Special to CNN
With a sign from Dunganstown, Ireland, hanging in his U.S. Capitol office, a reminder of the famine-ravished farm where his ancestors began, Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy always seemed to understand that the Kennedys were perhaps America's greatest immigrant story - overcoming religious, ethnic and cultural barriers to reach once unimaginable heights.
"My brother Jack wrote 'A Nation of Immigrants' in 1958, and his words ring true as clearly today as they did half a century ago," said Ted early last year, a few months before he was struck with a malignant brain tumor that claimed his life Tuesday. "I'm constantly reminded of my immigrant heritage."
Indeed, the Kennedys' vision of "A Nation of Immigrants" - which Ted championed throughout his public career - dramatically transformed today's America, opening the door for millions of new citizens and paving the way for Barack Obama's presidency. It is the Kennedys' most lasting legacy.
John F. Kennedy's idealistic belief in America's dream of opportunity for all was clearly stated in "A Nation of Immigrants," which reflected so much of his family's story as Irish Catholic immigrants.
The essence of this little known, little-studied book became the 1965 Immigration Reform Act, which ended the discriminatory preference given to white Europeans and opened the door to millions from Latin America, Asia, Africa and around the world.
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