Late Tuesday night, the world lost what some would call a legend. Massachusetts Senator, Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy passed away at the age of 77 at his home in Hyannis Port Massachusetts after a long battle with brain cancer. Often called the Lion of the Senate, Senator Kennedy assisted as well as lead in the passing of legislation’s that decreased inequality and fought for the basic rights of Americans. Senator Kennedy has worked on and had a major part in the passing of laws addressing civil rights, mental health benefits, cancer research, and the more recent universal health care initiative spear headed by President Obama. More than 300 of the bills he and his staff have written have been enacted into law. Serving nine terms as a U.S. Senator since 1962 up until his death, Kennedy was the second most senior member of the Senate, as well as the third longest serving senator in U.S. history.
Ted Kennedy was born on February 22, 1932 in Boston Massachusetts into the politically prominent Kennedy family. The youngest of nine children and the brother to historical political figures such as President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy (both having been victims of assassination), Senator Kennedy’s younger years were plagued with several unfortunate family deaths losing his brother Joseph to a World War II casualty, sister Kathleen to a plane crash, and finally a failed lobotomy performed on his sister Rosemary. Despite this Kennedy entered into Harvard University (then called Harvard College) in 1950, but was expelled when a friend was caught taking a Spanish exam in his place, after the Senator feared a failed exam would deny him eligibility to play football for the college. Although being informed that with good behavior he could be readmitted to the school Kennedy decided in 1951 to join the armed forces.
After being discharged from the Army in 1953 as a private first class, Senator Kennedy returned to finished his studies at Harvard, graduating in 1956 with a Bachelors in government and history. From there he attended University of Virgina Law School graduating in 1959. During his time at UVA he became the official manager of his brother John F. Kennedy’s Senate re-election campaign. His ability to connect with normal, hard working citizens gave JFK the credibility to run for President, a campaign in which Ted Kennedy served as manager of the western states in 1960.
Though he was not old enough to take over his brothers Senate seat in 1960 (you must be 30 years old), he eventually went after the position in 1962. His campaign was met with hesitation; reports of his suspension from Harvard, as well as his inexperience became public during his race. With his brother John the President of the United States, and the other Robert the U.S. Attorney General, many believed that Ted was just one Kennedy to many. Despite this, Kennedy won the 1962 primary and eventually won the Senate seat defeating Republican George Cabot Lodge II with 55 percent of the vote.
Several unfortunate events followed Kennedy’s successful campaign to the Senate. His brother John became the victim of assassination, he was involved in a airplane crash where the pilot and one of his aides what killed forcing him to endure chronic back pain for the remainder of his life. During this time Kennedy had a hand in the passing of several influential legislation’s including the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 ending a quota system based on national origin, and played a role in creating the National Teachers Corps. During the Presidential campaign in 1968 Senator Kennedy’s brother Robert was assassinated in Los Angeles. Being the closest to this particular brother, Senator Kennedy gave the eulogy at his funeral, a speech that is often quoted.
Although he was often shown in good light with his political work Ted Kennedy was known socially as someone who loved women and alcohol. Aside from his work as a Senator, he is probably best known for an incident referred to as Chappaquiddick Incident in which after a party the car Kennedy and 28 year old Mary Jo Kopechne was in, ended up a tidal channel in Chappaquiddick – the result of Kennedy driving their vehicle off a bridge. An unharmed Kennedy swam safely to shore while Mary Jo drowned. After fleeing the scene and not calling authorities until the next day, Kennedy was charged with leaving the scene of the accident and was sentenced to two months in jail. During his run for the Presidency in the 1980’s the Chappaquddick incident, then becoming public knowledge, was one of the significant issues that lead to the campaigns demise.
Since his run for President, Kennedy has become one of the most recognizable figures of the Democratic party. As mentioned before, he along with his staff have written about 2,500 bills, 300 of which have been made into laws. Known for having the ability to effectively communicate the Democratic agenda to Republican party officials, Senator Kennedy has been ranked first in Democratic bipartisanship by the Republican party.
Republican Governor of California and Kennedy relative Arnold Schwarzenegger described “Uncle Teddy” as “a liberal icon, a warrior for the less fortunate, a fierce advocate for health-care reform, a champion of social justice here and abroad” and “the rock of his family”
The Associated Press wrote that, “Unlike his brothers, Edward M. Kennedy has grown old in public, his victories, defeats and human contradictions played out across the decades in the public glare.”
During the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s, Senator Ted Kennedy championed some of the most crucial legislation of our time. Although still plagued with a unfavorable reputation outside of the Senate and several other family crisis’, within the Senate walls he certainly stood up for the little guy. Fighting very hard for women’s rights, the civil rights movement, LGBT rights, equal pay, HIV AIDS and cancer research, as well as disability equality and working so that all Americans could afford basic necessities such as health care, Senator Kennedy is deserving of the title The Lion of the Senate.