I remember sitting on the floor of my Uncle's house on his farm just outside CleElum, WA on the summer night in 1960 when John F Kennedy was nominated by the Democratic Party to be their presidential candidate. As a rather impressionable 13 year old Irish Catholic boy I considered it quite a moment in time. We rarely were allowed to watch Television. So it was special. My Uncle, an Italian, was an Eastern Washington farmer, gypo-logger and a Democrat. A rare find in Eastern WA today.
Many of my ilk didn't believe it could happen then. But the Kennedy guile made Catholics and especially those who considered themselves mostly Irish proud of our heritage. A heritage, I may add, that was the backbone of the American Labor movement, and gave us many of the social reforms and protections working class people take for granted today in America. The Kennedy brothers were a extension of that progress.
This was the begining of the Kennedy brothers long legacy in American politics. Although the Kennedy's were imperfect, rich and mortal most of the time they were also champions for weak, poor and the working class. Their idealism, oratory, and wit inspired us. With the passing of Teddy today the final Kennedy brother of that generation is now gone. Teddy had his flaws, his boozing, his womanizing, but he still seemed to never forget that he was an important voice for the middle class, the common folk and the vulnerable everywhere. I think in many ways the Kennedy's imperfections and their absolute zeal for living is what endeared them to many Americans. People recognized in the Kennedys their own imperfections and most reasonable people often forgave the brothers for theirs.
Like his brothers before him, Edward Kennedy fought for civil and human rights, dignity for all, and organized labor and he especially fought for health care reform. A battle he lead for nearly 49 years. It is too bad that he will not be here with us to see that chapter in his life successfully completed. But, maybe his passing will become the impetus or spark that will make enough people and their representatives realize that real health care reform's time has come in this nation in spite of the demagoguery and lies of the Republican Party, their corporate numskulls or the loony of the radical right.