COMMENTARY: Edward Kennedy, a great U.S. senator

Sen. Edward Kennedy died recently and we have diminished, if not lost, one of the great traditions of our country since its founding - liberalism, concern for social justice and civil rights, care for those who cannot care for themselves.

Kennedy fought for the poor and the disenfranchised. He reached out to those who exist at the fringes of society so that those at the core (the wealthy and powerful) might know the true value of our democracy. He advocated women's rights, the rights of the handicapped, and a health care system for all regardless of one's ability to pay. He believed health care was a "right for all," not a privilege for the few.

Kennedy had a big heart. He loved the arts, was an accomplished painter and loved to sing and play jokes on his friends. He loved and respected the people of Massachusetts and they him. He was dedicated to his family, his brothers' children and their children; he always had time for them. He was dedicated to the country and to the Senate, an institution whose men and women he served with for close to five decades.

He was the "Lion of the Senate" and an experienced sailor who could find his way through unruly legislative waters and troubled seas, the latter on his beloved 50-foot sloop, the Mya. He was a master of his crafts.

Ted Kennedy was flawed, like most of us, and we heard much from those who didn't like him or his liberal views; they emphasized his shortcomings. They have little idea what this man meant to this nation. We heard about wild parties, women and Chappaquiddick. We all knew about his shortcomings, yet he was a man who could rise above his weaknesses, could find redemption in his faith and family. His family forgave him, his church forgave him, and we should forgive him.

Ted Kennedy's liberal agenda was conceived by the Founding Fathers - those men of the Age of Enlightenment who sought to build a better life for their new countrymen and to achieve a "more perfect union," freedom, the rule of law, and a representative democracy, a Republic. The Constitution didn't address the issues of slaves and women - to come nearly 100 years later - but it did set the framework.

Ted Kennedy, although wealthy and powerful, had an immigrant background like most of us. He believed in the power of "working people" and fought long and hard to protect all of us. Let's hope new leaders emerge to take his place and re-establish liberalism as a fundamental value to protect the people.

• Dr. Eugene T. Paslov, former Nevada superintendent of schools, is a board member for Silver State Charter High School in Carson City.

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