Most, if not all Americans have been touched by Ted Kennedy. Those with disabilities may be even more familiar with the amazing life and career of the Massachusetts senator, nicknamed “Lion of the Senate.” Teddy, as he was known to his friends, family, and colleagues,was first elected to the Massachusetts senate at the age of 30.
In the 46 years he was in the senate, he succeeded in the passing of many important pieces of legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which ended segregation), Voting Rights Act, the amendment that changed the voting age from 21 to 18, the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program, which offers food and health services to low-income women, infants, and children, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the HIPAA Act.
In 1971 he became the Chairman of the Senate Health Subcommittee. Under his leadership, they passed many laws that were instrumental in giving Americans with disabilities equal rights under the law. The most well known being the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Of this, he said, “The crowning achievement of these decades of progress was passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, and its promise of a new and better life for every disabled citizen, in which their disabilities would no longer put an end to their dreams. The Americans with Disabilities Act was an extraordinary milestone in the pursuit of the American dream. Many disability and civil rights leaders in communities throughout the country worked long and hard and well to achieve it.”
Of all his causes, Ted Kennedy was most passionate about healthcare, which he called the “cause of my life.” At an emotional speech at the 2008 Democratic Convention, he spoke of “new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — North, South, East, West, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.”
As a tribute to Teddy’s lifelong commitment to helping his fellow man, it would be fitting if Americans could put aside their differences and work together to make sure that every American, young or old, disabled or otherwise, has the ability to achieve the American dream. To paraphrase Ted Kennedy, “We have not lost the dream that all Americans can advance together.”