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Remembering Ted Kennedy

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August has been a cruel month for the Kennedy clan, first with the death on the 11th of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and then two weeks later, that of Sen. Edward Kennedy.

I’m not sure, but they may have been the last living siblings of John and Robert Kennedy, both cut down too soon.

Public service was ingrained in these men and women and it continues in the ranks of their children and grandchildren. 

The outpourings of sympathy and remembrance have just started to be released in the case of Ted, who died last night after a long and brave bout with brain cancer.

Calling him “the greatest United States Senator of our time,” President Obama said of Kennedy that “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.”

The praise, however, did not just come from the left side of the aisle.  Here is what Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah had to say: “Today America lost a great elder statesman, a committed public servant, and leader of the Senate. And today I lost a treasured friend. Ted Kennedy was an iconic, larger than life United States senator whose influence cannot be overstated. Many have come before, and many will come after, but Ted Kennedy’s name will always be remembered as someone who lived and breathed the United States Senate and the work completed within its chamber.”

Within our industry, Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, said, “Senator Edward Kennedy was America’s health care champion. His contribution to health care policy is unmatched.  AHIP and its members join the entire health care community in extending our thoughts and prayers to the Kennedy family.”

I also find particularly touching this comment from the first President Bush: “Barbara and I were deeply saddened to learn Ted Kennedy lost his valiant battle with cancer. While we didn’t see eye-to-eye on many political issues through the years, I always respected his steadfast public service–so much so, in fact, that I invited him to my library in 2003 to receive the Bush Award for Excellence in Public Service. Ted Kennedy was a seminal figure in the United States Senate–a leader who answered the call to duty for some 47 years, and whose death closes a remarkable chapter in that body’s history.”

What I think is remarkable about Ted Kennedy’s life is how he grew in stature over time, how he was able to recover from the devastation of the killing of one beloved brother and then a few years later of yet another brother.  These jolts never turned into an excuse for becoming bitter or losing the compassion that motivated so much of what he did and stood for.

While he never compromised his vision-and yes, let’s be clear here that that vision was as liberal as they come-he understood that it was important to reach across the aisle to get things done, to move the agenda forward. 

Of all the remembrances that have been issued up to now, the one I like best and the one that I think Kennedy himself would like is from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who said, “The liberal lion’s mighty roar may now fall silent, but his dream shall never die.”