Senator Edward M. Kennedy dies at 77
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who carried aloft the torch of a Massachusetts dynasty and championed a liberal ideology during almost a half century in the Senate, but whose personal and political failings may have prevented him from realizing the ultimate prize of the presidency, died Tuesday night at his home in Hyannis Port. He was 77 and had been battling brain cancer.
Overcoming a history of family tragedy, which included the assassinations of a brother who was president and another who sought to occupy the White House, Kennedy seized on the role of being a "Senate man." He became a Democratic titan of Washington who fought for the less fortunate, who crafted unlikely deals with conservative Republicans, and who ceaselessly sought support for universal health coverage.
"Teddy," as he was known to intimates, constituents, and even his fiercest enemies, was a unwavering symbol to the left and the right -- the former for his unapologetic embrace of liberalism, and latter for his value as a political target. But with his fiery rhetoric, his distinctive Massachusetts accent, and his role as representative of one of the nation's best-known political families, he was widely recognized as an American original. In the end, some of those who might have been his harshest political enemies, including former President George W. Bush, found ways to collaborate with the man who was called the "last lion" of the Senate.
Kennedy's White House aspirations may have doomed by his actions on the night that he drove off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island and failed to promptly report the accident in which a woman died. When Kennedy nonetheless later sought to wrest the presidential nomination from an incumbent Democrat, Jimmy Carter, he failed in his quest. But that failure prompted him to reevaluate his place in history, and he dedicated himself to fulfilling his political agenda by other means, famously saying, "the dream shall never die."
With Kennedy's death, as it was with the passing of his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, another chapter has closed in an extraordinary family epic, one that has captivated people worldwide for decades, and has been recounted in countless books, television shows, and movies. But, as Kennedy himself often suggested, it seems certain that his causes not only will endure, but also will remain at the forefront of the American political stage, most recently with the ongoing fight over healthcare legislation.
He was the youngest child of a famous family, but his legacy derived from quiet subcommittee meetings, conference reports, and markup sessions. The result of his efforts meant hospital care for a grandmother, a federal loan for a working college student, or a better wage for a dishwasher.Continued...
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