The torch has truly been passed to the next generation — of Americans and of the Kennedy family.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, 77, died late Tuesday after a 15–month battle with brain cancer.
This is the first time in my memory — and the first time in the lives of millions of Americans — that no Kennedy has been in the Senate. For nearly half a century, Kennedy represented the state of Massachusetts, and his death leaves a "long list of hopefuls" who may contend for the open seat in a special election, reports the Boston Globe.
What many of those contenders do will depend, to a great extent, upon what other Kennedys do, the Globe says. If a Kennedy decides to seek the seat, the newspaper says, resources and supporters are likely to gravitate in that direction, but it is not clear at this stage whether a member of the family will do so. Kennedy's widow, Victoria, does not seem to be interested in the seat. Kennedy's nephew, Joseph P. Kennedy II, has not indicated what his plans are.
They are the family members who are most frequently mentioned by political observers. There are, of course, other Kennedys — many other Kennedys — but not all of them live in Massachusetts so there is a chance — perhaps more than a chance — that the state's era of Kennedy representation has reached its conclusion.
For now, the Kennedys will gather for the second time this month to say goodbye to one of their own. It was just two weeks ago that Kennedy's sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, died at the age of 88.
Whether it was acknowledged or not, it was generally expected, following Kennedy's diagnosis, that he would die soon. His brain tumor, a malignant glioma, is almost always lethal, although some people who are diagnosed with it live longer than others.
But it still came as something of a shock this morning to learn that Kennedy had died.
I was reminded, in many ways, of how I felt 18 years ago this month, when I received a phone call from an old friend telling me that another old friend had died of cancer. He had been diagnosed only a few months earlier, but his rapid decline left everyone preparing for the inevitable. Yet, when it came, it felt like a ton of bricks had been dropped on me.
Kennedy's public life was filled with moments that are being remembered today — his eloquent eulogy to his brother Bobby in 1968, his impassioned speech to the Democratic National Convention in 1980, his presence at many of the pivotal moments in the nation's history.
And his speech at last year's Democratic National Convention, which he gave one year to the day before his death.
He was born on George Washington's 200th birthday, which may have been an indication of the role he was to play in American history.
If he genuinely aspired to be president of the United States, it was a goal he never achieved. But he left his mark on the nation in the form of hundreds of laws that bear his name.
Rest in peace, senator.