Yesterday, when I heard the news of Kennedy’s death, I was in my garden, and the tears came unwittingly. I had no idea why the tears flowed, just that I was sad. Then I realized that I was not crying for Ted Kennedy or his family, but for this country, that lost a voice it so badly needed right now. I cried because I fear that with the loss of Ted Kennedy, we have lost any hope of passing health care reform. And then I cried when I remembered just how long it had been that Kennedy and smart people like him, have been fighting for health care reform.
It was probably 1976, and I was a young reporter assigned to cover a community meeting on health care for the Boston Herald. Senator Kennedy was there, I can’t remember if he was the speaker, or just there to listen, but I engaged him in a conversation about the topic of the day. At the time, I was a typical 20-something, and health insurance was one of those things, like financial security and mortgages that was a foreign concept to me. So it took some explaining.
The innovation he was promoting was the concept of an Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), a new type of insurance company that would pay you to stay healthy – what a concept. Kennedy patiently explained the concept, illustrated it with examples, and continued to explain it until I had my ah ha moment, finally grokking the concept. I wrote what I’m sure Fox news would consider a fawning piece on the event. But what I remember most is both Kennedy’s knowledge of the topic and his passion for the issue.
So yesterday morning, I started counting the years, ,33, since I first experienced that passion. That’s a very long time to hang on to a dream. The tragedy of the Kennedy’s is not that their men die to young. But that they die before they can see their dreams come true.