Kennedy departs with legacy intact - East Valley Tribune: News

Kennedy departs with legacy intact

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Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 10:30 am | Updated: 1:00 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Our View: Edward Kennedy began his political career in the shadow of his older siblings, John and Robert. But he rose to surpass both of their concrete contributions and the cultural ripples cast by their assassinations. Frequently called the “lion of the Senate,” Kennedy became a towering liberal icon whose causes and oratory shaped the outlook of the modern Democratic Party much in the same way that Ronald Reagan so heavily influenced the Republican Party.

Much of America woke this morning to mourn the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, the final pillar of a trio of Massachusetts brothers whose personalities were woven throughout U.S. political history for the past 50 years.

Edward Kennedy began his political career in the shadow of his older siblings, John and Robert. But he rose to surpass both their concrete contributions and the cultural ripples cast by their assassinations. Frequently called the “lion of the Senate,” Kennedy became a towering liberal icon whose causes and oratory shaped the outlook of the modern Democratic Party much in the same way that Ronald Reagan so heavily influenced the Republican Party.

And there’s no denying that Kennedy championed or at least had a hand in this country’s most significant domestic policies during his 46 years in the Senate. Health care, public assistance for impoverished mothers, immigration reform, union rights and school accountability were all measures guided by Kennedy’s passion and his unusual skill in finding allies across party lines.

“Clearly, he was the most powerful person to never be president,” Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., told National Public Radio.

Of course, a sizable number of Americans (including us) opposed Kennedy’s appetite for ever-expanding government. He was frequently mocked for his years of heavy drinking. He was vilified for the 1969 car accident at Chappaquiddick Island when he swam to safety and left a young woman to drown.

But the people of Massachusetts forgave Kennedy’s faults, re-electing him time and again by overwhelming numbers. Those who worked closely with Kennedy found much to admire in him even when they often disagreed on political philosophy.

“Many of his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, will note today that Ted was sincerely intent on finding enough common ground among us to make progress on the issues of our day, and toward that end he would work as hard and as modestly as any staffer,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a written statement. “Many will recall his convivial nature, his humor, his thoughtfulness. We will praise as his greatest strength the integrity of his word. When he made a promise to you, he kept it, no matter what.”

Kennedy’s passing had been anticipated ever since he disclosed he had a malignant brain tumor a little more than a year ago. Unlike his brothers, Edward Kennedy was blessed with the opportunity to reflect on his life in public service and to say goodbye to his family and others across the nation who loved him so.

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