I’m old enough, barely, to remember the John Kennedy Presidency, and all the hope and enthusiasm of that time. Then the renewed spirit of Bobby Kennedy’s run for the White House.
The Kennedy family is huge, and to this day members of the family enter public service, but the death last night of Ted Kennedy at age 77 marks the end of that original family dynasty. This is a family that has known way more than their share of tragedy, and perhaps the final tragedy is that Ted Kennedy’s life’s work of healthcare for all was not realized before his death.
“This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, “that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me—and more urgency—than ever before. But it’s always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.”— Ted Kennedy
He stood up as one of only fourteen Senators to vote against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. During the 2004 debate on a proposed federal constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Kennedy said:
“We all know what this issue is about. It’s not about how to protect the sanctity of marriage, or how to deal with activist judges. It’s about politics and an attempt to drive a wedge between one group of citizens and the rest of the country, solely for partisan advantage … The Constitution has never been used as a tool to entrench currently popular views at the expense of an unpopular minority – and it should not be used that way now.”
In 2007, Sen. Kennedy questionedPresident George Bush’s anti-gay nominee for Surgeon General, Dr. James Holsinger about a 1991 paper Holsinger wrote about the “Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality.” During the confirmation hearing, Kennedy called out the nominee for the paper’s “unscientific, biased, and incredibly poor scholarship.” Holsinger was never confirmed for the position.
Recently Kennedy was the chief sponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act and the fully-inclusive Employment Non-Descrimination Act.
The thing that most impressed me about this family was that these sons of privilege were instilled with the concept of nobilis oblige, and lived out that responsibility well. The United States Senate and our country lost a piece of our heart today with the death of Senator Kennedy, and we will be less for his passing.
From the opening of Faure’s Requiem: “Requiem eternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Rest eternal grant them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them.)”