama. The Senator’s endorsement of Obama over Hillary Clinton surprised many, but Kennedy believed that President Obama would be the best change for the American people:

“With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion. With Barack Obama we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.” ~ January 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama for president 

“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.” (Democratic National Convention 1980)

Ted Kennedy will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, a place he visited frequently to pay his respects not only to the two fallen brothers who preceded him, but also to the men and women who have served this nation, who are buried in this hallowed ground of lost heroes and remembered warriors.

Rest in peace, “Lion of the Senate.”

 

 

More later. Peace.