Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Edward M. Kennedy: A Few Reflections on a Splendid Life

By Ibrahim Abdil-Mu'id Ramey

As I join the untold millions of people here in the United States and around the world in mourning the passing today of Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, I pause to reflect on his life and the significance of his great contributions to human rights and justice in our world.

Born into a life of privilege and blessed with the mantle of an enormously powerful family name, Edward Kennedy followed in the footsteps of his assassinated elder brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. His tireless advocacy of "liberal" political positions put him at odds with his conservative counterparts in the U.S. Senate, and contributed to his anathema within the right wing and reactionary political elements in the society.

But with grace, wit, and tireless political energy, Ted Kennedy fought the good fight for civil rights, workers' justice and peace. At the end of his life, he took on one last battle: the gargantuan struggle for health care reform.

Among Senator Kennedy's most memorable advocacy campaigns was his enthusiastic endorsement of the candidacy of Senator Barack H. Obama in the midst of a ferocious Democratic Party campaign fight in 2008. It would be no exaggeration to say that his support was crucial for then Senator Obama, being the key political act that opened the door to the election of the nation's first African-American president.

There will be those in the body politic who will focus on the memory of not-so-tidy aspects of Ted Kennedy's personal life, especially the incident at Chappaquiddick which resulted in the death of a young woman in his company; however, his ferocious and uncompromising stand for democracy and inclusion – even where it concerned counting the Muslim community as a part of the tapestry of the American political and cultural mosaic – was undeniable.

A true giant in the political life of America has passed away. He was a man who struggled for principles that, in the final analysis, uplifted millions of oppressed and marginalized people in this society.

For this, and for many other things, I add my small voice to the choir of millions in saying, simply, "Thank-you Senator Kennedy. You will be greatly missed."

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