"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”- Ted Kennedy to the 1980 Democratic National Convention
We at the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence are heartbroken over the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, one of the finest public servants the United States of America has ever known. The senator was a man of principle who always legislated with average Americans families in mind—a precious commodity.
Our country is better today for the work that Senator Kennedy did to protect Americans from crime and keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children. The senator supported every major gun safety initiative since the Gun Control Act of 1968; including the Brady background check law, the ban on assault weapons, and ongoing efforts to close the gun show loophole. His wise counsel, gentle good humor, and steely resolve on these issues will remain in the hearts and minds of all those who have worked to reduce gun violence.
One of my earliest memories of Ted Kennedy's political skill and work ethic came in the late 1960s. I served on the board of a youth organization working to lower the voting age. I remember people expressing great concern that our major support in the U.S. Senate came from a young senator from Massachusetts. That concern was allayed during the debate on the Voting Rights Act of 1970 when Senator Kennedy became the key sponsor of an amendment that lowered the voting age to 18. In his remarks—made while the Vietnam War was still ongoing—Senator Kennedy said, “I think one of the significant arguments for a finding by Congress that the voting age should be lowered is that if young people are old enough to fight, they are old enough to vote.”
This provision of the Voting Rights Act was soon challenged in court. Senator Kennedy continued to provide our youth coalition with strong legal and political advice. The Supreme Court ruled in Oregon v. Mitchell that the eighteen year-old minimum age requirement was valid for national elections, but not for state and local elections. Faced with the prospect of having to implement two different election systems, a constitutional amendment was proposed. The Twenty-Sixth Amendment was passed and ratified by the states in June 1971, immediately enfranchising eleven million young people. The youth of America—especially those who serve in our military—owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Kennedy every time they take part in our democratic process.
They are not alone. Senator Kennedy leaves his mark on every major piece of modern legislation concerning civil rights, health care, gun safety, education, voting rights and labor. The Lion of the Senate is irreplaceable, a larger-than-life figure who never tired in his mission to better the lives of Americans.
Perhaps the most fitting eulogy of Ted Kennedy comes from his own words at the 1968 funeral of his brother, Robert F. Kennedy:
"[He] need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.”
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy. For more information about the Coalition, visit www.csgv.org.