Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy

Tonight, Ted Kennedy died at home in Hyannis Port, MA.

The senator from Massachusetts, who’s been suffering from a cancerous brain tumor, was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.

He fought hard for national service — most recently on the the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act which was signed into law in April and which had been spearheaded by himself and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). That Act represents the largest expansion of national service since the start of AmeriCorps in 1993.

Read the Change/Wire tribute to Senator Kennedy, and sign their Condolence Book.

According to CNN.com, the

“longtime Massachusetts senator was considered one of the most effective legislators of the past few decades. Kennedy, who became known as the ‘Lion of the Senate,’ played major roles in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act and the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, and was an outspoken liberal standard-bearer during a conservative-dominated era from the 1980s to the early 2000s.”

At the time of his death, Kennedy was the second most senior member of the Senate, after Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and the third-longest-serving senator of all time.

His family issued this statement on Kennedy’s Senate website:

“Edward M. Kennedy – the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply – died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.”

Just two weeks ago, the Kennedy family lost Ted’s elder sister Eunice.

Alan Solomont, chair of the Corporation for National and Community Service, offered this statement on Wednesday, Aug. 26:

“Senator Kennedy’s death is a monumental loss to the national service movement as well as to the country.  There was simply no one else like him.

“Senator Kennedy had a special place in his heart for national and community service, born out of his family’s commitment to public service.  He worked with the first President Bush to pass the 1990 National Service Act.  He sponsored the 1993 law creating the Corporation for National and Community Service and the AmeriCorps program, and introduced the Serve America Act that now bears his name. Senator Kennedy has done as much as any leader to create a culture of service and civic engagement in our country.

“He will be remembered as one of the greatest legislators of our time, but he was also a man of enormous kindness and thoughtfulness.  He also personified in his own life the values for which he fought in the public arena.  Few know that he took time out of his busy schedule to tutor disadvantaged youth in Washington, DC, on a regular basis.

“For nearly a half century, Senator Kennedy was at the forefront of legislation to strengthen civil rights, education, health care, and disability rights.  We are proud that among his passions was a commitment to national and community service.  He fashioned the Serve America Act with his good friend, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.  It was a classic example of Senator Kennedy reaching across the aisle and promoting one of his priorities in a bipartisan fashion.  This was an example of what is best about our political system and democracy.

“I have no doubt that Senator Kennedy would want us to honor his legacy by redoubling our efforts to make service a part of every citizen’s daily life.  As President Obama said of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act:  ‘It is fitting that this legislation is named after Ted Kennedy, a person who has never stopped asking what he could do for his country. This legislation is not just a tribute to the service to which he has dedicated his life, it is a call to action for the rest of us.'”

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