Wednesday, August 26, 2009

EDNA Supporter, "Lion of the Senate" Ted Kennedy dies at 77

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Ma.) has died at the age of 77 after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. The last of the Kennedy brothers served over 46 years in the U.S. Senate and became the patriarch of America's most enduring political family after the assassinations of brothers John and Bobby in the 1960's. Eldest Kennedy brother Joe died while serving in World War II.

Ted Kennedy's life was plagued by controversy. His exploits as a womanizing playboy were well documented by the press throughout the 60's and 70's. In July, 1969 a car driven by Kennedy after a party, went off the road and into the water off Chappaquiddick, Ma., killing passenger Mary Jo Kopekne, a young woman who worked on the presidential campaign of older brother Bobby Kennedy.

The younger Kennedy was only charged with leaving the scene of an accident. What became known as the Chappaquiddick Incident would dog the senator throughout his career and was seen as the primary cause for his loss in his 1972 run for president.

Ted Kennedy was truly a fierce advocate for LGBT rights. He tried for many years to pass a gay-friendly Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). This year he saw his dream fulfilled when the senate passed a version of ENDA that not only included anti-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals, but also transgendered Americans.

Most recently, Ted Kennedy lead the charge for health care reform, fighting to ensure that all Americans had access to affordable, quality medical care.

Growing up in a large Irish-Catholic family, we always identified with the Kennedy Clan. My dad's family is from Massachusetts, so the Kennedys' signature New England accent, which sounded odd to most Americans, sounded warm and familiar to us. In the sitting room of my grandmother's modest Sudbury, Ma. home were three photographs on the wall, hung vertically. From top to bottom, they were Jesus, John F. Kennedy and the pope.

He was a political lightning rod who was able to reach across party lines to get the job done. Love him of hate him, there will never be another Ted Kennedy.

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