Over the past few decades, many of my conservative friends (and even some of my feminist friends) have asked me why I consider Ted Kennedy a personal hero. They point out the tragedy of Chappaquidick and his years of womanizing and overindulging in alcohol. These are legitimate criticisms. I’ve never made any excuses for the flaws in Ted Kennedy. I think many liberals in the 1970s and 1980s struggled to reconcile Kennedy’s exemplary record as a legislator with his often wild private life.
Ted Kennedy is my hero because of his struggle to redeem himself from the mistakes of his life. I compare him to Theon Greyjoy, a character in Game of Thrones who worked to redeem himself from the terrible things he did early in his life. Kennedy met privately with Mary Jo Kopechne’s parents to apologize for his inexcusable actions. After Kennedy started dating and eventually married Vicki Reggie 1992, he cleaned up his private life. Kennedy worked to pass legislation that helped the poor, the working class, minority groups and anyone who was marginalized in society.
Kennedy was especially a great advocate for the rights of those who are disabled or mentally ill. In 1975 Kennedy sponsored the 1975 Education for All Handicapped People Act, and in 1980 he introduced the Civil Rights for Institutionalized Persons Act, which protected the constitutional rights of the elderly, the mentally ill, the disabled, and the incarcerated. In 1990, Kennedy cosponsored with his close friend, conservative Republican Orrin Hatch, the Ryan White CARE Act, which provided funds for cities most hit by the AIDs epidemic. In 1990 Kennedy again collaborated with Hatch in passing the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibiting disability discrimination.
Last month was the 29th anniversary of the American With Disabilities Act. Joe BIden has called for returning to a time of bipartisanship that produced important positive legislation like the American With Disabilities Act. With Mitch McConnell, the Freedom Caucus and Donald Trump leading the Republicans, I think moderate Republicans and principled conservatives need to fight to regain the Republican Party before a spirit of bipartisanship will return. For the health of our democratic republic, I share Biden’s hope that we could eventually return to a time when Democrats and Republicans can work together to find common ground to help our country..
Here is a video of Ted Kennedy talking about the work to pass the American With Disabilities Act.
Here is a Boston Globe video describing how Ted Kennedy turned his life around after his personal flaws threatened to overwhelm his political achievements
The scene in season 7 of Game of Thrones where Theon Greyjoy apologizes to Jon Snow for what Theon did to the Stark family, and Jon Snow forgiving him
The scene in season 8 of Game of Thrones where Theon Greyjoy feels he achieved redemption, when he defends Bran