Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Edward Kennedy's lifelong passion: Public Service

Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009) was a United States Senator from Massachusetts and a member of the Democratic Party. First elected in November 1962, he was elected nine times and served for 46 years in the U.S. Senate. At the time of his death, he was the second most senior member of the Senate, and the third-longest-serving senator in U.S. history. For many years the most prominent living member of the Kennedy family, he was the son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., the youngest brother of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, both victims of assassinations, and the father of Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy.(Link Wikipedia)

The revelation in May 2008 that Senator Kennedy had a serious form of brain cancer sent tears and a stunned silence across the US Congress, where he is known as the 'liberal lion' for his unrelenting work of the liberal causes.

US President Barack Obama, the country's first president who received a strong, early endorsement from Kennedy, said after learning of his illness in 2008 that he "would not be sitting here as a presidential candidate had it not been for the battles Ted Kennedy has fought."

"I stand on his shoulders," Obama said.

Sen. Kennedy was responsible for more than 300 major bills of legislation that has been enacted into law. Kennedy opposed the Vietnam War, led the congressional fight to impose sanctions against South Africa over apartheid and succeeded in banning arms sales to Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet. He helped greatly in the long effort to bring peace to Northern Ireland. He also worked tirelessly on behalf of the poor on issues of social and economic justice, which his Meals on Wheels program for senior citizens dramatically underscores. But in all of those years, in all the causes he embraced, he called his vote against the resolution to sanction the Iraq war the “best vote” he ever cast.

Britain's prime minister Gordon Brown paid a generous tribute to Edward Kennedy, claiming that his record of public service “surpasses those of many presidents”.

He said, "Northern Ireland is today at peace; South Africa is free of apartheid; more children not only in his nation, but in the poorest nations, are going to school and have health care. We owe a great debt to the vision and courage of Ted Kennedy.”

With the US engaged in a major debate about the provision of health care, the Prime Minister said that to Mr Kennedy this was “the cause of his life”. Mr Brown said: “He never ceased fighting for universal health care. As he said only last month, we're almost there'. He did this not only for America but for the world. He knew that if a system of universal health care as a right and not a privilege could be achieved in the United States, others everywhere would be encouraged to take it up.”

Recalling his memories of meeting Kennedy, Mr Brown said he would remember him as the man who said: “The pursuit of the presidency is not my life; public service is.” He wrote: “His work teaches timeless lessons about serving the public — the need to reach out beyond ancient loyalties and old enmities, the need to unite rather than divide, our capacity to master the great issues.”

Kennedy died without achieving what he called 'the cause of his life'- the health care reform bill that he worked on four decades. Newsweek carries an article on Kennedy's fight for health care.

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