President Obama took a moment today to laud Sen. Edward Moore Kennedy as a giant and "the lion of the Senate" as the Mass. Senator came to be known. President Obama owes Sen. Kennedy a huge debt of gratitude for the political endorsement and for coming-off his death bed to raise the roof at the Democratic National Convention to support the party nomination.
We will miss him, as will the President.
My own life has been book-ended by Sen. Ted Kennedy. While my political views were forged in the crucible of the promise of Camelot and the betrayal of Watergate, growing up near the Kennedy families in Virginia, going to church with "Ethel's Kids" and following Teddy's political career, makes me grateful to know a public servant can put country first.
Our home was Irish, Catholic, Kennedy. My mom's first campaign was for Adlai Stevenson working in primary fights in Illinois and Wisconsin. However, when I was just a kid, she voted for Kennedy and our household split the vote with dad (English, Protestant, Republican) going to Nixon. Game on! I remember my dad did take us out to see a motorcade with President Kennedy later when I was in first grade. He generally permitted mother to guide us in things Catholic and Kennedy-esque.
Here are my memories of Sen. Kennedy:
1980 Democratic National Convention -- I covered Sen. Kennedy's presidential bid as a 21-year-old cub reporter for an Iowa Newspaper through the DNC convention in New York City. I watched him win the union vote, watched his concession speech which may have actually truly launched Ted Kennedy's political career. I also grabbed a front page headline for my paper on a "walk out" staged by the Machinists and union activists when their man Teddy did not win the nomination over President Carter.
Robert Kennedy Excellence in Journalism Awards -- I have attended and supported nominees during my time with the Newspaper Association of America. Sen. Kennedy was often involved in ceremonies.
Kennedy Center -- Washington National Opera work on national historic designation in 2004. Sen. Kennedy read our text into the Congressional Record and co-sponsored an honorary title. Then the 2004 Happy Birthday -- I arranged for Placido Domingo, the great tenor, to sing to Ted Kennedy on his 72nd B-day. Of course, Teddy loved to sing and joined in 2-part harmony. He had a great baritone.
Campaign Events -- at Teddy and Vicky's home in McLean on Chain Bridge Road; primarily for the Clintons. Finally, the 2009 DNC, Sen. Kennedy's speech from the podium just after brain surgery.
So, a great part of my life milestones are marked by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. I voted for him when I was 21 years old in my first national election primary. I worked with his office on earlier versions of health care reform. I spent time in Hyannis near the Kennedy compound on political retreats.
As so many have already noted, passing a public option for health care reform would have come easier if Sen. Kennedy had been on top of his game this summer. Because he worked across party lines with folks like Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. John McCain. Because he helped broker deals like a Boston politician. Because he had that singular focus -- having needed medical attention himself -- of compassion for less fortunate.
His cover story piece in Newsweek on the health care necessity is worthwhile reading for all of us!
He called health care reform: "The cause of my life." It is saddest to note that health care reform could not happen in his nearly four decades of service in the Senate. Now is the time to act.