One of the most influential men on American politics has died. Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy passed away at age 77 from a malignant brain tumor. His death marks the end of a lengthy, amazing political career by one of the survivors of a powerful, and public-minded, family.
Kennedy must have known his time was drawing to a close when he wrote to Gov. Deval Patrick last week, urging him to get on with insuring a replacement for him before Congress reconvenes for the health care reform debate. Access to health care had become a "prime issue" for Kennedy, and he knew the importance of getting someone in his seat who would carry that part of his legacy.
No doubt, the scramble will be on in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts today to figure out, "What's next?".
I grew up in a staunchly Republican family in the northern neighboring state of New Hampshire; hence, most of my life, I have felt little warmth for the Kennedy family. During the grilling of Anita Hill, when the Democratically-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden buckled and allowed Clarence Thomas' nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to go forward, I found it highly ironic to see Kennedy, who'd had his share of bad behavior with women, sitting on a panel where the subject was sexual harassment. To his great credit, the Senator did not participate in the "boy's club" questioning of Ms. Hill.
Over time, and forming my own political ideology, I have come to respect the senior Senator of Massachusetts, and have been grateful for his commitment to the LGBT citizens of this country. And so his death, while inevitable after the diagnosis last year, is still very sad. He is now united with the many saints in Heaven. May light perpetual shine upon him.
Finally, to get a sense of the amazing mind and the commitment he had to service to all, I am sending you to this speech he delivered at the National Press Club. Tallahasseeans take note: he sings the praises of our young city commissioner, Andrew Gillum.
Rest in Peace, Senator.