Posted by: JanF | September 6, 2012

Why I Vote For Democrats: Ted Kennedy

The opening night of the 2012 Democratic National Convention featured a video honoring the legacy of Senator Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy.

Ted Kennedy’s support of Barack Obama during the contentious 2008 Democratic primary led to a strong bond between the two men, one that endures to this day and transcends the death of Senator Kennedy in August 2009.

The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy with President Obama looking on

Ted Kennedy came from a wealthy family and yet, unlike many others who are born into wealth and privilege, he did not focus his life on amassing even more wealth but instead dedicated himself to making life better for the rest of us.

His legacy is in these words:

“Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, a job that respects their dignity and protects their safety, and health care that does not condemn those whose health is impaired to a lifetime of poverty and lost opportunity.”

The video was a moving tribute to Teddy Kennedy’s lifelong commitment to his fellow man and to his party … and to many of the causes which President Barack Obama fulfilled and seeks to fulfill in his second term.

From the Ted Kennedy web site (a memorial to his life and his service):

Edward M. Kennedy was the third longest-serving member of the United States Senate in American history. Voters of Massachusetts elected him to the Senate nine times—a record matched by only one other Senator.

The scholar Thomas Mann said his time in the Senate was “an amazing and endurable presence. You want to go back to the 19th century to find parallels, but you won’t find parallels.”

President Obama has described his breathtaking span of accomplishment: “For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health, and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.”

He fought for and won so many great battles—on voting rights, education, immigration reform, the minimum wage, national service, the nation’s first major legislation to combat AIDS, and equality for minorities, women, the disabled and gay Americans.

Legislative achievements over 47 years in the Senate and 15,235 votes cast include the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and hundreds of other bills that protected the least among us and embraced a commitment to economic justice.

In my mind, his finest speech was the one at the Democratic convention in 1980 after he had lost the nomination and our party geared up to run against Ronald Reagan, the father of the modern Republican party, that year. Those words still ring true 32 years later:

We are the Party — We are the Party of the New Freedom, the New Deal, and the New Frontier. We have always been the Party of hope. So this year let us offer new hope, new hope to an America uncertain about the present, but unsurpassed in its potential for the future.

To all those who are idle in the cities and industries of America let us provide new hope for the dignity of useful work. Democrats have always believed that a basic civil right of all Americans is that their right to earn their own way. The Party of the people must always be the Party of full employment.

To all those who doubt the future of our economy, let us provide new hope for the reindustrialization of America. And let our vision reach beyond the next election or the next year to a new generation of prosperity. If we could rebuild Germany and Japan after World War II, then surely we can reindustrialize our own nation and revive our inner cities in the 1980′s.

To all those who work hard for a living wage let us provide new hope that their price of their employment shall not be an unsafe workplace and a death at an earlier age.

To all those who inhabit our land from California to the New York Island, from the Redwood Forest to the Gulf stream waters, let us provide new hope that prosperity shall not be purchased by poisoning the air, the rivers, and the natural resources that are the greatest gift of this continent. We must insist that our children and our grandchildren shall inherit a land which they can truly call America the beautiful.

This could have been written in 2012:

And to all those overburdened by an unfair tax structure, let us provide new hope for real tax reform. Instead of shutting down classrooms, let us shut off tax shelters. Instead of cutting out school lunches, let us cut off tax subsidies for expensive business lunches that are nothing more than food stamps for the rich.

The conclusion to that speech:

For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

The history of the Democratic Party, enriched by people like Ted Kennedy whose legislative legacy and soaring rhetoric both improved our lives and lifted our hearts and our spirits … another reason I Vote For Democrats and why you should too.