Whether helping provide children with health insurance or lifting
families out of poverty, the late Senator Edward Kennedy made it his
life work to aid the disadvantaged. Friends and colleagues of the
Massachusetts lawmaker, who died of brain cancer Wednesday at the age
of 77, say he had an impact that went beyond that of his famous
brothers, John and Robert.
"It is the glory and greatness of our tradition to speak for those that have no voice," said Kennedy.
the third-longest serving senator in U.S. history, Edward Kennedy often
stood up for the disadvantaged, sponsoring hundreds of pieces of
legislation in his nearly half century in office, all with the hope of
bettering people's lives. Kennedy biographer Adam Clymer notes his
"If your parents of someone you know gets benefits from
meals on wheels, that is Kennedy," he said. "They go to a neighborhood
health center, that is Kennedy. He played a leading role in ending the
[US military] draft. There has been no civil rights bill since he got
to the Senate that he has not played a significant role."
the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy, Ted
Kennedy picked up the torch, helping to push forward the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, which made discrimination in public and at work illegal.
went on to champion a number of other causes, including access to
affordable health care, fair housing, and voting rights. Kennedy,
whose son lost a leg to bone cancer, also worked to end discrimination
against those with mental and physical handicaps, with the enactment of
the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
As president of the American Association of People With Disabilities, Andrew Imparato worked with Kennedy and his son.
think Senator Kennedy understood the idea that disability is a natural
part of the human experience and that just because somebody has a
disability, it does not mean they should not have the opportunities
that other people have, so if you are talking about a child, they
should have the opportunity to go to school with their peers," he said.
associate historian Donald Ritchie says it was not just the number of
issues Kennedy fought for, but how he fought for them. Ritchie says
the senator was well-liked and able to build alliances with adversaries
to push legislation forward.
"He figured out that okay, we can
agree to disagree, but where is the one point where we do agree, where
is the common ground, and that is what an effective legislators has to
do, is look for the places where he can create national consensus
around the issue," said Ritchie.
With Edward Kennedy's death
late Tuesday from brain cancer, America's most famous political dynasty
is left without an obvious heir. But longtime Kennedy friend Ted
Sorensen says while Ted Kennedy's passing marks an end of an era, the
family legacy will move forward.
"Ted Kennedy himself would have
told you that the fulfillment of those Kennedy ideals is not dependent
on one person, it is not even dependent on a Kennedy, it is dependent
on all those who believe in that standard of opportunity and justice,"
In backing Barack Obama's presidential bid,
Edward Kennedy looked to pass his message of hope to a new generation