Aug. 25, 2009 marked the end of an era in American culture with the passing of the legendary Sen. Edward M. Kennedy after his year-long struggle against brain cancer.
As the youngest brother of the slain President John F. Kennedy and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Ted was the patriarch of the historic Kennedy family.
During his nearly five decades of public service to the people of Massachusetts, the Democratic senator became known as the “Liberal Lion” for his tenacity and commitment to advancing a progressive agenda.
Although from a wealthy family, he fought for those less fortunate and the individuals considered forgotten by society.
Even at times when personal struggles and tragedies were present, he still believed in helping others.
Kennedy was a strong leader and supporter of civil rights, education, labor, immigration and especially health care.
Kennedy grew to become a hero to many members of the Democratic Party and believers of the liberal movement.
His mere name also became a fund-raising tool for Republican candidates across the country wishing to oppose his stances on key issues.
Kennedy had a great understanding of the workings of the Senate.
He developed a knack for when to push his colleagues and when to settle for a compromise.
John Carroll University political science professor Dean Birch said, “[his political legacy was] his mastery of the legislative process in terms of both policy substance and senatorial procedure, and of being able to achieve a working compromise with the opposition without losing sight of his liberal goals and objectives.”
In the end, his legislative record was impeccable. Some of his most important accomplishments were the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act.
Upon hearing the news of his death, politicians from his own party, across the aisle, and around the world expressed their heartfelt condolences and deep admiration for this iconic figure.
Republican Orrin Hatch, who was strongly opposed to many of Kennedy’s legislative efforts, remembered his colleague as a “treasured friend,” according to a statement on his senate Web site.
Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said, “Ted Kennedy will be remembered with great affection and enduring respect here in Ireland. Ted Kennedy was a great friend of Ireland,” according to Agence France-Presse.
The wide array of sympathy was expressed not only due to his immense talents as a legislator, but also his legacy as a caring colleague and friend.
CNN reported on Aug. 29 that President Barack Obama called Kennedy “not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.”
The Kennedy family elected for his passing to be treated as a celebration and remembrance of his life rather than a time of great sadness.
Both individuals close to Kennedy and those who only knew him from afar were given a chance to say their good byes.
The Friday after his death, thousands of people flocked to the John F. Kennedy Museum and Library in Boston to see Sen. Kennedy lie in repose.
Later that night, friends and family of Sen. Kennedy came together to celebrate and share stories of his life.
The funeral mass on Aug. 29 was held at Boston’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica. His sons, Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Ted Kennedy Jr., gave heart-felt remembrances of their beloved father.
President Obama also gave a powerful eulogy in which he called Kennedy, “the soul of the Democratic Party,” according to The New York Times.
Kennedy’s body then traveled to Washington, D.C., where it stopped at the steps of the Capitol building, where hundreds of Senate staff members waited to say their last farewells before he was laid in his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery near his brothers John and Bobby.
Kennedy leaves behind his wife Vicki, his children Kara, Patrick, Edward Jr., Curran and Caroline and thousands of friends and supporters.
Individuals who wish to further their knowledge about this iconic Senator can purchase his soon-to-be-released autobiography entitled, “True Compass.”