It is not enough for us to grieve, though we must. It is not enough to remember, though we will. It is not enough to speak of the man's greatness, his courage in the face of cancer, or his determination to do right by all people. For he, more than most, knew this country, knew it's potential, knew the good in it, and knew how it suffered. He dedicated himself to it, not for the sake of a legacy, but for the continued well-being of a decent people, in Massachusetts, and in America.
He suffered right along with us.
He watched his brothers John and Robert step into the fire, to be consumed by it, even as they tried to free the nation from the miasma of its past. He, too, stepped into the fire with them, and became singed by it, but stood firm, and beat back the flames, though we will never truly know what part of him was consumed. He spoke so eloquently of his brothers in death, endured each tragedy of the Kennedy family in turn with stoic grace, and was their bulwark through periods that would have broken anyone else.
He was no saint, and given what he lived through, that should be no surprise, for to put one man under so much strain for so long will rob even the strongest of us of our resolve to be the best we can be. Yet, no foible or fault did he have that was so heinous, as to reduce him to mere caricature. No one would claim he was a paper tiger.
Respected by Democrats and Republicans alike, he fought hard for all people in this country, having a hand in such crucial legislation as the Civil Rights Act (1964), the Voting Rights Act (1965), the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (1993). Even at the end, he was continuing the fight to ensure that every American would have affordable, unbreakable health care. He would not let a little thing like cancer keep him from the fight, but eventually, he could not hope to overcome it, and had to fall back to the sidelines as others struggled to bring his vision to pass.
We will mourn, we will grieve, and we will move forward, because if Ted Kennedy has left us any legacy, it is one of perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds or unimaginable grief. He showed us that anything that is good is worth fighting for, and that standing upon your principles need not be politics nor personal flaw. He has left this world better than it was when he started, but the work has not been finished, the last wrong has not been righted, and the last lamp has not been lit. The mantle has slipped from his shoulders, but must not reach the ground; we must pick it up, hoist it upon ourselves, and continue to fight for the good works he envisioned.
Senator Edward Kennedy, the man is dead, but his vision and strength lives on in each of us, and that is the most fitting tribute there can be.