Ted Kennedy: His Fight Isn't Over

by Molly Kenney

Ted Kennedy may be facing aggressive brain cancer, but he’s sure as hell not been beaten yet. He hasn’t begun the fight and he doesn’t need an audience when he does.

For those who haven't followed the news, last week, Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, following a seizure that sent him to Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital. The senior Senator, who has served the Bay State since 1962, is well-known for his social activism, political savvy, and hard-fought personal and professional battles.

The last of the three Kennedy brothers, Ted has weathered the assassinations of John and Robert and the cancer of all three of his children, as well as the various Kennedy scandals that have kept the family in the news for more than half a century. In 1980, Kennedy ran a popular but ultimately unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, continuing instead with a Senate career fighting for reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, employment rights, the environment, and a living Constitution, just to name a few. Of course he’s not perfect — he’s a Kennedy. But he serves as a voice of reason in the midst of a reckless conservative administration and a reminder of what the Democratic party was and should again be, and those roles won’t stop if chemotherapy starts or if he loses the capacity to speak publicly.

So, let’s have some respect for an admirable public servant, the last of the old Kennedys, and an old man facing a tough medical battle.

Let’s not engage in egotistical, manipulative maneuvering like State House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi (who should be focusing on abounding allegations of his corruption) and others on Beacon Hill. Within hours of Kennedy’s diagnosis, DiMasi’s conversations about who Democrats should back to replace the senior Senator after his death had reached a dull roar on Beacon Hill. And there was plenty of lobbying for Governor Deval Patrick to officially weigh in on the matter as well.

Let’s not, although no one in their right mind would, act like Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), whose first public comment about Kennedy’s diagnosis served only to compare her healthcare advocacy to Kennedy’s. Then, to reiterate her insensitivity, tactlessness, and political masochism, Clinton mentioned Robert Kennedy’s June 1968 assassination as a reason for continuing her campaign through next month.

Let’s not write countless articles about the exact location and type of his tumor, try to document his emotions while he’s sailing on Cape Cod, or argue about the number of days he has left to live. As he has throughout his career, Kennedy will fight a private battle while continuing his public service. Many of his Senate colleagues have said that cancer doesn’t stand a chance against Ted.

(The photo of Sen. Ted Kennedy at a rally on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama at American University in March is by Shanda Wilson via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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