The republic is better off because of the service of Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose signature graced every significant piece of liberal legislation over the last 40 years. (Yes, I used the “L” word. Kennedy never shrank from it.)
He pushed for the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is now so much a mainstream part of the culture that we take it for granted that persons in wheelchairs should have access to public buildings. He pushed for Title IX, which gave female athletes increased access to college scholarships. We now take that for granted, too.
But his signature legislation was always health care; he started pushing for increased access to health care in the 1960s.
Kennedy had significant flaws, of course. He was a drinker and a womanizer. He never publicly took responsibility for the death of Mary Jo Kopechne in the way that he should have (a death that was probably related to drinking and womanizing.) He paid for her death with the loss of his presidential hopes.
Still, he bore tragedy — the assassinations of two brothers, the death of beloved nephew John Jr. — better than most, using his brothers’ deaths to refocus his service in the Senate. And his biggest accomplishment may be yet to come. Because he had so many friends in the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is quite possible that the Senate will find a way to pass significant health care reform legislation as a tribute to Kennedy.