Senator Edward M. Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the United States Senate for forty-six years. He was elected in 1962 to finish the final two years of the Senate term of his brother, Senator John F. Kennedy, who was elected President in 1960. Ted Kennedy was re-elected to seven full terms.
Throughout his career, Kennedy fought for issues that benefited the citizens of Massachusetts and the nation. His primary focus was making quality health care accessible and affordable to every American, but he was also active in education reform and immigration reform, raising the minimum wage, defending the rights of workers and their families, strengthening civil rights, assisting individuals with disabilities, fighting for cleaner water and cleaner air, and protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare.
Kennedy died after a long battle with brain cancer on August 25, 2009. He was 77.
Question: What is your legacy?
Ted Kennedy: Well I hope it’s people perceive as one that tried to make a difference; to be a voice for the voiceless for those that have been left out and left behind; someone that tried to stay the course in terms of what this country represented – its best instincts and its best values; someone that tried to make a difference in bringing an end to the war in Iraq. That’s a continuing challenge. There’s enough work in there for everyone.
You don’t have to be a senator to make a difference. All you have to do is care. And this is something which is enormously inspiring now, because when I go to schools and colleges, I find so many of the young people want to be involved in helping to solve the problems – maybe not running for elected office, but trying to solve the problems. We’ve seen that in national magazines in recent times.
And one of the very, very important parts of an education bill that we have just passed in the House and Senate, and the President [George W. Bush] will sign, will be loan forgiveness for students who generally have $20,000 of indebtedness when they graduate; some much more.
It will be loan forgiveness for those that want to be involved in working in their community to help solve the problems. It may be as a teacher. It may be as a nurse. It may be as a prosecutor. It may be as a legal defender. It may be as a childcare worker. It may be working with special needs children. It may be working on an Indian reservation.
We’ve been very broad in terms of what we have defined in that to try to say to the young people in this country, if you’re a person that is able to get admission to a school and college, cost should not be the barrier for it. And when you graduate, debt should not be a barrier for your ability to make a contribution to the country, to give something back to the community for all that it has given to you, and for something to give back to the nation. That kind of spirit is alive and well. It gets back to your earlier question about the state of our democracy. As long as that kind of spirit is out there, this country will be safe and secure.
Recorded on: September 14, 2007