Saturday, August 29, 2009

Just Like Ted

"What are you gonna do this weekend?", asked a friend last Friday. "Nothing much," I said at the time and I meant it then. But what I did was spend Friday night and most of Saturday glued to the TV watching the memorial and funeral services for Edward Moore Kennedy.

Forty-five years ago I spent a similar weekend in November watching the events surrounding his brother's assassination, the murder of his killer, and finally his funeral. But those were very different days and I was a very different person. At seventeen I had hardly started forming my beliefs about life, and what's right and what's wrong. In those days I blithely spouted the anti-Kennedy things I heard at home. (Did you know that JFK was a Catholic? Apparently it mattered then. At least to Dad.)

I remember being fascinated on that long-ago weekend, with the wall-to-wall news coverage of the event, and especially the shock of actually seeing someone killed on TV. Even tho I didn't feel any real personal loss at JFK's death, the mourning of nation moved me.

By the time Martin and Bobby died in the late 60's, I had begun to change. Concern about people whose lives were harder than mine had begun to be important. I no longer understood the values of the Old South in which I had grown up where people were treated poorly simply because of the color of their skins.

Today I feel much different. I now see the world filled with "have's" and "have not's" and I want to even the balance. I no longer understand this country of extremes where we are willing to let people die because they become sick and don't have access to adequate medicine; where we are willing let people lose their homes and health insurance because they lose their

According to Senator Kennedy's office, he wrote more than 2,500 bills, of which more than 500 actually became law. Look at some of the things he accomplished in the past 47 years:

-- Legislation passed quadrupling cancer funds.

1990 -- Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits disability discrimination.

1993 -- Co-authored the Family and Medical Leave Act, requiring businesses to provide unpaid leave for emergencies or births.

1996 -- Kennedy-Kassebaum Act allowed employees to keep health insurance for a time after losing job.

2002 -- Backed President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind law.

2002 -- Voted "no" on Iraq war resolution

Perhaps it is that when you have plenty of money and don't have to worry about having the wherewithal to take care of your own family, you can take the time to think about the families of others, especially those who slip between the cracks.

So, I mourned last weekend the death of an icon, but more than that a man who chose to live by the rule we all seem to neglect - you know, the one about loving others as ourselves. When you listen to all the stories about Ted Kennedy the theme that runs thru them all, is that he was the first to reach out to others: to call or write when one had trouble and then to continue to follow-up. He constantly thought about how he could make life easier and more fair for the weakest in our country - the poor, the sick, the disabled, the undereducated, the pregnant, the old.

We all need to think that way now. How can we help? How can we make it easier for someone who doesn't have the same advantages? the same access? Teddy represented all that is good about liberalism today, and his is the kind of liberalism that I want to embrace. I am my sister's keeper.

What would Teddy do?

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