Skip to content

Senator Ted Kennedy: A Legacy of Reaching Common Ground

2009 September 2

by Juontel White

Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass)

Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass)

President Barack Obama eulogized Senator Edward M. Kennedy on Saturday August 29, 2009…

“Live out our lives as best we can with purpose and with love and with joy. We can use each day to show those who are closest to us how much we care about them and treat others with the kindness and respect that we wish for ourselves.

We can learn from our mistakes and grow from our failures. And we can strive at all costs to make this a better world so that someday, if we are blessed with the chance to look back on our own time here, we know that we spent it well; that we made a difference, that our fleeting presence had a lasting impact on the lives of others. This is how Ted Kennedy lived his legacy.”

Senator Kennedy was revered as a loving patriarch and staunch liberal with an outgoing personality often manifested by his boisterous, infectious laugh. But far more than the amiability of Ted Kennedy, colleagues on both sides of the political divide admired his ability to bridge the idealogical gap to achieve a common goal.

Among the many of friends, family members and colleagues to speak at Sen. Kennedy’s memorial service, each in some way referenced his mastery of reaching across the aisle—his ability to build working relationships and friendships with people with whom he had significant differences.

“Many of his fellow senators, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, will note today that Ted was sincerely intent on finding enough common ground among us to make progress on the issues of our day, and toward that end he would work as hard and as modestly as any staffer,” remarked Senator John McCain.

Former first lady Nancy Reagan said, “Given our political differences […] In recent years, Ted and I found our common ground in stem cell research and I considered him an ally and a dear friend.”

Senator Kennedy was instrumental in passing legislation that progressed civil rights, education, disability discrimination, health insurance and much more— by initiating cooperative efforts between political factions.

His son, Ted Kennedy Jr. humorously remarked on his father’s success in this regard saying, “He even taught me some of life’s harder lessons, such as how to like Republicans.”

In America today, one of the major points of contention between liberals and conservatives can be summed into one word: healthcare. And at town hall meetings and political roundtables across the country, the question is asked how a healthcare reform bill will be passed without Ted Kennedy in the Senate.

Sen. Kennedy should absolutely be respected for his legislative and diplomatic ability to mediate between opposing sides, but should this quality be considered as unique? Shouldn’t we expect all of our elected officials to exhibit the same collaborative spirit and willingness to negotiate as the late senator? Why do we let our elected representatives off of the hook so easily?

During his life, Sen. Kennedy inspired his Congressional colleagues to reach common ground, and now perhaps his death will provoke democrats, conservatives, republicans and liberals to reach a hand across the aisle, in honor of Ted Kennedy.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS