Ted Kennedy, valiantly fighting for health care reform while losing his health battle, wins Wings of Justice award
Originally published on WingsofJustice.com on September 2, 2009
A long overdue increase in the minimum wage. Keeping the Republicans from filibustering a Medicare bill. “His endless, ageless passion for improving the great community known as the United States of America.”
Yes, Ted Kennedy has been in this chair before — a three-time winner of the Wings of Justice. But his fourth, and alas, last trip into the Wings of Justice circle is for his courage in the face of death to fight for the one key battle that he desperately wanted to accomplish — real, authentic health care reform.
His brother, John, wrote a book called “Profiles in Courage,” not realizing that someday, his youngest brother, Edward, would fit that title to a T. When faced with the tap on the shoulder from Death, Ted Kennedy thought not of himself, but of others who would live on past his own time on this earth.
“The unique thing about Teddy was he was never about him. It was always about you. It was never about him.”
— Vice President Joe Biden, a longtime Senate colleague of Kennedy
Having been in the Senate since 1962, and certainly having plenty of money, Kennedy didn’t need to be concerned about those who went bankrupt for medical treatment or those denied care because they were uninsured. He certainly had or dealt with health care issues throughout his life, whether it be the plane crash in 1964 that nearly killed him and left him with chronic back problems or having his son lose a leg to cancer.
Though Sen. Kennedy wasn’t able to physically do much in his last remaining months, he threw himself into championing the cause of decent, quality health care. When many of us — at least those of us who get to know that we are dying — know that the end is near, we tend to be selfish. For Sen. Kennedy, it was his time to speak out, to convince those of a better way when it comes to health care.
Kennedy cared so much that he reached out to write an essay, published in the July 27 edition of Newsweek, one of the last essays ever written by Sen. Kennedy:
This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver — to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, “that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” For four decades I have carried this cause — from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society. Now the issue has more meaning for me — and more urgency — than ever before. But it’s always been deeply personal, because the importance of health care has been a recurrent lesson throughout most of my 77 years.
In August, President Obama awarded Sen. Kennedy the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation’s highest civilian honor. For not giving up when we needed him most, for sadly the final time, Ted Kennedy is the winner of the Wings of Justice award. Truly, rest in peace.