We all knew Senator Ted Kennedy was dying. He made sure of that and used his terminal illness to publicize the cause nearest his heart: universal health care. Mr. Kennedy’s losing battle with brain cancer was as public as everything else Kennedy-related. His own attitude towards his date with mortality was that his death was no tragedy after a long and active life, but one more arrow in his quiver for fighting the good fight for the American people, the battle to get health care for every American as a fundamental right on an equal footing with those guaranteed by the Bill Of Rights.

Youngest son of a wealthy family, Ted Kennedy witnessed his eldest brother being killed in action during World War 2 and his other two brothers assassinated, one a president and the other trying to be. He ruined his own chances of ever gaining the White House himself by driving his car into a river in 1969, drowning a young woman and not reporting the incident for 10 hours, a shameful incident that threatened to ruin his career completely. Still, he managed to become the Senate’s most effective legislator and a champion of progressive causes, serving 47 distinguished years. His voice was consistently raised to champion causes that would benefit ordinary working Americans in spite of the great wealth into which he was born. He knew that social justice was for everyone.

No matter what the issue, Kennedy voted his conscience and was one of the few dissenters in either house of Congress to vote against the Iraq war, a position that has since been validated by events. And if people insist on branding him liberal, so be it, even though he was unusually adept at finding common cause and co-sponsors for his legislation from the ranks of his conservative “opposition.” So this American Dreamer was one who lived in the real world and acknowledged that politics is the act of the doable. Ted Kennedy got things done.

He introduced the first bill into the Senate to give every American health insurance 40 years ago. There were times when it seemed that he was the lone voice crying in the wilderness for health care reform while others abandoned it or buckled under to powerful industry lobbyists. Democratic President Clinton forgot about it after receiving an eye-opening defeat in the early days of his presidency. Senator Kennedy vowed to fight on, enduring 8 years of Bush-Cheney disasters, authoring the Patients Bill of Rights with Republican cosponsor Senator John McCain and important Education legislation during these years and keeping a light on for progressive thought.

When America finally got sick of the Neoconman bumblers and thieves and elected  Barack Obama our president, Kennedy was ready with advice and ideas about health care, seeing the opportunity to finally make this American Dream a reality. It became a knock-down-drag-out fight but Kennedy was more than up to it even as his days were numbered. The bill is before the Senate now, certain to pass in one form or another.

Whether or not this is the final solution to Universal Heath Care remains to be seen, but the important thing is that it will be on the books as the policy of the United States of America to care for its citizens’ health. It can always be reformed or amended as the need arises like any other program or legislation, but it will be the law of the land. Senator Ted Kennedy is the one man most responsible for this landmark bill, just one more battle for working people that Kennedy was in the thick of, raising his voice for yet another America Dream. He was not a perfect man, but he was a decent man, a hard working man and a complex and passionate American original whose like we won’t see again. So long, Senator.

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