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.
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.