Mission District residents said they would remember the late Massachusetts senator Edward “Ted” Kennedy, who died of a brain tumor five days ago, for his endurance in troubled times and his belief in universal health care.
Hundreds attended Kennedy’s funeral mass held Saturday in Boston including President Barack Obama, who called the man who served 46 years in the senate: “the heir to a weighty legacy, a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party, and the lion of the United States Senate.”
Beth Mitchell, a 36-year-old who works with multimedia, said, “He was a great man and it’s a shame.”
Other locals commented on what Kennedy, 77, said about universal health care at the 2008 Democratic National Convention: that the “gridlock” would be broken, that every American would have health care “as a fundamental right and not a privilege,” and that it was the cause of his life.
Dog trainer Elijah Weiss, 31, said Kennedy’s passing may have come at “a good time to break up the frenzy and calm everyone down so they focus on the issue and not the argument” about health care reform.
Psychotherapist Danny Givertz was impressed at Kennedy’s ability to “rise above the human tragedy” in his family and become stronger.
Weiss also commented that Kennedy could have “thrown in the towel” years ago given his family troubles, but he is glad that was not the case.
A few people specifically referenced what was probably the most scandalous event in Kennedy’s life: the 1969 death of Mary Jo Kopechne on Chappaquiddick Island. Kopechne died in a car accident in which Kennedy was the driver and failed to immediately report the incident to police. Givertz said the “shadow sort of haunted him” through the remainder of Kennedy’s career.
But Givertz also commented that he grew up hearing what a “great senior statesman Kennedy was. He was incredibly respected at the same time. He could always be counted on as the vanguard of progressive legislation.”
Rob Delamater, co-owner of Lost Art Salon, was intrigued by a different aspect of Kennedy’s death: the media spectacle it became. Celebrities of such iconic status that they have a brand, such as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and beauty queen Farrah Fawcett, who also died this summer, have “events” made of their deaths that “allow Americans to grieve in a way that’s hyperconnected,” Delamater said.
Despite the media coverage, some knew nothing about Kennedy. Students Mac and Josh Romney had heard very little of his passing and knew even less about all he had done.
In his remarks on Saturday, Obama mentioned the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, immigration reform, children’s health care, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. “All have a running thread. Ted Kennedy’s life’s work was not to champion those with wealth or power or special connections. It was to give a voice to those who were not heard,” Obama said.
The eulogy was enough to bring tears to Givertz’s eyes, he said. Weiss hoped Kennedy’s death would “reinvigorate the effort” for universal healthcare.