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Young People: Carry on Kennedy's Torch of Caring for Those with Less

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The loss of Senator Kennedy is enormous, to his family, to his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and to the country. In this moment, let's do one thing: for those of us who were graced to know Sen. Kennedy and the values he represents, pass it on to young people.

The irony that health care legislation is falling apart during this punishing summer: Ted Kennedy's voice is what was missing from this debate.

If Ted Kennedy had been the one to shepherd health care, as President Obama intended, we'd probably have a consensus. Only Kennedy could have brought Republicans over to the bill. Only Kennedy could have expressed to the country the reason for going further than you might think you need to on health care.

Senator Kennedy was hard-wired to care for the ordinary man. His ability to make people think about why core democratic principles matter is now gone, and it is up to those who know him to carry it on.

Notice that is not "Democratic" principles; it is "democratic" principles.

Amidst the bitter partisan fights of this summer and a country possessed by malaise, the core of the argument for significant health care legislation has been lost. Americans are angry because they feel no connection to the meaning behind the message.

After his loss as a presidential candidate in 1980, Sen. Kennedy said this: "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die." Let's prove him right by working as he did, not as a partisan, but as an American.

The message is this: we are one country. We are in this together. If you don't have health care and I do, we will both pay for it in the end. We are not Democrats or Republicans, we are Americans. The reason to do something meaningful is to help society and not look first at your own self-interest.

This philosophy was embodied by Ted Kennedy, and we will wait for a leader to step up to the plate and lead the way he did. Public service is for the greater good. Public service is a calling. Public service is not greedy or bad or to be mistrusted: it is for the good of our country.

Let's shake out of the partisan finger-pointing of this summer and rise up. If we don't teach young people Kennedy's, and our democracy's values, our country will be without them.