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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

August 27, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Ted Kennedy: a liberal lion who was a champion for the people

An unforgettable moment with Kennedy

Editor, The Times:

In 1995, the Aberdeen High School choir made a trip to Washington, D.C. As a young staffer for Sen. Patty Murray and a graduate of Aberdeen High School, the senator asked me to accompany her visit with the students. After posing for pictures, answering questions and listening to a couple of songs, Murray needed to leave for a vote on the Senate floor.

Shortly thereafter, some of the talented students noticed Sen. Ted Kennedy looking at them over a balcony. He said, “I just wanted to hear where the beautiful music was coming from.” The students implored the senator to come down to visit with them and, to my surprise, he obliged.

As he ambled up to the group of students, he shook my hand and whispered, “Who are these people, and why are they here?” I responded that they were from my hometown, a small town in Washington state, and were here to visit Murray.

Immediately, Kennedy whirled around and spoke to the students about the time Jim Whittaker was speaking with his brother about climbing Mount Rainier. He said, “Whittaker was telling Bobby that everyone should climb a mountain, or visit a national park, to remain close to nature, but Bobby turned it around on him and said that everyone should visit their government to ensure we protect beautiful places in our country like Mount Rainier.”

Over the years, I had several opportunities to be in Kennedy’s presence both in Washington, D.C., and Washington state. He always remembered I was from Aberdeen. And I will always remember how easily he related to “normal” people.

And, I’m confident those students will always remember their trip to visit their government. He will be missed.

— Shay Hancock, Washington, D.C.

An era passes with Kennedy’s death

And so, Camelot comes to an end.

For those of us who watched the’60s unfold as children, the passing of Sen. Edward Kennedy is particularly poignant.

Whatever their political affiliations, presidents and colleagues praised that his passion for causes was tempered by his willingness to compromise — qualities lacking in today’s polarizing politicians and pundits. And if they did not agree with him, they never questioned his commitment to those Andrew Jackson identified as “the humble members of society.”

At a time when concentration of power in the president and vice president has rocked this nation and its Constitution to the core, I offer King Arthur’s closing lines in Camelot in remembrance of the Kennedy’s perseverance: “Thank you for saving Camelot. You have reminded us that a kingdom’s strength is not based on the strength of the king but the strength of the people.”

Kennedy promised at the 1980 Democratic Convention that his “work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

“By whom, now?” is the question that should haunt us in coming months, as public frustration simmers over perceived haves and have-nots.

Because if average Americans lose faith they can still aspire to prosperity, then what?

— Douglas Jensen, Sequim

Name health-care reform after the Liberal Lion

The Kennedy family name will live forever in America’s psyche, but none more so than Ted Kennedy’s.

The Liberal Lion was passionate in his liberal social causes, but health-care reform was at the top of his agenda, and in the’70s he gave a firebrand speech that delineated what we as a nation must do to attain coverage for all. The way he went about it was with all the verve he could muster.

Kennedy had many friends across the aisle, as well as within his own party, and his death yesterday couldn’t have come at a worse time, but I have a suggestion: Let us name our health-care reform in his memory.

How about the Ted Kennedy Health Care Plan?

— Max W. Don, Mukilteo

Not just a lion of liberalism, a phoenix committed to justice

Who among us hasn’t sighed — especially during the George W. Bush years — and wondered what John F. Kennedy might have achieved had he lived?

From the loss of Joe Kennedy Jr. in World War II, to the assassinations of John and Bobby Kennedy, to John-John Kennedy’s unspeakable accident, it’s easy to focus on what might have been.

Even when we speak of Ted Kennedy, whom we have only just lost, we may recall the “long shadow” of the Chappaquiddick car accident and bemoan the missed opportunity for another Kennedy president.

But Ted Kennedy was a phoenix. Call it penance for a fatal mistake on that bridge in Massachusetts, but he has served the people in the truest sense — wholly committed to the causes of justice.

In 47 years in the Senate, he achieved his lion status through the force of his personality, passion and commitment — especially when it came to universal health coverage, for which no one worked more tirelessly or spoke more eloquently.

Though the outpouring of grief and personal tributes are fitting expressions of our loss, the real tribute to Ted Kennedy’s legacy will be when — like Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act JFK had worked to achieve — President Obama signs into life Kennedy’s dream of health care for all.

— Teresa R. Herlinger, Portland, Ore.

Honor Kennedy with real health reform

Sen. Ted Kennedy spent a long and important career fighting every day for real health-care reform. We should all honor his struggle by letting our senators, Congress and president know we want and need real reform with a strong public option.

Don’t let the squeaky right-wingers stop this.

— Peter O’Neil, Seattle

Reform is all about saving those ill like Kennedy

The coverage of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s death brings more attention to the partisan arguments regarding health-care reform. However, we must remember that reform is about saving lives. As an advocate for an organization without a partisan political agenda, I can tell you the reform bills being debated represent tremendous progress for people fighting cancer.

Under the existing system, even if a person is lucky enough to have affordable, quality health care, they risk losing that insurance. A cancer patient or survivor who is laid off or cannot work is virtually uninsurable. Annual and lifetime insurance caps can limit treatment, and pre-existing conditions can be used as excuses to limit or even deny coverage.

In comparison, the health-care reform bills would guarantee affordable access to treatment and prevention services. Annual and lifetime benefit caps would be eliminated, and no one would be denied coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions.

There is room for further progress, but we need reform now, so all Americans have access to affordable health care. We need Congress to make sure people no longer have to choose between losing their life savings and saving their life.

— Ray Sasaki, Seattle

Comments | More in Congress, Families, Federal government, Health care, Politics, Reform

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