It’s 1:30 a.m. It’s not up on the New York Times or Washington Post yet. His Wikipedia page has already been updated, though. And CNN is reporting: Ted Kennedy has died.
He died in his home, from brain cancer, at 77.
The first thing that hits me is a memory: I covered Kennedy, in the early 1990s, as a reporter for Congressional Quarterly. I picture him coming off the Senate floor, a huge man, pink-faced, his thoughts seeming to run a mile ahead of his gait. I remember how nervous I felt, before I asked him a question. This was JFK’s brother. I’m so glad I got to interview him.
Looking at the footage of him on TV, it strikes me that we’ve lost so much. An unabashed liberal. Not someone who needed to hide behind the less stigmatized label: Progressive. (Which is to say, not someone like me.) A shameless fighter for workers, and the rights of workers to organize. A believer, until his dying day, in the absolute imperative of universal health care.
We miss Kennedy already. We miss him because he was the youngest brother of John and Bobby, and now there are no brothers left. We miss him because he was a force, a proud and powerful force for causes that are so out-of-fashion today. We miss him because we sensed, through this summer of bitter partisan infighting over health care, that he was perhaps the one person who could restore some sanity to the debate. Who could get people to move beyond their taunts — he, afterall, had worked tirelessly across the aisle, with the likes of Utah Republican Orrin Hatch — to try to find common ground.
Some political leaders inspire hope. Others, though, inspire courage.
Perhaps, with his death, those of us who believe in health care reform can remember: It’s important not just to have convictions; it’s important to be brave in advancing them.
Thanks for the interview, Ted.