Remembering Ted Kennedy

As the nation mourns the loss of Senator Edward Kennedy, it’s worth reading a Newsweek piece he wrote just last month on why the struggle for universal healthcare has been the cause of his life. He writes about the many times in his life when he and his family members have needed healthcare, and have had no trouble getting top-quality procedures that saved their lives:

But quality care shouldn’t depend on your financial resources, or the type of job you have, or the medical condition you face. Every American should be able to get the same treatment that U.S. senators are entitled to.

This is the cause of my life. It is a key reason that I defied my illness last summer to speak at the Democratic convention in Denver—to support Barack Obama, but also to make sure, as I said, “that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American…will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not just a privilege.” For four decades I have carried this cause—from the floor of the United States Senate to every part of this country. It has never been merely a question of policy; it goes to the heart of my belief in a just society.

Jonathan Cohn at The Treatment mourns the loss of a Senator who was never afraid to make moral arguments for policies. He writes of Kennedy:

When he looked at America, he saw a country full of people made vulnerable–by circumstance of birth, economic misfortune, illness, or injury. He believed we had an obligation, as a nation, to protect those people–if not to render these people whole, then at least to make these people safe. And so he spoke out– for universal health care, for civil rights, for aid to people with disabilities, for more generous assistance to the poor. And when opponents criticized those moves, because they meant bigger government or bigger taxes, Kennedy didn’t deny the charge. He justified it, in a way few Democrats would dare do today. It was, he said, the way Americans fulfill their duty to one another.

 As members of Congress argue over the costs of healthcare reform proposals, we should remember Kennedy’s lesson: If we believe in a just society, we have a moral obligation to ensure healthcare for all.

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