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Sen. Kennedy's work touched all Americans

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

Sen. Kennedy's work had impact on us all

A year ago Ted Kennedy defied his doctors and went to the Democratic National Convention to speak in support of the nomination of his friend, Barack Obama, for the presidency of the United States. As a member of the Platform Committee for the party and chair of the Tampa Bay O-Train, I had the privilege of being there. Nobody in that hall will ever forget the experience of seeing and hearing "Teddy" that night. As I tried to sort out my thoughts, memories and emotions, I made an entry to my convention blog. I would like to share it with you as we reflect on a life that impacted us all.

Aug. 26, 2008

It is hard not to be totally in love with Michelle Obama and her family after last night, but for those of us left over from the '60s there was certainly something else. The experience of watching John Kennedy's daughter introducing her uncle Ted. Watching her and remembering her clearly on those terrible days in November of 1963. Watching Ted, at times struggling, as he talks about hope and promise. Seeing the scarred, bare area on the back of his head and being reminded that he won't be with us much longer.

The Kennedys have been a part of our story and the story of our nation for our entire adult lives. They have helped to define our perception of the word "hope" but also of the word "tragedy."

Now Caroline stands before the nation and leads us in talking about a dream for a new generation. She tells us that Barack Obama can help us realize that dream.

Michelle comes on stage and reminds so many of us of the poise and beauty of Jackie. Barack comes on the screen, young, vital, smiling, and warmly greets his two young children. Do you remember pictures of the smiling Jack in the Oval Office playing with Caroline and John-John?

Those of us in my generation could see on that stage part of the story of our lives. It was hard not to be excited, to be hopeful, but also, in the backs of our minds . . .

You see, even as Michelle spoke, the Denver police are reporting the arrest of three men with bulletproof vests, a high-power rifle with a scope and additional arms. They remind us that all is not well in our nation. They remind us of those terrible days in 1963 and again in '68.

But this Thursday, on the 45th anniversary of "I Have a Dream," it is a time for hope.

Caroline, Teddy, Michelle, Sasha and Malia, you were beautiful last night and if you moved others as you did me, you may have just helped to change the course of this nation.

Terry R. Watson, Tampa

A fond memory

It was in 1985 or '86 when I first met Teddy Kennedy. I attended a fundraiser for Democratic Congressman Jim Shannon of Lowell, Mass. It was a typical New England turnout. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill was there, along with Congressman Ed Markey and others. I had campaigned for Bobby Kennedy in the '60s while living in California but had never met Teddy Kennedy.

When I was introduced to him, I said, "My neighbor Peter Brook will not appreciate my attending this function." (Brook was an arch Republican and also a Harvard classmate of Ted Kennedy.) Teddy replied, "You tell Peter if he causes you any trouble, I won't let him into Palm Beach this winter."

After staying for a while and talking to many others among the hundreds attending, I made my way to the exit. Teddy was leaving at the same time and really amazed me when he said, "Nice to meet you John, thanks for coming." He must have met 50 or 60 people that night, but he remembered my name.

John F. Deegan, Clearwater

For the poor and helpless

America will miss the voice of Ted Kennedy, who spoke out on behalf of: women, Title IX, equal pay, equal rights, the poor, the helpless. Ted Kennedy spoke out on behalf of all of us who do not have a voice. He, who was wealthy, had compassion for all of us who are not wealthy.

He worked very hard so that we could have health insurance for everyone. It was a battle he fought over many years.

There are 49 million Americans without health insurance and more and more people are falling into poverty. And no one in Congress appears to care.

We, the American people, have lost our voice in government. Kennedy will be sorely missed. The Kennedy family is in all of our prayers.

Margaret Hyde, Clearwater

He earned our thanks

This week the world said goodbye to Ted Kennedy. Maybe a better choice of words would be "thank you."

If you ever had a family member on Medicare, the enormously successful federal health care program, you can thank Ted Kennedy. If you enjoy clean air and clean water, a living wage, and being in a country where people of all backgrounds can live where they choose, you can thank Ted Kennedy. If you think people in wheelchairs should be able to get into the same stores and buildings as the rest of us, you can thank him too.

If you have ever looked at the superwealthy elite, the Wall Street barons, and the executives with megabonuses and wondered "Where does the greed end?" you should recall that Kennedy asked this same question on the Senate floor.

And if you have had enough of a disastrous corporate health care system that creates the world's highest cost and its 37th best results, you can know that Sen. Kennedy was fighting for reform until the day he died.

Kennedy was a man of means who stood up for those without means. Put aside the rhetoric and the antigovernment hate and ask yourself: Can you name a single person who has done more over the last five decades for the ordinary American, the little guy with no influence and no power, than Ted Kennedy?

Scott Cochran, Tampa

A message of service

I feel sad at the passing of Ted Kennedy. I lived in Hyannis when his brother was president. The whole family was taught to give service. I wish our children today would have that message as we are facing this recession.

Rest in peace, Ted.

Theresa Keane, St. Petersburg

He fought for all of us

How sad that we have lost the senator that worked so hard to support senior citizens and people as a whole.

We offer our heartfelt condolences to the Kennedy family with the hope that his fight for all of us will not end with his leaving this world. What a loss to the Senate and his family, even with his few faults. May he rest in peace.

Judith M. Stevens, Clearwater

A life of service | Aug. 27, editorial

Other people's money

Ordinarily I'm a believer in the adage to not speak ill of the dead, but your editorial went too far.

Does the Times really believe that Edward Kennedy made up for those "hardships of his own making" by spending other people's money while living on his senatorial salary and a trust fund?

James Klapper, Oldsmar

Personal faults

Years ago when my sister-in-law was a very good-looking young blond, she worked for a while in the offices of Sen. Abraham Ribicoff. She was warned to never get in an elevator with Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Jack and Ted Kennedy racked up some political accomplishments but never really matured beyond early adolescence. Robert's behavior was marginally better. The Kennedy clan are plenty entertaining but they've left behind a lot of personal and emotional wreckage.

Pete Wilford, Holiday

Help is available to prevent acts of domestic violence

Over just four days earlier this month, Hillsborough County has experienced six domestic homicides in three different families.

If families, neighbors or eyewitnesses knew about the free resources offered by The Spring of Tampa Bay, brutal acts of violence might be prevented. We provide a 24/7 emergency shelter and outreach services to individuals seeking safety.

The Spring operates a 24-hour crisis line, where trained advocates receive 1,000 calls monthly from those affected by domestic violence. As the only state-certified domestic violence prevention and emergency shelter agency in Hillsborough County, we offer safety-planning services to abused adults, their children and pets.

You can make a difference and stop domestic violence in our community. It starts with a phone call, any time, day or night. Our emergency helpline in Hillsborough County is (813) 247-7233.

Joanne Lighter, president and CEO, The Spring of Tampa Bay, Tampa

Education bill hardly green

The new VA 9/11 Education Bill, much hyped for thanking service members who mobilized following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, discriminates against students who were forced by frequent deployments to take courses at online colleges.

The bill does not allow students the housing allowance (at least $1,000) unless they take one class every other week at a traditional campus. Some online universities don't even have campuses! This also makes life more difficult for students with disabilities; not only physically but mentally. Several tours in Iraq may eliminate one's desire to spend all day at a liberal playground environment.

Finally, how does joining the overcrowded I-275 or Gandy Bridge fit into the president's vision of a "green" future when the driver could be as well served at home not burning a gallon of gas.

Please contact the VA and your local congressmen to ask for an explanation. I believe one state has already overturned this stipulation. Keep Florida green and take care of your veterans.

Laurinda Burns, Tampa

Tents can be home

I am an 11th grader in Hillsborough County. Our church provides breakfasts for Pinellas Hope. After serving the individuals there I was overwhelmed. Unlike on the streets, they are guaranteed one meal a day, shelter and access to showers, computers and laundry facilities. They also have an address to put on job applications.

I was thrilled when I heard of plans for Hillsborough Hope. We have the largest number of homeless in the state.

I was disturbed after seeing the "Stop Tent City" Web site. How can you claim that the homeless "deserve better than a tent city" without giving alternative solutions? Or that homeless living on the street will be safer for our community than having a place to change their lives?

Successful discharges from the tent city would only make this community stronger. I would be proud to call every resident of tent city my neighbor.

Sarah Shields, Tampa

Health care differences

Here are some personal observations about the National Heath Service (NHS) in Britain vs. the fee- for-service we "enjoy."

• Everyone who works in Britain pays into the NHS via payroll deduction on a sliding scale based on income. In the United States, a worker's insurance premium is the same rate, so a maid in a hotel pays the same amount her manager does.

• An average income of 40,000 pounds will net about 300 pounds in total yearly payroll deductions for the NHS. That's it. No deductibles, no co-pays, no money up front. I know this because that's what I made when I worked there and that is my total year-end total paid to the NHS per my check stub. In the United States I now pay twice that for employer-provided insurance before any co-pays or deductibles, and that's on the cheap plan!

• There are no extended wait times in the NHS.You call, make the appointment, then show up. There really are no glaring differences in this particular issue.

• NHS hospitals are by no means posh. They are clean, efficient, well-staffed and well-equipped but they are not meant to be pretty.

• If you lose your job, quit, can't work for any reason or just cut back your hours, your access to the NHS doesn't change. Do any of that in the United States and you're offered COBRA for 18 months.

• General practitioners and consultants work in offices provided by and staffed by the NHS. They work under contract, 9-5 Monday though Friday at a base rate plus bonuses. Bonuses are paid if they improve the health of their patients by getting them to quit smoking, lower their blood pressure/cholesterol, or even if they work a few weekends. U.S. doctors make more money by cramming as many patients into a day as possible.

I've been an RN since 1997 and worked as a nurse manager in ICU here in Florida and as an administrator for a private hospital in London and I've witnessed a profound difference between the personal relationships between physicians and patients.

Maybe soon, cooler heads will prevail and the fear mongering will be recognized for what it is. People will see that it is the insurance industry that has been rationing care and not some government plan that isn't even written yet. Perhaps soon, compassion will win over and we'll realize that profiting over the sick and the injured isn't a good idea.

Paul Moore, RN, Oakland Park

Sen. Kennedy's work touched all Americans 08/28/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 28, 2009 2:11pm]
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