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Ted Kennedy, "The Lion of the Senate," Has Died

August 26, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

I’m just waking up to the news of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death. He died last night at his home after struggling with brain cancer for more than a year. He was 77.

Here in Massachusetts, Kennedy has been my senator for as long as I’ve been alive, so his death is saddening and quite jarring for me. I grew up in a Republican family and I remember being surprised as a kid to learn that I wasn’t supposed to like him. Because he was a Kennedy, I couldn’t help but be mystified the man. He seemed larger than life, like a living relic of American history, and the only prominent living figure during my lifetime who was connected to the great American Presidents of the past that I admired so much.

Now I understand why I wasn’t supposed to like him growing up. He is the symbol of liberalism in the Senate. He is the archetype of a Democratic legislator, and he always stood firmly for progressive causes, even through the conservative years under Reagan and the Bushes. He has been behind many of the greatest progressive policies of the 20th century – the Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, the children’s healthcare program, and more. Through all his years in the Senate, he was incredibly effective at getting things done, and if health care reform happens this year it will be in large part because he spent his entire Senate career fighting to make sure that every American is insured.

Here’s the statement from Kennedy’s family that was put out this morning:

Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply — died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.

For more background on Kennedy’s life, see the OpenCongress wiki page. Talking Points Memo has reactions to Kennedy’s death from across the political spectrum. And below is President Obama’s statement:

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