SANDERS: A liberal lion's last roar

RUFUS G.W. SANDERS Few leaders in recent American history have spoken more consistently, urgently, p
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Few leaders in recent American history have spoken more consistently, urgently, prophetically, and with such eloquence, passion and vision as have Sen. Edward Kennedy. He is a senator for all times. He is the liberal lion whose roar has changed a nation. Since his first major Senate vote in 1965 cast for Medicare; he has been on the forefront insuring that all Americans share in the beneficence that comes with being a citizen of America.

Now he is sick and the diagnosis is not good, but yet the lion roars.

Kennedy is the third-longest-serving member of the Senate. Although from a different world; he dedicated his life to work on behalf of blacks and woman and Latinos, the downtrodden and disenfranchised. A man who was privileged and wealthy, connected, highly educated; but never got lost in the arrogance or consumed by the narcissism that usually comes with such gifts and accumulation. He like his family has always felt that along with wealth and privilege come duty, obligation and responsibility. There was JFK and RFK; but then there is Teddy!

For me Kennedy has always made clear the American dilemma -- whether it be in the realm of civil rights, poverty, women's rights, the right to privacy or free speech. He always inspires a sense of loyalty and compassion for justice. His words are always lifted off the pages of the Constitution. He has always represented to me what it means to be a representative of the people.

I have always been fascinated with the idea that, in America, a man who is born into wealth and position is able to speak the language of the common man. And he then dedicates his life to fighting their causes. It is rare that a man of the so-called aristocracy becomes Robin Hood, but this is exactly what Edward became. While he is not the only one in my time he is a rarity. He not only spoke out but he has challenged the power that be on behalf of the have-nots and the silent majority on the issues of jobs and taxes, prices, health care and education and leadership. Hia audacious challenged helped to give my generation courage, vision and hope. Words he wrote two decades ago have become the mantra by which I live.

His words:

I want to turn over to my children ... a nation that is no longer at war. ... a nation that is no longer divided against itself by racial hatred, a nation that is no longer blind to the filth of its rivers and lakes, a nation that is not longer unable to find jobs for ... millions of its citizens. ... A nation that has not grown indifferent to the individuals who live within it.

I see a new America ... I also see a new and stronger people in America ... A people vigilant against any abuse of government, demanding better answers from their leaders and better vision for the future.

Now is the time to reduce the monopoly power of massive selfish interest groups over our economy ... .

Freedom of the press is the cornerstone of our democracy.

We need more effective safeguards to ensure that every American can fully exercise his constitutional right to privacy.

The struggle is for the conscience of America, for a government that is genuinely responsive to the people's need.

So long as the economy is wrong, nothing else is right.

The time has come to apply the principle of public financing to Congressional elections.

Policy formation without public participation is like faith and hope without charity ...

We are beginning to understand that instead of conquering nature we must live in harmony with it.

For too long we have allowed energy policy to be made by the producers for the consumers ...

We must halt the soaring increases in the price of oil. ... We must establish inflation guidelines for energy ... We find ways to protect those who are most vulnerable to the price increases that have already taken place.

We must halt the government policies that tend to destroy or subvert the neighborhoods and central cities in which our people live.

... It is incredible to me that this great country cannot develop a farm policy that guarantees an adequate supply of food for every citizen and a fair return for every farmer.

The survival of the strong and the success of the fortunate cannot blind us to the plight of the weak ... No Americans should have to be born into a world where they can succeed only if their strength is greater, where they can prevail only if their endurance is longer, where they can advance only if their luck is better ...

... You know who they are ... They are the millions who have been left behind and show no signs of catching up. They are the casualties who huddle in the center of the great cities. ... They are the other side ... of the statistics of our progress.

Why can England, Israel, Denmark, and Sweden protect their people against financial barriers to health care, when America cannot?

Let each of us, to the best our ability, in our own day and generation; perform something worthy to be remembered.