Key Speeches of Senator Edward M. Kennedy
Edward M. Kennedy was the third longest-serving member of the United States Senate in American history. Voters of Massachusetts elected him to the Senate nine times—a record matched by only one other Senator. The scholar Thomas Mann said his time in the Senate was “an amazing and endurable presence. You want to go back to the 19th century to find parallels, but you won‘t find parallels.” President Obama has described his breathtaking span of accomplishment: “For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health, and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.” He fought for and won so many great battles—on voting rights, education, immigration reform, the minimum wage, national service, the nation‘s first major legislation to combat AIDS, and equality for minorities, women, the disabled and gay Americans. He called health care “the cause of my life,” and succeeded in bringing quality and affordable health care for countless Americans, including children, seniors and Americans with disabilities.
Until the end he was working tirelessly to achieve historic national health reform. He was an opponent of the Vietnam War and an early champion of the war‘s refugees. He was a powerful yet lonely voice from the beginning against the invasion of Iraq. He stood for human rights abroad—from Chile to the former Soviet Union — and was a leader in the cause of poverty relief for the poorest nations of Africa and the world. He believed in a strong national defense and he also unceasingly pursued and advanced the work of nuclear arms control.
He was the conscience of his party, and also the Senate‘s greatest master of forging compromise with the other party. Known as the “Lion of the Senate,” Senator Kennedy was widely respected on both sides of the aisle for his commitment to progress and his ability to legislate.
Senator Kennedy was Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Previously he was Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and served on that committee for many years. He also served on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. He was a leader of the Congressional Friends of Ireland and helped lead the way toward peace on that island.
He was a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Virginia Law School. He lived in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, with his wife Vicki. He is survived by her and their five children Kara, Edward Jr., and Patrick Kennedy, and Curran and Caroline Raclin, and his sister Jean Kennedy Smith.
Hometown: Hyannis Port
Born: February 22, 1932; Boston, Mass.
Died: August 25, 2009
Religion: Roman Catholic
Family: Wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy; three children, two stepchildren
Education: Harvard U., B.A. 1956 (government); International Law School, The Hague (The Netherlands), attended 1958; U. of Virginia, LL.B. 1959
Military Service: Army, 1951-53
Elected: 1962 (7th full term)
Political Highlights: Suffolk County assistant district attorney, 1961-62; sought Democratic nomination for president, 1980
Edward M. Kennedy is elected to the United States Senate.
Senator Kennedy made his maiden speech on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was signed by President Johnson on July 2, 1964. The senator also strongly supported the Economic Opportunity Act, which was signed on August 20, 1964. The EOA mandated that programs would be "developed, conducted and administered with the maximum feasible participation and the residents of the areas and members of the groups served." It also established community action programs, including ABCD, to mobilize resources that could be used in a direct attack on the roots of poverty.
Senator Kennedy, through an amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act, helped create a national health center system. In 1966, the nation's first comprehensive neighborhood health center was established by Tufts University in cooperation with ABCD at the Columbia Point Housing Project in Dorchester.
As a result of Senator Kennedy's championing of bilingual education, the Bilingual Education Act was passed by Congress in 1968-- the first time Congress had endorsed funding for bilingual education. The Bilingual Program, a federally funded program through Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, was updated with the Improving American's Schools Act of 1994.
Senator Kennedy continued his commitment to senior citizens by supporting Older American Community Service Employment. He also supported the Voting Rights Act Extension, in order to protect the Civil Rights gains made in the 60's. In response to the skyrocketing costs of home heating, which particularly affected low-income families and elders, the Senator actively worked on creating a fuel assistance program.
Senator Kennedy became Chairman of the Senate Health Subcommittee, enhancing his ability to champion the cause of quality health care for all Americans.
Senator Kennedy has a special commitment to the Meals on Wheels program for senior citizens, which he helped strengthen in 1972. This program offers nutritional meals to homebound seniors. Another priority for Senator Kennedy was the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program. This program, popularly known as WIC, offers food, nutrition counseling, and access to health services for low-income women, infants, and children under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
Senator Kennedy worked to continue and improve legal services and emergency health services for the poor and improved educational opportunities for the handicapped.
As part of his work on a wide range of domestic programs affecting the poor, Senator Kennedy championed the national Family Planning Initiatives.
Senator Kennedy became Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was influential in providing access for women and minorities in judicial nominations.
Senator Kennedy garnered Congressional support for Low-Income Energy Assistance Programs (Fuel Assistance) ensuring that low-income and working poor families do not have to choose between eating and heating their homes.
In the wake of budget restraints under President Reagan, Senator Kennedy sponsored the Job Training Partnership Act with Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana, which proposed to educate and train the nation's front-line workforce, It strengthened program requirements, provided better targeting of services to reach those most in need, and provided higher quality services. Senator Kennedy also successfully resisted efforts to eliminate the Summer Jobs Program.
On becoming a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he opposed the untested Star Wars Program and strongly supported Nuclear Arms Control.
Senator Kennedy supported a Minimum Wage Increase and the Welfare-to-Jobs Incentives, increasing the job-readiness skills and disposable income for low-income and working poor individuals.