by John Schachter
While most Americans know that today, February 22, was George Washington’s birthday, not enough know that he shares this day with another late great American. Former Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) would have turned 81 today had he not tragically succumbed to brain cancer in August 2009. Fortunately his legacy lives on.
On so many of the issues dominating the public debate today -- voting rights, educational opportunity, marriage equality and equal rights for all Americans – Kennedy was a leader and a force to be reckoned with. As the Supreme Court grapples with these issues and more, let us hope that Kennedy’s work will be neither forgotten nor for naught.
In honor of Kennedy’s life and legacy, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate was founded in Massachusetts following his death. The Institute “is dedicated to educating the public about our government, invigorating public discourse, encouraging participatory democracy, and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the public square.” To commemorate his birthday, the Institute has posted a tribute video first shared at a celebration of Kennedy’s 77th birthday. It’s well worth a watch.
Kennedy was a leading advocate of progressive ideals and also a friend to ACS. He was a major draw at a 2002 ACS national event and also authored an article for the summer 2008 volume of the Harvard Law & Policy Review (HLPR), the official journal of ACS, on the work of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.
Ted Kennedy will be remembered for many things, for better or for worse. But his nearly five decades in the Senate left a record in many ways unparalleled in the history of the institution. And while he is no longer around to keep the work going, that doesn’t mean the work is done. As was often the case, no one could put it better than Kennedy himself: “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.”