"It is time again for a new generation of leadership."
-- Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jan 28, 2008.
As you may have heard, doctors announced this afternoon that Sen. Ted Kennedy -- who'd been rushed to the hospital on Saturday with a seizure -- is suffering from malignant brain cancer. He will undergo radiation and chemotherapy, and -- in a modern world where a fellow Bostonian can recover from cancer to throw a no-hitter -- we optimistically pray for a full recovery. God knows the Kennedys have been a controversial force in a most divisive half-century of life in this country, but today all Americans are united in wishing for his return to good health, and an acknowledging that he has been a giant figure in our politics, the "last lion" as his GOP friend John McCain just called him.
He would never be president -- his personal foibles far too great, and the shadow cast by his slain brothers far too deep, But despite personal scandal and family tragedy, and you can see his impact on America every time a wheelchair-bound person rolls into your public library (he co-sponsored the Americans with Disabilities Act) and every time a black person casts a vote in the Deep South (he helped shape the Voting Rights Act of 1965).
Even if you don't support Barack Obama, it was telling that Kennedy -- given one last chance to walk away and take the easy way out -- took the risk of endorsing the Illinois senator, despite a long association with the Clintons. He did it because he thought it was the right thing to do, saying that "we want a president who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American dream."
That was his way of passing the torch to a new generation -- from a flawed but hardworking lifelong public servant, and if it proves to be his last act on the public stage, it was a fitting one.