Kennedy stood for troops serving our nation in other countries and for improving the quality of life of Americans at home. Kennedy consistently voted against Supreme Court nominees who he saw as hostile toward civil rights, and was a leading voice for human rights, social justice and democracy throughout the world. In 2006, he earned deserved recognition from Time magazine as one of “America’s 10 Best Senators.” Edward Kennedy can also claim the election of America’s first black president, Barack Obama, as part of his vast political legacy.
While the Kennedy political dynasty may have come to an end with Edward Kennedy’s death, the Kennedys’ legacy of public service — the “family business” according to his niece and brother Robert’s oldest child Kathleen Kennedy Townsend — is as strong as ever. Townsend, who as a former lieutenant governor of Maryland created statewide character education and student service programs, established the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award and is now the chair of the Institute of Human Virology, which treats AIDS. Her sister Kerry, who I spoke to shortly after their uncle’s passing, is an international human rights activist. Their brother Joe II is founder and chairman of Citizens Energy, which makes heating oil affordable for the poor. Edward Kennedy’s son Patrick is a Rhode Island congressman who advocates on mental health issues. Their cousin Caroline, the daughter of John F. Kennedy, is the author of books on civil liberties and has raised money for New York City schools. Despite their patriarch’s death, the Kennedy family business lives on, as does the legacy of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, whose work will positively impact the lives of millions of Americans for generations to come.
Earl G. Graves, Sr. is the founder and publisher of Black Enterprise magazine.