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Remembering Ted Kennedy: A Champion of Truths

By Gerald Blake Hankerson

Feature 357 "I believe there surely is such a thing as truth, but who among us can claim a monopoly? There are those who do, and their own words testify to their intolerance."

I read this quote from the late Senator Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy early this morning. Could it be that this distinguished gentleman, indirectly but profusely, influenced and shaped my life beyond my comprehension? Upon inference, I propose that people do live their own truths, yet one should understand that being limited to a favored or comfortable truth ceases growth and harmony with the self and society. Knowledge is infinite, and perspective is a complex universe all of its own.

I believe that Kennedy understood this, challenging his fellow legislators and other trustees of the U.S. Constitution and law—all in turn teaching Americans for nearly 50 years that our truths are interdependent of other truths. Earlier this year, The Boston Globe noted that during his 47 years in public service, “Kennedy's office has written about 2,500 bills, and more than 300 have become law.” In addition, more than 550 bills cosponsored by Kennedy have been enacted since 1973 — the first year Senate records listed cosponsors. I find myself more grateful of his service because I could fathom how different this nation would be had it not been for his voice and pen reconstructing the U.S. for the betterment of all its citizens.

This nation—and our globe—have changed much since 1973. Regardless of someone’s identity or state, Kennedy reminded us that we all need to reconsider how we look at others. Indeed, marginalized groups, such as Muslims here in America and abroad, rarely are offered or considered to share their truths. He stood by the American Muslim community on issues of racial and religious profiling and reached out to American Muslims to ensure their inclusion in our nation’s political process. He met with leaders of the Muslim community and spoke at the first town hall meeting in congress to expose racial profiling right after 911.

At a time when their voices were stifled and defamed, Kennedy offered one dynamic way for Muslims and people of other faiths to appreciate one another’s place in the world, dealing a blow to intolerance. Since 2002, American families hosted 2,700 secondary students from more than 30 Muslim countries through an intercultural exchange scholarship program. Senator Kennedy, along with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), established this invaluable exchange of truths that otherwise would not been heard, understood, nor appreciated. As an American and a Muslim, I find Kennedy to be a friend of Muslims and our nation by bringing us together, fusing the will to identify and unite with all our humanity.

There is so much to be said about Ted Kennedy, so how can we ultimately measure his service and influence in our modern history? His work wasn’t limited to the elite house of the Congress, or confined to his lineage that’s considered the most enduring political dynasty of our time. Rather, Senator Kennedy made public service a multifaceted profession that set the tone for Washington and the nation.

Kennedy offered examples of ways we could all champion for our country and its future. He learned by acclimating to new environments across states and sea, while withstanding tested times in his youth. He served his country in the military and public office. He offered his voice, advocating for those who are seen but wouldn’t be heard. He coaxed and even gave his country the reassurance that everyone’s well-being is worth investing in to improve the lot of us all.

And now, we’re in the midst of an embroiling mass of fights and ideologies—some fairly new or resurfaced—where the Lion of the Senate is now resting, his voice ceased…or so it seems. Senator Kennedy offered reason and action to tell the milieu of truth that would never have been known or given credence. Power to the people, not a monopoly for the elite. This is Kennedy’s legacy, one filled with wisdom to carry us through multiple spans of unrest and prosperity.

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