Last night the nation lost one of its great public servants. It is difficult to think of another elected official since WWII who supported programs to help the most vulnerable members of our society with the energy, consistency and intelligence of Senator Edward Kennedy. His vision of justice was tied to a commitment to mitigate the cruel effects of inequality and entrenched power without unduly compromising economic growth and individual freedom. His support of education as a vehicle for the creation of opportunity has inspired countless students and teachers.
Senator Kennedy’s family had strong Wesleyan ties. The senator received an honorary degree in 1984, and his son Ted is a graduate. His step-daughter, Caroline Raclin, graduated in 2008, and we had looked forward to a Commencement Address that year from the Lion of the Senate. This was around the time when his illness first became evident, but despite the personal challenges confronting the family, they made sure to find a suitable speaker. Barack Obama’s moving tribute to his senate colleague, and his call for public service, will be long remembered by those who attended.
In this season of lies and distortions aimed to preserve profits and privilege, we have already missed him. In this season of posturing and bloviating without apparent thought of legislating, we have already missed him. We have already missed his uncanny ability to combine forceful advocacy with thoughtful, pragmatic compromise.
May the memory of his passionate and reasoned voice for health care as a right and not a privilege be the basis for extending and improving our health care system. This would be the greatest tribute to a remarkable man.