Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On the Legacy of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

Ted Kennedy was not just a senator for Massachusetts; he was our senator—a senator for working people, for poor people, for the old and the vulnerable. For all those who needed a champion, he was our champion. He personified a sense of aspiration that has become
America’s aspiration—to make things better, to make them more fair, to make our nation more compassionate and hopeful, to make life work for working men and women.

He has left an enormous footprint on America. For nearly a half century, Ted Kennedy was the chief standard-bearer for working families in the United States Senate—and on the Senate Labor Committee. “When I went to the United States Senate in 1962, the leadership asked me what committee I wanted to be on,” he told the AFL-CIO convention in 2005. "I said, ‘I want to be on the Labor Committee,” just as his brothers had before him. He championed the cause of working people and labor out of deep affection—and the affection was mutual. He was loved for his roaring passion, his decency, and his generosity. Few can claim the adoration he received
not only as the senator who more than any other defined America’s vision for civil rights, workers’ rights, health care, education, disability rights and so much more—but also as “Teddy,” the man who remembered birthdays, celebrated family and shared chuckles.

It is because of his 47 years of service, hard work and faith that we will pass affordable, quality health care this year—and go on to restore the freedom of every working person to organize and bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

Ted Kennedy was most optimistic when sailing into the wind. He took glee in a good fight, but never preened or paraded when he won. And he was clear about his values. I am reminded of the stark choice he laid out for America when he described to the AFL-CIO his measure for judging a particular Supreme Court nominee:

“Will he stand for workers' rights and women's rights and civil rights? Will he stand with workers of America or the Wal-Marts of America? When a worker is injured, will he stand with corporations or with average workers? When insurance companies deny health care, will he stand with the HMOs or average Americans? When polluters poison our water and our air, will he stand with the polluters or with the people? When Benedict Arnold companies use tax loopholes to send jobs overseas, will he stand with the corporations or will he stand with hard-working Americans here at home?”

That clarity and conscience is his gift to all Americans, and we will carry it on.

Statement by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, August 26, 2009


  1. Thank you Senator Kennedy for your service and for your tireless efforts on behalf of the working class Americans. You will be missed.

  2. Thank you Senator Ted Kennedy for your distinguished service to this country and for your struggle to represent the ideals of the American people.