Farewell to a Statesman

ted_kennedy21It is difficult to imagine a United States Senate without Ted Kennedy.

Americans today are saddened by the news that Senator Kennedy has passed away after his difficult struggle with brain cancer.  It goes without saying that he leaves behind an unparalleled legacy of legislative achievement, leaving his mark on a plethora of issues that affect the lives of every American.

Not to take anything away from the able lawmakers who are currently working on health issues, but I can’t help but think today’s problematic health reform debate would have been progressing more smoothly if Senator Kennedy had been in good health.  He served as a reminder of a day when legislating in Washington was less partisan and tinged with less venom than it is too often the case today.

There was no question that Ted Kennedy was a strong Democrat and was quite proud to call himself a liberal.  And, yet, he was never hesitant to cross the aisle and work with Republicans in order to achieve a greater good for the American people.  His friendship with Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) was well known.  He worked closely with Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY), his GOP counterpart on the Senate HELP Committee, to develop legislation.  Whether the incumbent President was named Reagan, Bush, Clinton or Obama, Senator Kennedy sought to find common ground instead of drawing battle lines.  He understood and lived by the axiom that the person on the other side of an issue today may well be your ally tomorrow.

Senator Kennedy has said that one of his greatest regrets was that he didn’t accept a universal healthcare proposal when it was offered by President Richard Nixon because he didn’t think it was sufficiently generous.  He spent the rest of his career working toward achievable health reform legislation.  Let’s hope Congress can finish the work to which he devoted so much of himself and do so in the spirit of bringing people together and finding common ground that defines Ted Kennedy’s legacy.