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August 31, 2009

In Search of That Better America

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who passed away last Tuesday, was a stalwart force in national efforts to stop gun violence. Our country is better today for the work that the senator did to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children. Senator Kennedy supported every major gun safety initiative since the Gun Control Act of 1968; including the Brady background check law, the ban on assault weapons, and ongoing efforts to close the gun show loophole. His wise counsel, gentle good humor, and steely resolve on these issues will remain in the hearts and minds of all those who work to reduce gun violence.

In addition, he had a tremendous impact on nearly every aspect of modern American political life. Some of his many legislative accomplishments were summed up in remarks at his "Celebration of Life" by Senator John Kerry, his colleague from Massachusetts:

“Ted Kennedy changed the course of history as only few others ever have. Without him, there might still be a military draft. The war in Vietnam might have lasted longer. There might have been delays in passing the Voting Rights Act or Medicare and Medicaid. Soviet Jewish Refuseniks might have been ignored—and who would have been there to help them as Ted did? Without him we might not have stood up against the apartheid government in South Africa. The barriers to fair immigration might be higher...

“Without Ted, 18-year-olds might not be able to vote. There might not be a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Meals on Wheels, student loans, increases in the minimum wage, equal funding for women’s college sports, health insurance portability, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the first billions for AIDS research, workplace safety, Americorps, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program...

“He stood against judges who would turn back the clock on constitutional rights. He stood against the war in Iraq. For nearly four decades, and all through his final days, he labored with all his might to make health care a right for all Americans."

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick added, "Ted Kennedy more often than not sailed into the political wind, in search of that better America. He did it with a grace and skill so typical of him and his family."

The Lion of the Senate understood that sometimes the toughest fights were the ones most worth fighting. In the future we can honor the memory of Ted Kennedy and the millions of victims of gun violence by sailing into the political wind and making Teddy's work our own.

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