Our country mourns the passing of Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, who died late last night after battling brain cancer. With him, went the end of an era.
Love them or hate them, the Kennedy brothers, John, Robert, and Ted were an important political force in the United States for fifty years or more. Some pundits have even considered them the closest thing to a royal family we have had. The most obvious being the reference to Camelot when John was president.
As a young person just old enough to vote in 1961, I was caught up in the magic and excitement that seemed to surround John Kennedy, and I cried in 1963 when he was shot. I cried again in 1968 when Robert Kennedy was shot.
Both men appealed to the idealist in me who wanted a champion to tackle the tough issues on the country and challenge the status quo. They won me over with their ferver and their speeches and their call to patriotism.
Today, I was saddened to read that Ted Kennedy died. It didn’t bring the same strong wash of emotion that I had when John and Robert died, but then I think the awful circumstances of assassination played into those scenarios. Plus, I think we all, including Ted, were preparing for this for some time. Just a few weeks ago he asked Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to change state law to allow him to appoint an interim successor to the senate seat.
In politics, Senator Ted Kennedy took more of a middle road than his brothers, but he still had an impressive term of service. He served on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he once chaired, longer than anyone else in history. He also served at various times as chair of Senate committees on labor, education, and health issues, where he had key influence on issues related to education, housing, health care and the civil rights of women, minorities, gays, immigrants, and the disabled.
I extend my heartfelt sympathy to the Kennedy family for their loss, especially as it comes so soon after the death of Eunice Shriver, Ted Kennedy’s sister. In some ways Camelot may be over, but the spirit of that era lives on in the hearts of those that were touched by John, Robert, Edward, and Eunice.