Love; The Life of Ted Kennedy

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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.

I love you Ted Kennedy.  I have for a very long time.  Please let me count the ways.  

I have forever thought Senator Edward Moore Kennedy was the more effective, endearing, enduring, committed, and constant Kennedy.  Perhaps it is my age, or the lackluster logic of hindsight.  Possibly, I was too new to politics when I was very young.  After all, my interest was only ignited at the age of five.  Maybe, I might relate more to someone whose birth rank is more similar to my own, or to a person who, like me, throughout his life was thought to be more Liberal than the two older siblings he is often associated with.  I know not with certainty why I feel as strongly as I do.  Nonetheless, my impression of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Robert Francis Kennedy cannot be compared with my sense of Ted, Edward Moore Kennedy.  Oh, how I admired, appreciated, and adored Teddy Kennedy, and will for all of my days.  The reasons . . .  

I recall when we met.  No, we did not sit down to dinner.  We have no friends in common, at least none I am aware of.  I was but one of many who attended a very small gathering in Irvine, California.  I believe the year was  . . . indeed, I am uncertain. Although I trust it was well over a decade or two ago.  Less than forty persons were present.  Even that number may be an overestimation.  We who stood and spoke with Senator Kennedy were die-hard Democrats.  

For us, or at least for me, the legendary Kennedy charisma and charm that both John and Bobby were famous for would never has been of interest to me.  All of my life I have been attracted to those who actively address issues such as international harmony, health care coverage for all, civil liberties, human rights, equality, and education.  A man, woman, or child who learns from his or her experiences, and authentically empathizes with others, is, in my mind, a quality person.  Intelligence, consistency, and an intense sense to serve the average Americans, appeals to me.  I have long felt Edward M. Kennedy is the embodiment of what I think worthy.

Today, as a nation mourns the passing of a legacy, I too look back.  With thanks to Jezbel for what is admittedly but a summary of Senator Edward Moore Kennedy’s achievements, I submit to you dear reader some of the countless reasons I love the man I now mourn.  May we as a nation, not let the vision die.  As Senator Kennedy declared in 1980, “The dream lives on.”  It is alive and well in us, if only we act on our greater desire for global goodness.  “Teddy,” if I might be so familiar, may you, may we all, rest in peace.  May everyone remember what remains most meaningful.

The list is by no means comprehensive, but is meant to serve as a tribute to his work in public service.

Gender Equity: Kennedy saw [cosponsored] the Senate of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, which aimed to make men and women equal in the constitution. He reintroduced the legislation again this congressional session, but it has yet to make it into the constitution.

Kennedy championed Title IX of the Civil Rights Act in 1972, which prevented educational institutions from discriminating against women (afterward, colleges and universities integrated, paving the way for women like Sonia Sotomayor and Hillary Clinton to attend Ivy League institutions), as well as requiring equitable athletic opportunities.

Civil Rights:  Kennedy saw the passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 as committee chairman, which strengthened the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Afterward, then-executive director of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights Ralph Neas said, “Now you see what happens when you have a civil rights champion in charge of the committee.”

He was also chief sponsor on the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which addressed intentional discrimination and harassment in the workplace. He was also a key sponsor of legislation by the same name in 2008, which sought to restore civil rights protections stripped by Supreme Court rulings in recent years (like the Lilly Ledbetter case.)

Pay Equity:  Kennedy worked on the Fair Pay Restoration Act, which sought to restore the rights of women to sue with each discriminatory paycheck, overturning the Supreme Court ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear.

Voting Rights:  Kennedy worked on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed equal access to voting as part of the Civil Rights movement. He also worked to add amendments in 1982 that expanded voting access to Native Americans, Latinos, and others who required language assistance.

Affirmative Action:  Kennedy helped defeat legislation that would have ended federal affirmative action in 1998 and joined his colleagues in the Senate in filing a brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in 2003.

LGBT Rights:  Kennedy has been the chief sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act since 1994, which would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation in the workplace. The bill has yet to pass.

Hate Crimes:  Kennedy worked on the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2007, which would implement more severe penalties for crimes against women, gays, lesbians, and transgender persons. The bill was vetoed by President Bush in 2007, but the legislation has been reintroduced in the 110th Congress.

HIV/AIDS:  Kennedy introduced what became the Ryan White CARE Act, which addressed thirteen cities hit hardest by the HIV/AIDS crisis in 1990. When it was up for reauthorization in 2000, it provided nearly $9 billion in HIV/AIDS services over the following five years.

Domestic Violence:  Kennedy worked with Vice President Joe Biden on the 1994 Violence Against Women Act. He also worked on its reauthorization in 2000, which allowed immigrant women to apply for permanent status in the United States without their abusive partners.

Disability Equity:  Kennedy worked to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, which provided much-needed accommodations for those with disabilities.

Minimum Wage:  Kennedy worked with Congress in 2007 to pass the first hike in the minimum wage in more than a decade. Women disproportionately make up the population low-wage hourly workers.

Women in Combat:  Kennedy championed the repeal a ban of women in combat in 1991. Women are still technically barred from fighting on the “front lines,” such stipulations are meaningless in modern combat. By working for legislation that repealed archaic legislation, Kennedy helped women achieve more equality in the military.

Military Child Care:  In 1989, Kennedy saw the passage of the National Military Child Care Act, which established the Department of Defense’s child care program. This allowed working spouses of military members and women who were enlisted themselves to have access to high-quality, federally funded child care.

Health Insurance for Children and Pregnant Women:  In 1997, Kennedy co-sponsored the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), allowing families to have access to health care that previously didn’t. Kennedy also introduced legislation that has yet to pass, Affordable Health Care Act, which would expand Medicaid and SCHIP coverage for children, pregnant women, and the disabled.

He saw the passage of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in 1978, which made it illegal for employers to fire women for leave taken due to pregnancy. We still don’t require employers to provide paid maternity leave.

Minority Health Care:  Kennedy championed The Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act in 2000, which provided funding for research for how to reduce disparities in cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and other severe health problems that are found to be significantly higher in minority populations. In 2006, he introduced the Minority Health Improvement and Health Disparity Elimination Act, which would address inequalities in health care access and treatment if passed.

The Inclusion of Women in Scientific and Medical Research:  Kennedy co-sponsored the NIH Revitalization Act of 1993, legislation that called for the inclusion of women and minorities in federally funded clinical research.

Senator Kennedy, may you be with us all forever.  May each of us take you into our hearts and act as you always did.  May we keep the dream alive.  

References . . .

Kennedy Warns Vietnam is Back in Iraq ©

This afternoon I found myself mesmerized by Senator Ted Kennedy.  He was speaking on Iraq.  His words resonated within me.  They have great meaning.  I wish to share these with you; however, I wonder will you kill the messenger regardless.  Will you, dear reader be able to hear the wisdom of his words.  Many, over the last few decades denigrate the man and any message he might bring.  They do not consider that Ted Kennedy learned more than most of us might have, and that he may be among our greatest teachers.

I truly believe we all enter into an Earthly existence with purpose.  We are profound beings, each and every one of us.  Throughout the course of our lives, there are trials and tribulations.  We hurt.  The pain we feel is often prompted by our own actions, inactions, and reactions.  These are our building blocks.  They are the lessons learned if we choose to reflect.  Some of the circumstances in our life are not of our making, though they influence us; they impact our decisions.

I often wonder of Senator Ted Kennedy.  He has been through so much.  Many tragedies in his life were out of his control.  Two of his brothers were assassinated at very young ages.  He struggled with alcoholism, his and hers.  Many would argue Senator Kennedy harmed himself.  His decisions jeopardized his political career.  Most of us recall the driving accident at Chappaquiddick, Massachusetts.  A live was lost.  Nevertheless, Ted Kennedy lives, and I believe with great purpose.

Senator Ted Kennedy has been the lone voice in support of Universal health care for decades.  Finally, his sentiments are being heard and acted upon.  His ideas are now touted by others.  One can only hope that the lessons Edward Kennedy bestowed upon us all today will be embraced.  Senator Kennedy discussed the situation in Iraq and what he believes is best for the nation, all nations, and what behooves us [citizens of the United States of America.]

The Senator of stature, and a man I have great regard for states . . .

As the election in November made clear, the vast majority of Americans oppose the war in Iraq, and an even greater number oppose sending even more troops to Iraq today. 

The Senator reminds us and our President of policy and the principles our forefathers brought to bare.

The President is Commander-in-Chief, but in our democracy, he is still accountable to the people.  Our system of checks and balances gives Congress – as the elected representatives of the people – a central role in decisions on war and peace.

Today, therefore, I am introducing legislation to reclaim the rightful role of Congress and the people’s right to a full voice in the President’s plan to send more troops to Iraq.  Congressman Ed Markey of Massachusetts will introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives.  Our bill will say that no additional troops can be sent and no additional dollars can be spent on such an escalation, unless and until Congress approves the President’s plan.

Our proposal is a straightforward exercise of the power granted to Congress by Article I, section 8 of the Constitution.  There can be no doubt that the Constitution gives Congress the authority to decide whether to fund military action.  And Congress can demand a justification from the President for such action before it appropriates the funds to carry it out.

This bill will give all Americans – from Maine to Florida to California to Alaska and Hawaii – an opportunity to hold the President accountable for his actions.  The President’s speech must be the beginning – not the end – of a new national discussion of our policy in Iraq.  Congress must have a genuine debate over the wisdom of the President’s plan.  Let us hear the arguments for it and against it.  Then let us vote on it in the light of day.  Let the American people hear – yes or no – where their elected representatives stand on one of the greatest challenges of our time. 

Kennedy is asking his associates and constituents to be cognizant, not to act in haste as they did post September 11, 2001.  The senator reminds us

Until now, a rubber stamp Republican Congress has refused to hold the White House accountable on Iraq.  But the November election has dramatically changed all that.

Over the past two years, Democrats reached for their roots as true members of our Party.  We listened to the hopes and dreams of everyday Americans.  We rejected the politics of fear and division.  We embraced a vision of hope and shared purpose.  And the American people voted for change.

We campaigned as Democrats in 2006.  And we must govern as Democrats in 2007.  We have the solemn obligation now to show the American people that we heard their voices.  We will stand with them in meeting the extraordinary challenges of our day – not with pale actions, timid gestures, and empty rhetoric, but with bold vision, clear action, and high ideals that match the hopes and dreams of the American people.  That is our duty as Democrats and as Americans on the war in Iraq.

The American people sent a clear message in November that we must change course in Iraq and begin to withdraw our troops, not escalate their presence.  The way to start is by acting on the President’s new plan.  An escalation, whether it is called a surge or any other name, is still an escalation, and I believe it would be an immense new mistake.  It would compound the original misguided decision to invade Iraq.  We cannot simply speak out against an escalation of troops in Iraq.  We must act to prevent it. 

Thus far we have seen no actions.  Rhetoric is rampant.  Democrats in Congress are celebratory as they watch their “first one hundred hours” clock.  They are congratulatory; however there is no reason to party.  Innocent people in the streets of Iraq are losing life and limb.  Americans citizens are desperate too.  Billions of dollars are spent on a lost cause, and a war we cannot win.  We continue to supply the cash and now we will send more soldiers.

Our history makes clear that a new escalation in our forces will not advance our national security.  It will not move Iraq toward self-government, and it will needlessly endanger our troops by injecting more of them into the middle of a civil war.

Some will disagree.  Listen to this comment from a high-ranking American official: “It became clear that if we were prepared to stay the course, we could help to lay the cornerstone for a diverse and independent Asia?If we faltered, the forces of chaos would scent victory and decades of strife and aggression would stretch endlessly before us.  The choice was clear.  We would stay the course.  And we shall stay the course.”

That is not President Bush speaking.  It is President Lyndon Johnson, forty years ago, ordering a hundred thousand more American soldiers to Vietnam.

Here is another quotation.  “The big problem is to get territory and to keep it.  You can get it today and it will be gone next week.  That is the problem.  You have to have enough people to clear it?and enough people to preserve what you have done.”?
That is not President Bush on the need for more forces in Iraq.  It is President Johnson in 1966 as he doubled our military presence in Vietnam.

Those comparisons from history resonate painfully in today’s debate on Iraq.  In Vietnam, the White House grew increasingly obsessed with victory, and increasingly divorced from the will of the people and any rational policy.  The Department of Defense kept assuring us that each new escalation in Vietnam would be the last.  Instead, each one led only to the next.?

They say history repeats; however I think the truer statement is man replicates what was.  We fight each war to end all wars; yet, the battles never end!

There was no military solution to that war.  But we kept trying to find one anyway.  In the end, 58,000 Americans died in the search for it.

Echoes of that disaster are all around us today.  Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam.

As with Vietnam, the only rational solution to the crisis is political, not military.  Injecting more troops into a civil war is not the answer.  Our men and women in uniform cannot force the Iraqi people to reconcile their differences.

The open-ended commitment of our military forces continues to enable the Iraqis to avoid taking responsibility for their own future.  Tens of thousands of additional American troops will only make the Iraqis more resentful of America’s occupation.  It will also make the Iraqi government even more dependent on America, not less.

Can we truly continue to do as we have.  Will we do as we did in 2001.  Then, Americans accepted the plan the President proposed.  Our countrymen wanted to be safe and Mister Bush assured us he would protect us.  However, he let our young men and women do his duty.  They died for a cause not their own.  Today, before the President speaks we must decide, will Iraq be our Vietnam?

The history of Senator Edward M. Kennedy . . .

  • Sen. Kennedy says no more rubber stamp on Iraq YouTube.
  • Escalation is Not the Answer.  Time For Congress To Act, To Ensure Real Change in Iraq.  Senator Edward M. Kennedy United States Senator, Massachusetts
  • Kennedy fights ‘immense new mistake’ of troop surge.  Cable News Network. January 9, 2007
  • Kennedy: ‘Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam’. By Frank James.  Chicago tribune. January 9, 2007
  • Alcohol and politics often go hand in hand, By Mike Ferullo.  Cable News Network. November 3, 2000
  • Fall revives Joan Kennedy’s struggle with alcohol. By Associated Press.  St. Petersburg Times. April 2, 2005
  • Right to Health Care. Citizens’ Council on Health Care.
  • Kennedy: Massachusetts is One step Closer to Universal Health Care. Senator Edward M. Kennedy.  United Sates Senator for Massachusetts.
  • Massachusetts Could Serve as a Guide in California’s Health Insurance Bid, By Pam Belluck.  New York Times. January 10, 2007
  • pdf Massachusetts Could Serve as a Guide in California’s Health Insurance Bid, By Pam Belluck.  New York Times. January 10, 2007