He was 77 years old.
Kennedy’s death marks the end of an era in American political and public life, both because of his individual death and because of the near passage of his generation of siblings.
Kennedy did not live to see the passage of fundamental health care reform he cherished so deeply, but he did help usher through many landmark pieces of legislation during his nearly half-century of public service. In addition to championing legislation that addressed the needs of America’s underserved communities for nearly half a century, Kennedy eventually came to be considered one of the most fair and bipartisan senators in the entire chamber.
President Obama, whose campaign benefited heavily last year from Kennedy’s endorsement, has already labeled him “the greatest senator of our time.”
Tributes from both sides of the aisle are likely to pour in during the upcoming days and weeks.
In the book Klein argues that Kennedy conquered his personal demons and eventually became a lion of the senate, worthy of being mentioned along with giants like Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. The three nineteenth century legislators are discussed in John F. Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage, which I wrote about earlier this month.
Each of these men bear similarities to Kennedy.
Each embodied a region of the region.
Each had thwarted presidential ambitions.
And each had lengthy, contributory senatorial careers in which they ultimately put the interests of the nation above their own personal ambition and regional or state interest.
Kennedy’s successor will be chosen by a special election.
While the identity of that person is not yet known, what is known is that he or she will have impossibly large shoes to fill.