Sen. Kennedy Honored by Great Britan as He Returns to Washington
There was a lot of love and admiration being spread this week, for Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.
Kennedy, 77, suffered a seizure in May at his home on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Shortly afterward, doctors diagnosed a brain tumor. He has been holed up in Massachusetts to recover, rarely returning to Washington.
. Ted Kennedy, who has been recuperating from brain cancer surgery, was back in Washington on Thursday as President Obama set out to tackle a major domestic policy item on his increasingly loaded plate: health care reform.
"I'm looking forward to being a foot soldier in this undertaking, and this time, we will not fail," Kennedy said, to loud applause.
As this was happening, across the Atlantic, the Senator Edward Kennedy was becoming Sir Edward Kennedy as a result of receiving honorary knighthood.
Today, when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a joint session of Congress that Kennedy was being so honored, there was nothing but applause in the chamber, and only minimal grumbling elsewhere over the British accolade for the icon of Irish-Catholic politics in America.
Kennedy himself wasn’t in the chamber when Brown spoke; the 77-year-old Democrat was resting and receiving treatment for the brain cancer that struck him last May. But Kennedy was warmly appreciative in his public statement accepting the honor, recalling the deep ties between the Kennedy family and Great Britain.
Sister Lena Deevy, executive director of the Irish Immigration Center in Boston, said the honorary knighthood was about more than Ireland. “I think it’s a reflection of the phenomenal work that Senator Kennedy has done over the years to bring about peace. Kennedy is someone who has reached across the aisle, in Washington and worldwide. He brought people together and built bridges. His life has been about finding common ground, even with people he disagreed with.”
While the Senator has been out of Washington for some time recovering from a brain tumor, his contribution as a senator is appreciated on both sides of the other great divide, the partisan sides of the aisle in the senate.
Ron Pollack of Families USA said Thursday that despite Kennedy's absence from Washington, his work championing health care goes on.
"Sen. Kennedy gets more done in Florida or Massachusetts in terms of what Congress needs to do than a lot of people do when they're here in Washington," he said. "So he has made sure that his staff and his committee are fully prepared for the health reform debate."
Kennedy's colleague Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said Thursday that although it's "hard when you're not here" pushing for reform, Kennedy has an "excellent staff and he is in constant communication with them on what he wants to do."
Hatch, a Republican, recounted Kennedy's long history of working on the issue and outreach to the health care community and noted that, more than any other person, Senator Kennedy can get those groups to move on health care. He went on to say that this is the reason he is very important to this process.