The contributions the late Senator Ted Kennedy left behind for the betterment of American society are beyond measure. From the time of his first election in 1962 and for 46 years after wards, his constant presence in our political landscape is rooted in his dedication to the rights of the common man. He truly made the people of Massachusetts and America confident that their best interest was his top priority. He carried that sentiment through with his actions and with the seriousness of each vote he cast. He was a man who never compromised what he believed was right to get ahead politically. Even if his stance was unpopular with some, he never wavered or bent his true stand for popularity’s sake. While other Senators may not have always agreed with him and would debate him fiercely and vehemently, he was respected and admired by all who ever worked for or even against him. The gravity of respect felt for him naturally crossed all party lines. This respect and admiration transcended beyond the Senate walls and into the American psyche.
Ted Kennedy was famously nick-named “The lion of the Senate”. He earned this beloved title due to his inability to sit in the background and let politics as usual win out over what he thought was right. His ferocious ability to defend his view point and fight like hell for the working class made him a force of nature. While others would try to detract from his message by pointing to his well known personal flaws, he let his work and accomplishments speak for themselves. His legacy was not based on personal foibles or tabloid style family drama, but on his ability to rise up and take the responsibility for a family mired in tragedy. After the deaths of his brothers, he grew into his own and stood as the lone father figure for a large extended family. He took this responsibility seriously and it carried over from a family obligation to an obligation to protect and better an entire generation of Americans. He wanted the rights and civil liberties his family enjoyed to cross over and be a part of the opportunity available to every American family. While he was raised and then raised a generation of Kennedy’s in wealth and privilege, he nor those he raised ever sat back and took it for granted. He wanted every middle class American to be afforded the same chance at success and health.
If were not for Ted Kennedy and his inspiring and fearless zest for the cause of making America better we would not have the freedoms or liberties we have today. Many of his political contributions to our social landscape center on health care for children and middle class families in general. The SCHIP program is the largest taxpayer funded health insurance program for children since Medicaid began in 1960. Ted Kennedy was also a driving force behind the passage of HIPAA. This act gave, amongst other things, portability of health insurance for workers and families when they changed or lost their jobs. He took AIDS and HIV patient rights head on also with the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resource Emergency Act. This improved care for uninsured or underinsured low income AIDS/HIV patients. These initiatives to ensure lower income Americans were able to receive the medical care they needed has opened the door to revolutionary health care reform. With Ted Kennedy behind the push to help middle class families get health care, countless Americans have had access to state of the art medicine and top notch facilities despite their economic circumstances.
Aside from improving the rights and options with health care for the American working class, Ted Kennedy made advances in education that we take fro granted today. He was instrumental in the passage of Title IX. Because of his support of this legislation girls are now entitled to the same opportunities as boys in public schools. He was behind the No Child Left Behind Act which requires our public school system to track and assess progress in how they educate the next generation. Because of this act, public schools have had to account for progress in order to keep receiving public funding. This act will undoubtedly lead to better teachers and better students, making America the educational leader it should have always been.
Ted Kennedy also continued and elaborated on the civil rights movement fought so hard for by his family. He fought for the Americans with Disabilities Act and amended voting rights from the age of 21 to 18 years old. There are many other landmark social causes Ted Kennedy helped to shape over his 46 year senate career. Some are Meals on Wheels, COBRA, the Family Medical Leave Act, and countless others. Ted Kennedy and his staff were responsible for 300 bills becoming law in the United States.
Ted Kennedy will always be seen as a champion for the rights of the poor, the sick, and for those who need a lion on their side. He dedicated his life to making our America better. His legacy will never be taken for granted as we all in one way or another enjoy rights we have him to thank for.