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 . . .

Bush Invokes Vietnam Analogy; Insists On Victory In Iraq

Bush’s Speech on Iraq and Asian Wars

copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert

Today history was made or perhaps, rewritten.  On this date, August 22, 2007, the President of the United States of America, who has long declared there is no comparison between the flawed and failed American involvement in Vietnam and the protracted and poorly planned engagement in Iraq made one.  In truth, he offered many.  George W. Bush, in a very lengthy speech, delivered to the Veterans of Foreign Wars documented world history in a manner that mesmerized people throughout the planet.  Some thought his words wise; other decidedly disagreed.  Mister Bush brilliantly crafted the content of his speech in hopes of promoting support for his program, the surge.

Worldwide people pondered the intent of the prose and the broader significance.  Missives can be woven carefully.  Meanings manipulated.  Constructs contrived, and the effects can be innumerable. is concerned that messages are easily shaped in support of a desired spin.

On Monday, Hillary Clinton told a crowd, “We’ve begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it’s working.” And on Tuesday, Barack Obama said, “My assessment is that if we put an addition 30,000 of our outstanding troops in Baghdad it is going to quell some of the violence short term.”

Now, the Washington Times is using those quotes to suggest that Democrats are embracing President Bush’s surge strategy. The headline reads: “Democrats See ‘Results’ in Iraq.”

History is easily manufactured to mean what we wish it to denote.  His story or hers is a unique perspective; that is unavoidable.  However, a President, particularly the Commander-In-Chief of the world’s greatest superpower has the wherewithal to create more than a note.  This man [or woman] can and does affect lives throughout the globe.

Many historians thought the President’s assessment much folly.  While a few experts admit Mister Bush was accurate in some respects, they opined his statements ultimately were incorrect.  Without the advent of this American-led war, circumstances in Vietnam would have not been as they were.

President Bush is right on the factual record, according to historians.  But many of them also quarreled with his drawing analogies from the causes of that turmoil to predict what might happen in Iraq should the United States withdraw.

“It is undoubtedly true that America’s failure in Vietnam led to catastrophic consequences in the region, especially in Cambodia,” said David C. Hendrickson, a specialist on the history of American foreign policy at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

“But there are a couple of further points that need weighing,” he added.  “One is that the Khmer Rouge would never have come to power in the absence of the war in Vietnam – this dark force arose out of the circumstances of the war, was in a deep sense created by the war.  The same thing has happened in the Middle East today.  Foreign occupation of Iraq has created far more terrorists than it has deterred.”

Nonetheless, the words of George W. Bush are his truth and could become our policy.  What the President says carries enormous weight.  President Bush marches on as he leads us all into an unwarranted battle.  A man that chose to avoid the frontlines in his youth, and rarely if ever ventures to the fields now, felt a need to justify this American-Iraq War and demonstrate that his legacy will live large and be labeled a successful endeavor to establish democracy worldwide. 

Mister Bush explained it is in the best interest of the United States that we continue to work until we stabilize Iraq.  Today, as on every other day, the Commander-In-Chief disregarded calls from Generals who spoke out from the start. He ignored the notion that the Iraq war was a mistake.  Whispers suggest President Bush will defy the logic of experts in defense again.  Some say even General Petraeus will state we must lower expectations; we cannot expect Iraqis to embrace democracy. Many recognize the White House may merely frame the General’s words to meet the President’s wants.  The citizens know, Congress understands Mister Bush prefers to stay the course no matter the human or monetary cost.  For President Bush history, or his story is reality.

Finally, there’s Vietnam. This is a complex and painful subject for many Americans. The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech. So I’m going to limit myself to one argument that has particular significance today. Then as now, people argued the real problem was America’s presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end. . .

Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There’s no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America.  (Applause.)  Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like “boat people,” “re-education camps,” and “killing fields.”

There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today’s struggle — those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001.  In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that “the American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today.”

His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda’s chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to “the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents.”

Zawahiri later returned to this theme, declaring that the Americans “know better than others that there is no hope in victory. The Vietnam specter is closing every outlet.”  Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility — but the terrorists see it differently.

We must remember the words of the enemy.  We must listen to what they say. Bin Laden has declared that “the war [in Iraq] is for you or us to win. If we win it, it means your disgrace and defeat forever.”  Iraq is one of several fronts in the war on terror — but it’s the central front — it’s the central front for the enemy that attacked us and wants to attack us again.  And it’s the central front for the United States and to withdraw without getting the job done would be devastating. (Applause.)

If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened, and use their victory to gain new recruits. As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home.  And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Recently, two men who were on the opposite sides of the debate over the Vietnam War came together to write an article. One was a member of President Nixon’s foreign policy team, and the other was a fierce critic of the Nixon administration’s policies.  Together they wrote that the consequences of an American defeat in Iraq would be disastrous.

Here’s what they said: “Defeat would produce an explosion of euphoria among all the forces of Islamist extremism, throwing the entire Middle East into even greater upheaval. The likely human and strategic costs are appalling to contemplate.  Perhaps that is why so much of the current debate seeks to ignore these consequences.”  I believe these men are right.

In Iraq, our moral obligations and our strategic interests are one. So we pursue the extremists wherever we find them and we stand with the Iraqis at this difficult hour — because the shadow of terror will never be lifted from our world and the American people will never be safe until the people of the Middle East know the freedom that our Creator meant for all.  (Applause.)

I recognize that history cannot predict the future with absolute certainty.  I understand that.  But history does remind us that there are lessons applicable to our time.

Apparently, the reason Mister Bush does not authentically learn from the past, is because he writes his own version of what was.  What is most distressing for me is that President Bush is not alone.  The veterans in the audience applauded.  Many saw or heard George W. Bush speak in September 2001, and even on this day, thought the man persuasive.

Might we recall that the past is painted and is easily tainted to appease the masses or the man.  On April 14, 2004, George W. Bush avowed any attempt to equate the two American lead wars was erroneous. 

Q. Mr. President, April is turning into the deadliest month in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, and some people are comparing Iraq to Vietnam and talking about a quagmire. Polls show that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half Americans now support it.  What does that say to you and how do you answer the Vietnam comparison?

A. Yeah, I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy is – sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy.

Yet, this morning the man who diligently avoided active service during the Vietnam conflict devoted much time to draw a parallel.  In a lengthy speech, Mister Bush argued the situation in Iraq is similar to what was in Vietnam.  Senator Ted Kennedy, form Democrat from Massachusetts made the argument months ago.  Senator Ted Kennedy thought the similarities striking and said so.

Senator Kennedy: “Iraq is George Bush’s Vietnam”

Today, we must decide for ourselves, which historical account will we ascribe to.  War is good; it brings peace and [forcefully imposed] democracy, or only people can work together as one if we are to give rise to harmony.  For me, there is no other option.  Diplomacy, face-to-face interactions, amongst world leaders and the common folk, are the only avenue towards understanding. 

President Bush cannot and does not speak for me.  Hillary Clinton’s claims that warfare might work do not deliver me from judgments of “evil.”  Words of a temporary reduction of violence, no matter the intent do not quell my fears.  Senator Barack Obama does not restore a faith I never had in combat.  I believe as Buddha offered.

Believe nothing,
no matter where you read it,
or who said it,
no matter if I have said it,
unless it agrees with your own reason
and your own common sense.

~ Buddha

Prefer to pounce as we have for centuries, or Give Peace a Chance . . .

  • President Bush Attends Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention, Discusses War on Terror,  Office of the Press Secretary.  August 22, 2007
  • “Democrats See ‘Results’ in Iraq.” By S.A. Miller.  Washington Times. August 21, 2007
  • Ex-General Gives His Take on Iraq War, In His Memoir, Franks Also Seems Supportive of the Bush Administration. By Thomas E. Ricks. Washington Post.  Sunday, August 1, 2004; Page A10
  • Retired generals rising up against Iraq war, By Erin Solaro.  Seattle Post Intelligencer. April 16, 2006
  • Why Iraq Was a Mistake. By Lieutenant General Greg Newbold.  Time Magazine. April 9, 2006
  • Historians divide on Vietnam’s lessons for Iraq, By Thom Shanker.  the International Herald Tribune.  August 22, 2007
  • Bush Cites Past Conflicts to Urge Staying In Iraq. The New York Times. August 22, 2007
  • pdf Bush Cites Past Conflicts to Urge Staying In Iraq. The New York Times. August 22, 2007
  • Press Briefing by Tony Snow. Office of the Press Secretary.  August 1, 2007
  • Transcript of Bush’s Remarks on Iraq: ‘We Will Finish the Work of the Fallen.’  The New York Times.  April 14, 2004