Yesterday morning, we found out that Sen. Ted Kennedy, a champion of liberal America, died of brain cancer. He fought for civil rights, against the Viet Nam War, supported President Obama was always stood up for the poor and disenfranchised. But he also will forever be tied to a tragic event in his life that took place in Chappaquiddick 30 years ago. No matter what you do in life, no matter how much good, no matter how much you make a difference, the wrong that you do, the mistakes that you make, that time you were publicly busted, will always come to the surface.
Congressman Charlie Rangel recently disclosed more than $500,000 in previously unreported assets, doubling his net worth. He has been under an ethics investigation for months and always maintained his innocence. Also a liberal democrat who has done lots of good, Congressman Rangel’s virtues will always be tainted by this blunder.
The predicament they found themselves in is not really the issue. The real point is how much did it or will it affect the job that they’re doing and the legacies they will leave?
Rep. Rangel is taking a lot of heat, but let’s not get it twisted. Let’s not got caught in the media hype. Charlie Rangel is the founder of the Congressional Black Caucus. In the ‘80s, Rangel was arrested for participating in an anti-apartheid rally in front of the South African Embassy in Washington, and in the ‘90s, he was arrested for protesting the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo. The Harlem rep has been outspoken against the war in Iraq and has actively called for the draft to be reinstated because he believes it’s a way to make the military more representative of the American public at large. Like a lot of us, he feels that a disproportionate number of poor and minorities volunteer to serve in the military mainly because they have so few options once they leave high school.
Not many people are interested in talking about any of those things right now, but I want you make sure you’re aware of the good works he has done.
Teddy Kennedy played a major role in legislation being passed aimed at improving issues that plagued a segment of the population that is often voiceless — health care, education and housing. He proudly accepted the label of liberal when a lot of Democrats were afraid to utter the word. All this week, you’ll hear about the impact he had on advancing the rights of immigrants, minorities, gays and the disabled. But on BlackAmericaWeb.com, you can read about what Ted Kennedy did specifically for black folks, and I think you will be impressed as I was with his record. Jackie Jones reports that Ted Kennedy, a mentor and friend to Ron Brown, had a major hand in him becoming commerce secretary.
This morning on the Big Show, 90-year-old Sen. Edward Brooke, who served in the Senate alongside Ted Kennedy, told Roland Martin how well the two of them worked together on voting rights legislation. He said once Ted realized he would never be president, he shone in his role as senator and gained the respect of Democrats and Republicans. If you missed that interview, check it out on BlackAmericaWeb.com.
But aside from the friendships and associations he had with black Americans, Ted Kennedy’s work led to the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, Meals on Wheels for the Elderly, abortion clinic access, family leave and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
I’ve always wondered what would make a person who comes from such a privileged background care so much about people who have the least. To me, it’s what made Ted Kennedy great. And Charles Rangel’s record should always out shine whatever is being thrown at him. They should both be remembered for the good they’ve done.