Everyone saw Ted's flaws. He was the only one around long enough to show them. His mistakes were endlessly scrutinized and believe me, in some ugly corners of the Internet, are being breathlessly and joyfully rehashed today. The good grace to allow the man to grow cold in his coffin apparently does not exist.
Joe, John, Bobby, Ted. The princes of what passed for American royalty, what families like the Bushes try to emulate and fail, what conservatives decry and progressives despair to ever see again. People with faults and flaws and humanity, with love and pain and hope in their hearts. People who tried to do the right thing as often as they could, on balance.
Ted Kennedy has always been around in my life. He was a flawed man, but a political giant. He fought tirelessly for the downtrodden, for equal rights for all, for health care, for peace.
Gender Equity: Kennedy saw the Senate of the Equal Rights Amendment in 1972, which aimed to make men and women equal in the constitution. He reintroduced the legislation again this congressional session, but it has yet to make it into the constitution.
Kennnedy championed Title IX of the Civil Rights Act in 1972, which prevented educational institutions from discriminating against women (afterward, colleges and universities integrated, paving the way for women like Sonia Sotomayor and Hillary Clinton to attend Ivy League institutions), as well as requiring equitable athletic opportunities.
Civil Rights: Kennedy saw the passage of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1988 as committee chairman, which strengthened the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Afterward, then-executive director of the Leadership Council on Civil Rights Ralph Neas said, "Now you see what happens when you have a civil rights champion in charge of the committee."
He was also chief sponsor on the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which addressed intentional discrimination and harassment in the workplace. He was also a key sponsor of legislation by the same name in 2008, which sought to restore civil rights protections stripped by Supreme Court rulings in recent years (like the Lilly Ledbetter case).
Pay Equity: Kennedy worked on the Fair Pay Restoration Act, which sought to restore the rights of women to sue with each discriminatory paycheck, overturning the Supreme Court ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear.
Voting Rights: Kennedy worked on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which allowed equal access to voting as part of the Civil Rights movement. He also worked to add amendments in 1982 that expanded voting access to Native Americans, Latinos, and others who required language assistance.
Affirmative Action: Kennedy helped defeat legislation that would have ended federal affirmative action in 1998 and joined his colleagues in the Senate in filing a brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in 2003.
And from Shakesville.
Teddy's legacy, then, is complicated. A man of privilege, who used it cynically for his own benefit. A man of privilege, who used it generously to try to change the world. And maybe to salve his own conscience. Even as he believed fervently in the genuine rightness of his endeavors—and certainly would have, even if there wasn't a scale to balance.
(Both links are very much worth reading-far better than I do here.)
My hope is that his legacy of compassion and fairness will continue in his name, and that the world will never forget that the most flawed of them ended up the most productive. Was his work a gesture of atonement or was it just what he felt was right? We'll never know and it doesn't matter. The world is a more just place because of him, and a far, far poorer place without him.