As third most senior member of the Senate, and patriarch of one of the most famous political dynasties in the world, Kennedy has always been aware of, and lived up to the high expectations placed upon him by the public. As chair of the Senate’s Health and Education Committee, he demonstrated prescience when he, along with Senator Bill Frist, MD, (R, Tenn.) introduced legislation to help the nation’s public health system prepare for a possible biological attack. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, in a letter to President Bush on September 21, he called for full funding so that this legislation could be implemented.
On September 12, Kennedy in a characteristic message of conciliation called on Americans to refrain from jumping to conclusions and making false accusations against Arabs and Muslims. “I know that the American Muslim and Arab communities share the nation’s horror and outrage over yesterday’s terrorist attacks…we must guard against any acts of violence based on such bigotry.”
Kennedy, whose own family has had more than its share of tragedy, organized a memorial service for the families of the victims from Massachusetts and did his best to comfort them. “I can tell you from my own personal experience that this loss will forever be with you. But the lives they led and the love they gave you will become a brighter light to guide you as time goes on. You will never walk alone.”
He has also been involved in organizing funding for additional mental health relief efforts for survivors in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. ♦