The Progressive Hall of Fame was inspired by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Much like some of its most worthy inductees today’s Progressive Hall of Fame inductee is honored not for his total self, but for his work “on the field”. In his case the field was the floor of the United States Senate.
Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy has many similarities to George Herman “Babe” Ruth. Ruth may or may not be the greatest baseball player of all time, but he certainly deserves to be in that conversation. Kennedy may or may not be the greatest Senator of all time, but he also deserves to be in the conversation. Both Kennedy and Ruth had legendary weaknesses for women and drink. We enshrine them for their achievements in their chosen fields, not as candidates for sainthood. Their childhoods very were different. Ruth was basically a child of poverty; Kennedy a child of privilege who never showed the ability to be outstanding until he landed in the place he was destined to serve – the United States Senate. Kennedy’s star shown bright for over 46 years; he was elected to the seat once held by his late brother John in a 1962 special election and held it until his death in 2009.
Known as the, “Lion of the Senate”, he was the ultimate liberal and grew famous for his passionate oratory skills. Kennedy was born into one of the wealthiest families in New England yet was a champion for the least fortunate among us. Although occasionally enlightened and motivated by the personal misfortunes in his life, he seldom benefited from his successes on the behalf of the causes he fought for. He was truly a public servant and considered that a noble calling.
He called access to universal health care, “The cause of my life”. However, he was no one trick pony. He tirelessly worked for immigration reform, cancer research, civil rights, children, education, women’s rights, gay rights, COBRA, AIDS funding and the minimum wage to name a few of his causes. He also passionately fought against apartheid, the Iraq War and the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. As you can tell he was not always successful and much work still remains to be done on many of the fronts where he enjoyed victories, but undoubtedly the United States and the world are better places because of his time in the Senate.
Even in his beloved Senate where he excelled the time did not pass without personal tragedy. He was presiding over the Senate when he received word that his brother, then President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Moments later his brother Bobby, then the Attorney General, informed him that the wounds had been fatal. A few years later he also lost Bobby to a political assassination.
Many books have been written on his life and doubtlessly countless more are yet to be penned. Summing up the life of such a great man in a few hundred words is a task doomed to inadequacy. How many will be enshrined in the Progressive Hall of Fame is an open ended question; but it is impossible that any will be more deserving than Ted Kennedy.
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