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Profile of Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Equal Opportunity Champion

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Profile of Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Equal Opportunity Champion

Photo taken on Jan 20, 2009: Scott Applewhite/Getty Images

Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts:

When Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962 at age 30, he was widely regarded as a lightweight, there only by dent of his brother being President. 46 years later, Sen. Kennedy became one of the most accomplished legislators in U.S. Senate history.

In 2006, Time magazine named Kennedy one of "America's 10 Best Senators," writing that he's "amassed a titanic record of legislation affecting the lives of virtually every man, woman and child in the country."

He fought for equal opportunity for all, and was a fiercely impassioned spokesman for the poor and middle-class, and for immigrants.

Recent Notability:

Sen. Ted Kennedy lost his hard-fought 15-month battle with brain cancer on August 26, 2009. Sen. Kennedy was the third longest serving U.S. senator in American history, and perhaps its most prolific legislator, having written more than 250 succeessful bills.

On January 28, 2008, Sen. Kennedy endorsed Barack Obama for the 2008 presidential contest, despite his longtime friendship with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Orated Kennedy, "With Barack Obama we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay."

Politcal Skills and Areas of Interest:

Dubbed "The Dealmaker" by Time magazine, Kennedy was a warm, gregarious leader who often reached across the aisle to make compromises to pass legislation.

While Republicans tagged Kennedy as ultra-liberal, Democrats often winced at compromises he pushed in to accomplish legislative goals, such as the Immigration Reform Act of 2007 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002.

In the 110th Congress, Kennedy served as Senate Health, Education & Labor CommitteeChair , reflecting his consuming interest in addressing the basic needs of all Americans. Sen. Kennedy called universal health care "the cause of my life."

Kennedy and the Immigration Issue:

"In my family, we were vividly aware of the immigrant stories of our great-grandparents. All found the American dream, and I have been one of its fortunate beneficiaries," penned Kennedy in his 2006 book.

Kennedy's first major bill was the Hart-Celler Act of 1965 which changed U.S. immigration policy toward a more multi-ethnic approach.

Kennedy worked tirelessly to negotiate the failed Immigration Reform Act of 2007.

Per Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, Kennedy's dream "is to leave behind... immigration reform legislation that will establish a clear path to citizenship for most of the 12 million undocumented workers."

Kennedy and the Education Issue:

"Our capacity to meet the challenges of the global economy depends on our ability to improve public schools and ensure that every child in America has a quality education," writes Kennedy at his Senate website.

Kennedy worked closely with President Bush to forge the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, as he vehemently believes that a good public education is the democratic right of every child in the U.S.

But the senator laments that NCLB "has never been fully funded... The Act’s provisions are intended to close the achievement gap in the nation’s schools, but the reforms can’t succeed without adequate funding."

Other Important Kennedy Legislation:

Ted Kennedy voted NO in 2002 against the Iraq War, and remains a vocal opponent of that conflict. In 2004, he boldly proclaimed "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam." While Kennedy has been active in foreign policy matters, his emphasis has been on domestic policies.

Kennedy was a leader in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the State Children's Health Insurance Program and civil rights causes. He strongly supports labor unions, and has been a staunch pro-choice advocate for over 30 years.

Senate Committees in the 111th Congress, 2009-2010:

  • Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, Chair
  • Armed Services Committee
  • Joint Economic Committee

Personal Data:

  • Birth - February 22, 1932 in Boston, the last of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy, a prominent Irish-Catholic family.
  • Armed Forces - Served in the U.S. Army at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Paris, 1951-1953
  • Education - B.A. Harvard University, 1956. International Law School, The Hague, Holland, 1958. J.D. University of Virginia, 1959.
  • Family - Second marriage, 1992, to Victoria Reggie. Three adult chldren: Kara (b. 1960), Edwards, Jr. (b. 1961), and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (b. 1967). Five grandchildren. Two stepchildren. (Married to Joan Bennett, 1958-1982.)
  • Faith - Roman Catholic

Imperfection and Redemption:

Ted Kennedy admitted to leading a life of imperfect behavior, including a youthful cheating scandal and the infamous 1969 car accident that left a young woman dead. Dogged by stories of alcohol abuse and womanizing, Kennedy was allegedly confronted in 1991 by good friend Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch about the urgent need to change his life.

In 1992, Kennedy married attorney Victoria Reggie, and said that he "ended partying." After that milestone, Kennedy experienced renewed vigor for his senatorial career, and developed into one of the most respected and hardest-working liberal leaders in U.S. history.

Memorable Quotes:

On Opportunity for All Americans

"The defining aspect of our country is opportunity - the hope that you can do better, that your children can do better. But you need an even playing field.

"To do that, you can’t be sick and be in school. You’ve got to have health care. You’ve got to have an economy working to give people a chance to get ahead. It is not guaranteed. But you have to have an opportunity.

"Our country is big enough and strong enough and wealthy enough to give that kind of opportunity to everybody. That’s what I work on every day."

---- Reuters interview, April 21, 2006

Kennedy's Brothers and High Standards

"I think about my brothers every day. They set high standards. Sometimes you measure up, sometimes you don't.

"I have tried to learn from my mistakes and sought to be better in the course of my life -- better husband, better brother, better father, better grandfather, better senator."

---- Reuters interview, April 21, 2006

The Right to Health Care

"The United States must also join the other industrialized nations of the world in granting every citizen the right to affordable and effective health care.

"Health care should be a basic right for all, not just a privilege for a few. The new Congress should be committed to this goal, so that no family has to choose between a visit to the doctor and paying the rent or putting food on the table."

---- Per Sen. Edward Kennedy's Senate website

On Economic Well-Being for Americans

"The most effective way to increase opportunity for American families is with good paying jobs, starting with raising the minimum wage... Raising the minimum wage is an essential step in providing hardworking people with fairness and real security for their families and their future...

"The economic well-being of our citizens depends on other factors as well, including good health benefits and pension benefits, fair tax laws, fair trade laws, and fair policies on family and medical leave.

"Economic well-being is also closely tied to educational attainment, and we’re committed to improving the nation’s schools and making college more affordable."

Per Sen. Edward Kennedy's Senate website

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