Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thank you, Teddy.

Today Senator Edward M. Kennedy died. An era has ended. But unlike most politicians, he died with the respect of even his opponents.

When I was young, I wasn’t exactly a fan. Growing up in a Republican household, I took for granted there was to be antipathy against Senator Kennedy. After all, demonising Kennedy was practically a requirement of the Republican Party. Still, I couldn’t bring myself to dislike him as much as my Republican colleagues claimed to.

One of my main memories is a purely local one, and one that had little to do with Kennedy himself. In 1980, Kennedy challenged President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic Presidential nomination. Then-Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne endorsed Kennedy in what seemed to me to be a bad move (Kennedy lost the Illinois Democratic Primary to Carter, who went on to win the nomination, only to lose to Illinois-native, Ronald Regean). Actually, I also remember that Carter had been quoted as saying that he’d “whoop his [Kennedy’s] ass”, which was an uncharacteristically common thing to say, for the ex-Baptist Sunday School teacher.

Years later, after I’d become a Democrat, I grew into full-fledged admiration for Senator Kennedy. Part of the reason is that when I became a gay activist lobbying Congress on GLBT issues, his was the one vote we could always count on. There is, in fact, nothing pro-GLBT that passed the Senate without Senator Kennedy’s support. I saw firsthand that unlike so many liberals, Kennedy was steadfast in his commitment to full civil rights and equality for all Americans—including GLBT Americans—and we are in his debt.

I can think of no other Senator more deserving of the title of “statesman” than Senator Kennedy. To me, he was the ultimate patriot—someone who loved his country so much that he would endure anything to help make it the best it could possibly be, make it a “more perfect union”, and bring all Americans along.

His family summed it up best in a statement in which they said, in part: “We thank everyone… who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.”

Obviously I give my condolences to the Kennedy family, but in a way we all share this with them: We have a lost a member of our collective American family.

Farewell, Teddy. Thank you for your service on behalf all Americans.


Lord Byron said...

A touching tribute. Thank you for saying what we are thinking and feeling.

derek said...

That’s a terrible thing for American…and the world; we all lost a great man and also a long legacy of family patriots and supporters to the American people and politics. We will miss you. Condolences to the family.

Jason in DC said...

A great loss. It is amazing that a Kennedy has been a fixture in American politics for my entire life.

But Ted has been it the longest and has done the most to affect my life and the lives of all Americans.

I think what I will miss the most is his fierce devotion to the causes he supported. Yet at the same time his ability to be friends with the people on the other side of the issue.

After all one of his best friends in the Senate was Orrin Hatch. How more odd couple could you get.

And that is a lesson we can all learn from.

Thank you Senator for all you did for America. You will be missed.

Roger Owen Green said...

My Teddy piece (also featuring another, probably less well-known American icon) here