Sen. Ted Kennedy was a man of many legislative pursuits and in 2007, he put his storied ability to reach across the aisle on display with immigration reform. Joining him in celebration on May 17 was Florida Sen. Mel Martinez, who helped craft the bill to offer legal status to 12 million illegal immigrants while improving border security.
But a month later, the deal had fallen apart. Martinez's political career, by extension, also stumbled. Bludgeoned by his own Republican Party for supporting what many saw as leniency toward illegal immigrants, his approval ratings tanked.
Upon news of Kennedy's death, Martinez had this to say: "I am deeply saddened by my colleague's death. Ted was an icon of passionate public service and gave selflessly to our nation. I came to know him well through our work on immigration reform where he was a tough negotiator, and someone who knew how to reach bipartisan agreement for the good of an issue. He will be remembered as the Lion of the Senate for his voice, his style, his work and his allegiance to always do what he thought was best for our country. Kitty and I offer our condolences, and Senator Kennedy's family is in our thoughts and prayers."
Martinez, who recently announced he would leave office 16 months early, will officially end his service in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 9.
Alex Leary, Times staff writer
Some of the people whose life Kennedy touched keep a vigil
The contingent of friends and family sitting vigil for Sen. Edward Kennedy include a federal judge, the family of an Iraq war soldier and a Sept. 11 widow.
His body is lying in repose through today for public viewing at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
Those sitting vigil in one-hour shifts include the family of Brian Hart, who was killed in an unarmored Humvee in Iraq. After Hart's death, Kennedy worked with his relatives to seek more body armor for troops.
Also sitting vigil are former staffers, longtime friends and two families who became friends with Kennedy after their relatives were killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
He had a special connection with America's young people
Edward Kennedy had a reputation for connecting with young people in person, even when he was older and in failing health. Jennifer Donahue, political director at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, observed that when he spoke with Barack Obama in her state.
"He was the lion. Proof to me was watching these young people respond to him the way he did. It transcends party and politics," she says. "It's the kind of inspiration that can light someone up for life. That is not easy to do when you're standing next to Barack Obama."
When Jessica DaSilva, a senior at the University of Florida, got the news of Kennedy's death on her cell phone, she cried.
The journalism and political science major respected him so much that his endorsement caused her to change her vote from Clinton to Obama.
"I just thought he was a really admirable person," she says.
Kennedy's pivotal role in the campaign sent even the youngest Americans to their computers to find out more.
According to Yahoo, for instance, 32 percent of Internet searches for "Edward Kennedy" in August of last year were by those 20 and younger. And this month, 25 percent of searches are from the under-20 group.
In August 2007, searches for "Edward Kennedy" were not even significant enough to register.