This week marked a dark time for America as senator Edward M. Kennedy, one of its most championed political leaders, passed away. With the loss of Ted Kennedy the political legacy of Camelot might very well be dead — an American myth surrounding the storied Kennedy clan.
Camelot was an ideal for all Americans to gaze upon. John F. Kennedy held the reign as King Arthur while Bobby acted the gallant sir Lancelot. Then there was Jackie Kennedy, the lovely Guinevere. And the youngest brother was none other than Teddy. He championed for real change in America long after assassins gunned down his two admired brothers.
Family and friends gathered at a private memorial Friday evening at the JFK Library and Museum in Boston in order to bid Ted farewell. Among the guests was Tony Award winner Brian Stokes Mitchell. The actor performed “The Impossible Dream” from Broadway’s Man of La Mancha — a musical based on Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The song was a fitting tribute to a man that spent much of his political career following his own impossible dream — health care for all.
It was as if the “lion” of the Senate was marching towards an unbeatable foe. He refused bowing to the Republican party’s notion that health care was a privilege and not a right. No, Ted was intent on righting the unrightable wrong.
In 1969 Ted found himself in the middle of a major controversy following a car crash in Chappaquiddick. Mary Jo Kopechne, an aide to Robert Kennedy and passenger in Ted’s car, died after they careened off a bridge. Many speculated that Ted would resign — his arms too weary to carry on. Instead, he picked himself up and set out to reach the unreachable star. Health care reform was now in his sights.
Ted could almost be heard singing:
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause
Leading the charge to pass the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990 proved Ted was serious about health care reform and equal rights. He promoted AIDS research and pushed the Kennedy-Kassebaum Bill through in 1996.
Ted was true to this glorious quest until the very end of his life. Roaring in support of President Obama’s latest push for health care reform, Ted refused to lie peaceful and calm until he was laid to rest. At the last Democratic convention in Denver Ted told everyone that universal health insurance was “the cause of my life.”
Diagnosed with brain cancer, the disease that would ultimately take his life at age 77, Ted was scorned and covered with scars. However, the senator still strove with his last ounce of courage to see that health care reform became a reality.
This impossible dream now falls to President Obama, a man that campaigned on hopes and dreams. Obama and all political leaders must never forget that America is a land for all people, not just those that can afford expensive medical plans. Should Ted’s dream be deemed impossible, this country runs the risk of suffering Don Quixote’s fate — dying a beaten and battered man.
Published by the Huffington Post on August 29, 2009.