Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tears for Ted Kennedy, a real liberal

In the olden days, like last year, I used to find out what had happened overnight by firing up the BBC website while I had my morning cup of Earl Grey. It something major had happened, my husband would usually wake me up to tell me before he left for work.

Now I have my Blackberry, which I am still insanely in love with, and it was from it on my friend Andrew Jolly's Facebook page that I saw "Ted Kennedy RIP" at just after 6.30 am today.

We all knew that this day would inevitably come - and in some ways thought it would be much sooner after he took ill at Obama's inauguration in January signalling a return of his Brain Cancer.

I first came across him in 1980, when I was 12 and he was running against Jimmy Carter for the Democratic nomination. At that point, I didn't like him very much, thinking that Carter was a good man and that Democrats should be working together against what I saw as the very frightening prospect of Ronald Reagan. I still wonder if he'd waited for a more tolerant time to run for President if we'd have been spared the 8 years of Dubya and would perhaps now be entering a period of Clinton presidency, Bill or Hillary, who knows?

Yes, he was flawed, yes, he behaved badly after that awful accident at Chappaquiddick, but, to be honest, I prefer my politicians to have faults and to be human, a bit like me. I don't like antiseptic, synthetic Stepford children, I admire and respect real people.

The fact that he was able to make such a mark in the Senate, earning almost universal respect, even from the most rabid of Republicans, showed just how good he was as a politician and legislator. Despite his financially privileged background, he was passionate on healthcare reform and continued to work to further Obama's cause until the last possible moment.

I know that some people still feel very strongly about the American connections with the IRA and Sinn Fein, but as peace became a possibility, Kennedy's influence on the likes of Gerry Adams was extremely helpful, his snub to them giving them a shove in the direction of the negotiating table.

He died exactly a year after this tribute was shown at the Democratic Convention before his emotional speech in support of Obama.

And here is the speech himself preceded by his introduction by Caroline Kennedy.

We've lost a true genuine liberal here but his legacy will live on through the real difference he has made to people's lives - on healthcare, minimum wage, human rights, peace across the globe to name just a few things.

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