Friday, August 28, 2009

Ted Kennedy: thank you from my whole family

Ted Kennedy was my senator longer than I have been on this earth. Like many of my fellow Massachusetts residents I have never known a time without Ted Kennedy. One of my earliest memories is when he granted my mother an interview in the late 80s while she was the editor of a small town newspaper. The photo of that meeting hung proudly in my grandmother's entryway until she died, now it sits on my mother's desk.

Outside of my Kennedy-loving family Ted is often a man deeply disliked. Sure, he's had a colorful history. The most noted incident was leaving the scene of a drunk driving accident and letting his coworker to drown off Martha's Vineyard. But I should think that all that he has done for the "little guy" should have been his repentance.

Every single one of you have benefited from him. It's astounding when you look at the list, and this just a very very very short blip of it. A complete list is on his website:

  • Created the Individuals with Disabilities Act
  • Expanded HIV/AIDS funding and research
  • In 1971 he quadrupled the amount of federal funding towards cancer research, tripling the staff of many of Boston's research hospitals.
  • Broadened health coverage to include mental disabilities and substance abuse disorders.
  • Led the fight to enact COBRA which extends health benefits after the loss of coverage (I was on COBRA for two years after college)
  • Along with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch he set up the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) helping states provide health care to low-income children
  • Introduced the Affordable Health Care Act lowering prescription costs and extending Medicare to pregnant women, legal immigrants and low income children.
  • Championed the Head Start program, providing early education to needy children.
  • And probably one of the single most important pieces of legislation was the 1972 Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC). This program offers food, access to health services for low-income women, infants and children and most importantly, nutritional counseling. In 2008 8.7 million people benefited from this program meaning our children are growing up with proper nutrition giving them an important start to their little lives.
Last night 20,000 people visited the Kennedy Library in South Boston to pay their respects to his flag draped coffin. The library extended viewing hours to 2 AM to accommodate the crowds. And WBRU reported people lining up this morning before dawn.

Yesterday afternoon a motorcade with his family and coffin left Hyannisport to travel towards Boston. Six hours later I left neighboring Dennisport on my way home from my mother's Cape house. It was very moving to see the signs and flags hanging from highway overpasses stating thanks to the Senator and saying goodbye. When I neared Boston the digital MassHighway signs usually announcing accidents and backups simply flashed "Thanks Ted".

As I passed the Kennedy Library with my sleeping eleven-month-old daughter in the back I whispered "thanks". The library was lit up like usual, a blazing beacon on the waterfront, emulating the sail boats the Kennedy brothers spent so much time on. My thanks was for me and my daughter who was born five weeks early. Both of us benefited from the funding Kennedy helped pass over the decades boosting health research. I don't like to think what health care in this country would be like without him. It would be even more broken that it is right now.

Kennedy was a man who fought for the little guy. A man that didn't need to work, came from wealth and privilege yet who dedicated his life to improving the lives of Americans and making sure we never had to worry about being sick, or how we're going to feed our children. He deserves our thanks. So "thanks Ted" from my whole family, I really hope the bill that will provide health coverage, now named the Kennedy Bill, will be realized soon so you can truly rest in peace.


  1. I remember when JFK was murdered, then RFK... those turbulent times made me feel as though all the Kennedy promise was gone. Nobody, especially me, expected Ted Kennedy to become a mover and a shaker, but he did. He rose to the occasion and surpassed my wildest dreams. I also owe him a debt of gratitude. I believe he learned what truth was through adversity, and fought for all of us every day of his life. Thanks, Ted.

  2. I am like DJan, I remember the assasinations of his brothers. I have deep respect for Senator Kennedy and the whole Kennedy family. They have devoted themselves to public service and scrutiny. Not many could endure the amount of criticism and pain that they have suffered.

    No one will ever be able to fill the shoes of Senator Kennedy. His is a great legacy. We will miss the noble Lion from Massachusettes.

  3. Kate - you're making me tear up. He was truly a champion for the everyday American. Thanks for such a lovely tribute. Sadly, the number of politicians that lead by their convictions are dwindling. This week we lost the benchmark for true bi-partisan leadership.

  4. Thank you all for your kind comments. RT, sorry to make you tear up. I, too, have found myself in tears more than a few times this week. I'm listening to the funeral service right now, torturing myself....

    and whomever linked this on Facebook thank you, Ive had many visitors via that site, now more people have heard my tribute. it gives me some solace and hope that his work will live on.


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