I am not one who religiously follows every development and every story happening in Washington D.C. I receive the major headlines, and watch what is covered on CNN and then catch up on anything else that happens to come across my Google Reader every morning, which usually consists of big issues like the war, gay marriage, health care and our ongoing struggle with the economy. With the exception of President Obama, I very rarely recognize the names of other important legislators who are very much involved in our country's progress today. Though I'm very much aware of the issues - I wouldn't be able to put the names to bills, and faces to results if I were ever asked. But last week I turned on the TV and saw the big headline on every news network: TED KENNEDY DEAD AT 77. CNN's Anderson Cooper was the first to break it down to me, and ever since then - I was amazed at the coverage this US Senator from Massachusetts received throughout the week. From Twitter's trending topics, to the screens at the gym, to public reactions across the country - I was certain that this man had to be important.
I've taken the weekend to observe the services for Ted Kennedy and have grown to learn much about the man that was behind all sorts of famous legislation that I've been deeply interested in since back in the day when I took AP US History. I learned that the very names of bills he had passed were the exact laws that I've learned about both in high school and in college. Laws like the infamous Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 or even the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Wow! Amazing. It were these very laws that I repeated over and over in my head when cramming for my Business Law class when I was in college. To finally meet the man behind the writing and sponsoring of such humanitarian pieces of legislation made it clear to me why he is remembered the way he is.
The Lion of the Senate. Crazy. That's a pretty cool name to me, though after watching his famous speeches and crazy presentations on the Senate floor - I can only imagine how intimidating it was to oppose this man face to face. Obama dubbed him today "the greatest legislator of our time." It only makes sense for somebody who was so passionate about things that were so simple in thoughts and ideals. Discrimination? Education? Workers' Rights? Health Care? Why not? It's amazing to think that things we may take for granted, like the fact that you can count on being given equal consideration when applying for college, or the simple thought of taking time off when you or your partner is pregnant, or even knowing all of what is made up in the food you eat comes from laws and bills that were passed by a government in this recent lifetime. Ted Kennedy was part of all of that. The man behind the story.
You know you are somebody, when the President of the United States delivers your eulogy. Enough said. In all that I've watched throughout the past couple of days, I sit here tonight and feel it's necessary as a young American who never lived through the infamous Kennedy years to still reflect on what the latest of the Kennedy family has done to pave the way for my generation. Some of what is already in history books, many of what will sure be when my kids study up on what today's politics is like.
Below are a few of the speeches, coverage and videos that caught my attention, and helped me take a moment to meet and honor Ted Kennedy.
US Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia weeps on the Senate floor a year ago after news hits that Ted Kennedy is diagnosed with cancer
Former US Senator John Culver speech brought a smile to my face. This is how every person should be remembered. Full of memories and laughter!
President Obama delivers the eulogy for Ted Kennedy.
Ted Kennedy at the 1980 DNC, accepting his loss to Jimmy Carter. His famous words: For all whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.
Ted Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, where he formally endorses Barack Obama. His words this time: the work begins anew, the hope rises again and the dream lives on.
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Edward M. Kennedy was the third longest-serving member of the United States Senate in American history. Voters of Massachusetts elected him to the Senate nine times—a record matched by only one other Senator. The scholar Thomas Mann said his time in the Senate was “an amazing and endurable presence. You want to go back to the 19th century to find parallels, but you won‘t find parallels.” President Obama has described his breathtaking span of accomplishment: “For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health, and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.”
He fought for and won so many great battles—on voting rights, education, immigration reform, the minimum wage, national service, the nation‘s first major legislation to combat AIDS, and equality for minorities, women, the disabled and gay Americans. He called health care “the cause of my life,” and succeeded in bringing quality and affordable health care for countless Americans, including children, seniors and Americans with disabilities. Until the end he was working tirelessly to achieve historic national health reform. He was an opponent of the Vietnam War and an early champion of the war‘s refugees. He was a powerful yet lonely voice from the beginning against the invasion of Iraq. He stood for human rights abroad—from Chile to the former Soviet Union —...