August 26, 2009

Our gratitude will almost certainly be inadequate

I'm bracing myself for the Conservative backlash against the commemorations already beginning in honor of Senator Edward Kennedy, who passed away last night. Those of you who feel like doing a little dance on the man's grave would be well advised to do it far away from me or my family, or any of the tens of thousands of families just like ours. Or, if you really look at it, probably families just like yours, too. I challenge any of you to show me a politician of either party within the last century whose legislative actions have done so much to help Americans, in ways that have a direct impact on their lives.

Here's a very short, woefully incomplete list of why I'm not particularly interested in hearing why you didn't care for Ted Kennedy. I'll bet you can find at least two pieces of legislation on this list, laws molded in part or entirely by Senator Kennedy, that have literally saved my daughter's future. Hers, and countless more just like her, both living and not yet even born.

1964: Head Start
-- Provided meals and early education to pre-school children through the Employee Opportunity Act. (Schuyler participated in a Head Start program when she was a baby. It was part of the early intervention program that probably saved her.)

1971: Federal Cancer Research Program
-- Quadrupled the amount of money spent by the federal government to fight cancer.

1972: Title IX
-- Demanded equal funding for men's and women's athletics on college campuses.

1975: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
-- Guaranteed free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities. (This is the law that provides for Schuyler's education, and for EVERY SINGLE CHILD WITH A DISABILITY in public schools in this country. Every single one of them. Think about that for just a moment.)

1978: Civil Rights Commission Act Amendments
-- Expanded the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission to protect people from discrimination on the basis of disability.

1984: Improved Access to Polling Stations
-- Required polling stations to provide physical accessibility for physically disabled and elderly people on federal election days.

1986: Employment Opportunities for Disabled Americans Act
-- Allowed disabled workers to receive SSI benefits and Medicaid coverage.

1988: Fair Housing Act Amendments
-- Prohibited discrimination towards people with disabilities in the sale or rental of housing.

1989: National Military Child Care Act
-- Established the Department of Defense child care system.

1990: Americans with Disabilities Act
-- Prohibited discrimination against any qualified individual with a disability in job application procedures, hiring or discharge, compensation, advancement and training. (This is another big one for Schuyler and her friends. There are people in this country whose lives, and the quality of those lives, have been saved by this law. That's not even remotely an exaggeration.)

1990: Ryan White CARE Act
-- Provided assistance to states to develop effective and cost-efficient AIDS care programs, aimed particularly at early diagnosis and home care.

1993: National and Community Service Trust Act
-- Created AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service to help expand volunteerism and education grants for students who choose to volunteer for service after college.

1993: Student Loans
-- Allowed students to borrow money for college directly from the federal government.

1994: Family and Medical Leave Act
-- Provided up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family emergencies or after the birth of infants.

1994: Crime Act
-- Secured funding for 100,000 new police officers, imposed new penalties for crimes involving gangs and firearms and authorized the Police Corps, a program to award college scholarships to students in return for a commitment to serve as police officers.

1996: Kennedy-Kassebaum Act
-- Enabled employees to keep health insurance after leaving their job and prohibited insurance companies from refusing to renew coverage on the basis of preexisting medical conditions.

1996: Mental Health Parity Bill
-- Eliminated limits on mental health coverage that differ from other covered illnesses.

1997: State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)
-- Supported state efforts to provide health insurance to uninsured children in low-income families.

2000: Minority Health and Health Disparities Research and Education Act
-- Improved data systems and research on the extent and severity of minority health problems, and authorized significant resources to help enhance the delivery of health care to minorities.

2001: No Child Left Behind Act
-- Required more rigorous testing of public school students and permitted parents to transfer their children from low-performing to higher-performing schools. (Clearly I've had issues with the implementation of this law, but the philosophy behind it is sound, and even in its flawed state, it has helped a lot of kids with disabilities.)

2006: Family Opportunity Act
-- Provided states the opportunity to expand Medicaid coverage to children with special needs and allowed low- and middle-income families with disabled children the ability to purchase coverage under the Medicaid program.


Senator Kennedy, on behalf of those who are unable to say it for themselves, thank you for your service to this country.


Anonymous said...

I highly doubt I would be anywhere near where I am today without this man. No amount of words would be enough to express how grateful I feel.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you for this list -- I found myself weeping at my computer last night -- something I rarely do when strangers die.

Jessi said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been saddened on many levels by the backlash that has already begun, but given my profession, I know that this country owes a lot to Ted Kennedy. Thanks for pointing out at last a slice of what he helped accomplish for the rights of others.

Anonymous said...

Good senator...not such a great date.

H said...

While I knew he was a very important and influential man and had made a significant mark in history, it is quite another thing to see the list. Awesome.

Hello? said...

Thanks, Rob. Its been a tough day. We'll miss him terribly.

Gayle said...

As someone who worked in his office for three years..thanks for stating what no media outlet has so far.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this, Rob. I am amazed at what I didn't know, and I am so grateful to this man and what he accomplished for us.


Rachel said...

Even though he never became president like his brother John or his brother Robert should have, he did more for this country then they were able to in their short lives. And that is truly amazing.

Colleen said...

Me too, thanks for posting the list.

Allison Blass said...

Being only 24 and not really all that involved in politics, I had no idea was he actually did. I didn't even know he had been in Congress for as long as had. But he was amazing and as a type 1 diabetic, I clearly owe him a huge debt. Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

He was also a huge supporter of scientific research and a big reason why we are closer to understanding and finding treatments for many disorders.

Well written, Rob.


Anonymous said...

Reading through your list of Sen. Kennedy's accomplishments brought about a world of memories and, thus, a world of gratitude. I can't say that I always fall on the 'liberal' side of things as the media calls it. However, reading over your list I can't say there is one thing that I would disagree with the Honorable Mr. Kennedy about.

A well-thought out and honorable tribute.

StaceyEsq said...

Thanks very much for this post. We shall not see the likes of this type of politician anytime again. RIP Senator Kennedy.

Anonymous said...

That's funny. I don't think I've ever read where you've given thanks to our troops for their service to this country.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Thanks, troops. It was swell of you to protect my parents from the Germans.

Karen said...

To Anon @ 10:52, there is more than one type of service that one can give to their country. Honoring one man's service does not imply a lack of gratitude for the sacrifices and service offered by others.

Anonymous said...

Karen -- did you see his sarcastic reply? He pretty much made my case for me.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

I would like to note that while our troops go into harm's way without hesitation while wearing 1) a uniform that says "I'm an American soldier, you should shoot me now", and 2) a little patch and a set of dogtags with their name printed on them, Anonymous doesn't think enough of their opinion to even attach their name to a snotty blog comment.

So I'm not sure what case of yours I have made. The only case I see you making is "I'm a chickenshit whose supposedly patriotic beliefs aren't even heartfelt enough to attach my name to." Did I get that wrong somehow?

Anonymous said...

God I hope Schuyler doesn't think like you.

It doesn't matter how many so-called great things Kennedy did, he's a liar and a murder.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

What do you care how Schuyler thinks? You clearly don't care much about your own thought processes. Is that really the best you have to offer?

I take it back. I wouldn't attach my name to your posts, either.

Anonymous said...

you've always been good at that..... dancing around the subject.

doesn't it matter to you that Kenendy killed someone?

Anonymous said...

I know it's tempting, Rob, but don't feed the trolls. They'll just let their buddies know that this is a good place to come for a free meal.

-Anonymous (but not that Anonymous)

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Okay, so I have one last little bit of Troll Chow in my bag and then I'm out.

What's the subject that I'm dancing around? The troops? Or murderous Ted Kennedy? The troops were irrelevant to the discussion from the beginning, so I'll go to your other "point" instead.

So you ask me if it matters that Kennedy killed someone. But one post back, you said he murdered someone. So which is it?

If Kennedy had been found to be a murderer, then we could have that discussion. Perhaps, if you wanted to be relevant rather than hyperbolic, you could instead ask what my feelings are about someone who leaves the scene of an accident. which is what he was found guilty of. My feelings on that are, "Wow, that was a stupid thing to do." He made some bad decisions that night, some of them intentional and probably immoral.

But the "decision" to lose control of his car and drive into the water, which was the decision that ended in death? Even if it was because he was drunk, that's horrible judgment. Which is not the same thing as premeditated murder.

As the driver in a fatal car accident, was he responsible for the death of someone else? Yes. Does that make him a murderer? If so, then I've got some bad news for Laura Bush.

None of which has anything to do at all with the millions of people who have been helped and even saved by the powerful legislation that he was responsible for over a 47-year career These laws that you casually dismiss as "so-called great things" basically allow millions of Americans, including my daughter, to actually live as citizens.

What else do you have? I don't want to take off my dancing shoes prematurely.

valeri said...

Thank you for this list Rob. A number of these programs have touched me and my family and I never even knew he was in part responsible. I think he spent his whole life making up for one mistake and I think he did it well. If only every politician was dedicated.

Anonymous said...

you are 110% liberal. I'll bet you don't even own a gun. And it is JUST like you to bring up Laura or George Bush.

And why are you needing protection from the Germans? Isn't Rummel a German name?

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

But wait. Laura Bush killed a classmate, with her car. I call it murder. Murder most foul.

I have determined that you are at least 112% idiot. Sadly, I have no doubt that you have a gun. Remember to clean it often, and make sure you check down the barrel frequently. Rob out.

Anonymous said...

"I bet you don't even own a gun"

Ummm... Yeah, not having a gun in the house when you have a small child running around is such a lack of judgement. /sarcasm

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Don't worry, I don't need a gun. We have a duck pond next door, remember? If anyone tries to hurt us, I'll just drive them into the water.

Anonymous said...

Avoiding the German question?

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Deleting the stupid questions.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Sorry to turn off anonymous commenting for the time being, folks. But not that sorry.

Michelle said...

Rob--While I agree that Ted was an amazing politician that made advances in our country it seems no other could I can't get past the killing/murder/bad judgement. Sure, he is human and we all make mistakes. But, being found guilty of something doesn't mean you aren't guilty of it. And having money often means you have advantages that others don't (which I suspect I don't have to point out to you at all). I don't disagree that he did fabulous things....but I do think he did others that were not so fabulous.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Well, you don't need to get past your judgment of his flaws, I guess. I suspect, however, that if you or your loved ones depended on the laws that he was responsible for in order to live your life as a fully-realized human being, you might feel differently.

Having money isn't the only thing that can give you advantages that others don't have. Being lucky enough not to be born with a disability, or into poverty, those are things that most of us don't even bother to be grateful for.

And when you are a Kennedy, born into wealth and privilege, you could live a long, happy life without giving two shits about anyone less fortunate than yourself. The fact that Ted Kennedy chose instead to devote his professional life to championing the cause of people whom no one else could (or maybe simply would) help goes a long way in my mind towards paying for the mistakes he made in his personal life.

At least that's my opinion. But then, it's pretty important for me to have that opinion, because without Senator Kennedy's work, my life and the life of my only daughter would be very, very different. I fight for kids like Schuyler because my life's work was handed to me. I never asked for it, and if Schuyler had been born neurotypical, I probably wouldn't give it a lot of thought, either.

Senator Kennedy chose that work. He chose compassion. The way in which his legacy is now being so casually disregarded by people who simply didn't need his help shows me just how rare his choice really was, and how sorely he'll be missed.

johnnyfriegas said...

You say that without Senator Kennedy's work, your life and the life of your only daughter would be very, very different.

The only thing that I can say is that without Senator Kennedy's driving skills someone else's daughter's life would have been ver, very different.

If Schuyler was in Senator Kennedy's car would you still think the same way? Would you still let him off so easy? You might.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Really? That's the strongest argument you've got? That's actually pathetic. It was cheap, and it made no sense, at all.

Also, I thought I was done with you, Johnny? Guess what? I am. This is your one post. I hope you said what you had to say, because you're not hijacking another comment thread.

Consilio said...

Let us remember this was a post about the passing of a man who spent most of his life as a public servant. Look at the footage of the people lining the highways of Massachusetts. This is not the place for such vitriol. A man has died, honor that at least.

Lets leave it at this...

Rest in peace - Edward Kennedy

robyncz said...

Fact: Someone died as a direct result of Kennedy's actions.

Fact: Kennedy, who was born into extreme privilege, spent almost his entire adult life working to improve the lives of people less fortunate than he was--not because he had to, but because he chose to.

Neither fact undoes the other one. Nothing Kennedy could do in his lifetime could bring that girl back. But he spent his life making things better for everyone else. And even those of you who would dismiss all his accomplishments on the basis of one enormous and unforgivable mistake benefit from his efforts.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

I've turned anonymous posting back on, but I've also turned on moderation. I don't know why I ever turned it off in the first place.

So feel free to post anonymously, but if you're an asshole, know that I'm the only one who'll ever see it. And really, you could just email me for that, if you weren't afraid to use your name.

Go forth and post, my pretties.

jennifer_jj said...

I'd like to ditto what robyncz said. That sums it up for me.

charlabob said...

Rob, may I post your list (with attribution, of course) on the West Seattle blog? Yet another pro-Kennedy thread has been hijacked by the Chappaqui-Dicks.

Anonymous said...

Someone on the Stephanie Miller show (radio) mentioned that most people would hate to be judged for the worst thing they ever did. The worst thing that Kennedy ever did was terrible. But, he's sure done a lot more good for millions of people than most of us have.


Michelle said...

Rob--You are right. If my daughter was born not nuerotypical (and who knows in 3 or 4 years we may find she is not)I may feel very differently. Many of the laws Kennedy pushed for keep me in a job, keep my friends in jobs, and keep my students succeeding. And in the future will benefit my daughter in some way too. I think is was an amazing politician. I just can't get past it. And you are right I don't have to. Sometimes I wonder if he was trying to make up for what he did. Would he have pushed for all the things he did had he not been in his car accident? We will never know. I feel horrible for his family and all the individuals that are mourning him. And I think it is horrible when any person dies.

There is likely no middle ground on this issue and that is fine too.


Anonymous said...

Wow. I am stunned by this discussion, but then again, I have some friends who can be this crazy when it comes to politics.

Let me just say, no one is perfect and no one makes perfect choices their whole lives. I am not in any way defending what he did or saying that being from his family didn't help him walk away from the incident better than someone else might have.

But his life can't be defined only by one bad decision. So much good was done in the remainder of life that also deserves to be added into the equation on Senator Kennedy.

The fact is, if he hadn't led the life he did, and done the good he ultimately did, many many people would be worse off.

I think it takes some incredible chutzpah and a small mind for people who aren't in the public eye or serving the public to stand up and throw stones at him.

(Posting anonymously because of work.)

Pat in Austin said...

Two comments: I am NOT a Kennedy fan. Let's leave it at that. However: I believe much of what Kennedy did for those who are unable to help themselves stems from the life of his sister, Rose Marie (Rosemary) Kennedy. He learned the lesson of "what happens to those who cannot speak for themselves" firsthand. He was in a position to do great good there.
Second: Rob, my son and his ARMY National Guard Unit will protect you from flood, hurricane, fire, and any other natural disaster without putting themselves first (as will the regular forces if called to do so). So yeah, even if we don't have Germans to fight right now, thank the troops. Did they LIKE going overseas when they signed up for the GUARD? Nope. Did they honor their oath? Yep. Am I glad he's home? Yep. His unit are Sappers (performing route clearance -- read: clearing roads of bombs, IEDs, and snipers and keeping the following troops safe) when overseas and protectors when home. (Sorry, you pushed my button there!)

Robyn said...

My heart fell into my stomach when I heard Ted Kennedy had died. If each of us could contribute 10% of the effort he gave during his life to helping others, the world would be pretty damn near perfect. I hope he died believing the health care morass would eventually resolve in the best way possible. Rest in peace.

Erin and Curt said...

Thanks for posting this list. I knew he was a part of a lot, but I had no idea how much.

Well said, robyncz. I agree that Chappaquidick (sp?) was unforgiveable, and that his service to this country does not undo what happened. I agree, though, with valeri, who said that it seems that he lived the rest of his life trying to make up for that. He served with zeal - how many peoples' lives have been saved or improved by his work? more that we can ever know.

As far as our illustrious "Anonymous" goes, he's shown that he is a proud "Dittohead" who is not capable of putting his own thoughts together. Yes, even Ted fought for him. Remember that the folks in MA voted him in for multiple terms - our country is only 233 years old, and that he served for 47 of those years - 20%. Pretty significant.

Kevin S. Holmes said...

Some of the items you listed,

I would not list in the category of "in the people's best interest". There is no doubt that Kennedy accomplished much of his agenda. There is no doubt that some of the items he supported were positive. But that same man you exalt for "saving your daughter's future" is the one who fought most of career to insure the continued slaughter of millions of unborn babies, even by partial birth abortion with no restriction on how late the procedure can be performed. In light of your last post, I should remind you that this same man was an avid proponent of both Hillary Clinton's and Obama's plan for government takeover of the healthcare industry, which by the way will absolutely make healthcare choices the right of some government bureaucrat (not the patient or patient's family), and those choices will be based purely on economics and humanistic pragmatism.

Even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then. And even a drunken, immoral, opportunistic, egomaniacle, politician gets his/her name on a few positive bills.

I also have a handicapped daughter who perhaps benefits from some of the bills Kennedy helped get through congress. So in one sense, I hear you. But perhaps we should ask the Kopecne family for their vote before we exalt him to sainthood.

watchwhathappens said...

This vitriol, esp with regards the death of Mary Jo Kopechne (which, though tragic, was determined to be at least more of a bad mistake/involuntary manslaughter such that Kennedy received only a 2 month suspended sentence), is so unfortunate, yet not surprising. It's often the people who hold themselves up as paragons of religious virtue who, though they would NEVER allow a Kennedy any level of forgiveness, nor would they look past that to his extraordinary good works, would surely allow that an ACTUAL murderer (someone who kills another with INTENT TO KILL) somehow becomes "pure" and all is forgiven if they only accept Jesus, etc. And actually, since Kennedy was known to be a religious man, I wonder why he's not afforded same. Because apparently though Jesus forgives anyone and everyone who accepts him as their savior (regardless of acts), being a LIBERAL is simply unforgivable.

In other words, it's a smokescreen. They wish to ignore his good works - it wouldn't matter if his record consisted of forgetting to feed his dog one day - they'd seize upon it and snarl and growl like a pit bull locked onto its prey. Blinded by hatred , lacking in both compassion and reasoning skills, and (often) behind the veil of religion.

Kevin S. Holmes said...

And as for the "scientific research" he supported ... He supported embryonic stem cell research that requires the taking of a life and has NEVER, NOT ONCE, shown any positive result or even a hint that a positive result might be just a few more lives away. However, he opposed the research of adult stem cells which require no life be taken to perform and which have shown numerous positive results in various places around the globe? Why? From a man who was such a saintly humanitarian? Three words, "Power and money." Big campaign contributions (and perhaps a few bottles of scotch) from large drug companies.

But, ol' Eddy was nothing but altruistic.

Tay said...

Well said, Rob.

Completely unrelated, this was featured at Cake Wrecks today, and it made me think of Schuyler:

Just for fun =)

Atkins said...

Thanks for posting this. I love Ted Kennedy and have felt overwhelmed listing for people all the reasons why. Now, I can direct them to this post. "A great light has gone out."

Major Bedhead said...

I moved to Massachusetts when I was 4 and don't remember life before Ted Kennedy was my senator. He's always been there and has always been an advocate for so many people. I'm not ashamed to have had him for my senator, in spite of, or maybe even because of his oh-so-public flaws and disasters. I don't think anyone can take his place or be as firm in his convictions as Senator Kennedy. He was so fervent in his liberal ideals, something that a lot of other Democrats seem to be lacking, sadly.

Ronni said...

Sen Kennedy made a deadly mistake. How many of us have ever driven impaired? How many of us have not immediately copped to the truth when we made dire mistakes? Okay, so most of us haven't been the drunk driver who killed someone. That is often known as "there but for the grace of God go I". Yes, he could have rotted in prison and done nothing with his life. Even with the drunk driving laws of today, much less those of that time, he may not have done all that long in prison. Instead, for whatever reasons, he was allowed to get on with his life. And he lived that life in service to the country he loved and people who were not often given the priveleges he was born with. Many of us feel he paid his debt to society, paid it back a hundredfold and more. In the grand scheme of things, I think the scales of justice place him with the good guys.

Melanie said...

What a great list. Thank you.

stacy said...

I suspect, given Ted Kennedy's work, he would have given anything to go back and change what happened that night. He did the next best thing and used his power for good.

Thanks for posting this, Rob.

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Oops, when I turned on comment moderation, I forgot to turn on the email notification letting me know that there were actually comments waiting. Sorry about that.

On the plus side, it allowed me to keep from being sucked into the abortion issue a while back there. Watch me NOT get sucked into it now. Whee!

Rob Rummel-Hudson said...

Rob, may I post your list (with attribution, of course) on the West Seattle blog?

Absolutely! Sorry I just now saw this.

michele said...

It's funny, when I learned that Senator Kennedy had died, in addition to just being so sad, I immediately thought about J.
J (he's in his 30's now) was 7 years old when he came to our school in Chatham MA. He was, and is to this day, the most severely autistic person I've ever known. When he was a child, he did not sleep, he did not eat, could not communicate, destroyed everything in the home, and his parents and brother were emotional, physical, and psychological wrecks. In addition, his dad was and is severely affected by post traumatic stress disorder from his days in Vietnam. He's in his 60's now and I'd say about 6 months of the year he is almost completely incapacitated by PTSD. In addition, J's disability most likely (because it still can't be proven) came from Agent Orange.
The school system could not help Joe at school and they fought tooth and nail having to send him to a residential school, threatened the family, you name it they tried it. As a last resort, the dad contacted Senator Kennedy's office for help. Within a couple of weeks, J was placed with us. He's still with us, in adult programming. He's doing much, much better, but J's good days can still often be very much like other individuals bad days.
When an aunt of mine was ranting in her right wing night case way about the Kennedy's, my mom told her that story. My aunt said (and I am very glad that I was not there) that "they shouldn't be spending so much money on those children anyway". I will never forgive her for that, to her, she is in her 80's. She knows nothing about autism and the hell that families of individuals with autism and other disabilities go through.

So Senator Kennedy, to me, is a hero. And if J understood, he would be his hero too.


michele said...

Not sure if you take links, but here's a column by Larry Brown of the Cape Cod Times, reflecting on Senator Kennedy in a local kind of way. I particularly like this quote "We know that Teddy had his flaws, even serious ones, but God has always played his music with imperfect instruments". It's an insightful column.