People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan released this statement today on the death of Senator Edward Kennedy:
“A great sadness has settled over millions of Americans who counted on Ted Kennedy to champion the values of freedom, fairness and opportunity. The death of Senator Kennedy causes us to pause, to recognize in his passing the loss of a monumental figure in American public life.
“He was born with much, but committed his life to building a society that was more compassionate and less complacent about those who had been denied the American dream. He worked tirelessly to ensure a better education for children in public schools and to provide struggling families with greater access to child care and health care.
“He was the Senate’s most consistently reliable champion for the rights of women and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.
“Ted Kennedy was fearless. He never shied from taking on the hardest issues. He championed American values and progressive values with a passion bordering on ferocity. Whenever civil rights were threatened, he could be heard on the floor of the Senate, and sometimes from the hallway. Whenever there was an opportunity to protect Americans from discrimination or strengthen protections for constitutional liberties, he was both the essential behind-the-scenes negotiator and the public standard-bearer. His steadfast presence and the power of his example made other senators stronger, better, and braver.
“Senator Kennedy was a supreme legislative strategist with a long-term perspective honed through decades of public service. Because he was such an outspoken and effective advocate, he was often the target of attacks by political opponents. But even the most vicious attacks did not deter him from working respectfully with colleagues across the partisan divide. He was always willing to reach a principled compromise that he believed would represent progress toward a larger, longer-term goal.
“People For the American Way’s board, staff, and members, will always remember with respect and gratitude Sen. Kennedy’s leadership in the crucial effort to prevent Robert Bork’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Throughout our organization’s history, Sen. Kennedy was a courageous leader and committed ally in our efforts to win passage of civil rights legislation and overcome discrimination, preserve freedom of speech and religious liberty, protect the voting rights of historically disenfranchised people, and resist right-wing efforts to undermine equality under the law and erode other constitutional guarantees. People For the American Way honored Kennedy with its Defender of Democracy Award in 1998.
“Ted Kennedy’s voice has been stilled, but his legacy lives on. It lives in the countless Americans whose lives were touched by his legislative accomplishments And it lives in the hearts of all of us who admired him and were inspired by him, and who must now take a share of responsibility for continuing his work. He will be missed.”
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