August 27th, 2009
11:34 AM ET

Kennedy opened door for Obama

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Thomas Maier
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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Filed under: Immigration • Sen. Ted Kennedy
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    We are a nation of immigrants – more now than probably in the past. Our nation has always required us to be more accepting of the diversity of our citizens. These immigrants like the original ones bring their customs and beliefs with them and we need to be aware of that and curious (without bias) in learning about them – it can only make our own life's more enriched

    No one knew this better than Ted Kennedy. He and his family experienced bias against being both Irish and Catholic even as late as JFK's run for President. JFK become our first Catholic President and it was a big deal then. America in putting that Irish Catholic bias behind us gained a family who enriched our lives with their zeal for public service. Ted Kennedy in opening the door for Obama help widen our American circle of power some more by sponsoring the first African American man for President. Very symbolic and very American – I'm glad Ted Kennedy put his great influence behind what he felt would be best for the country – in doing so he may have nudged us into growing a bit more. I will miss Senator Kennedy.

    August 28, 2009 at 12:03 am |
  2. Joe Fattal

    Yes sir he sure did. He opened the door for obama, opened it wide enough because of his power in the senate. He brought Obama in front of the people, introduced him to us and with a total of obsession, a careful rehearsed speeches, Obama gained the crowd that paved his way to the White House. A modern Jesus that was spare the crucifixion. And now what do we have, a health issue that will remain unsolve, unemployment is rising, social security is going broke and Senator Kennedy is gone. And, Obama is all by himself. I bet Uncle Teddy said to himself on his way to the all mighty, I should have chose Hillary.

    August 27, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  3. Isabel Siaba, Brazil

    It is interesting to know that under a history of tragedy and scandal, the senator seemed to recognize that within their family, there aren't heirs to the legacy of the Kennedy dynasty. And it's time he thought to pass the torch of the struggle for social justice for a new generation, was chosen President Obama.

    August 27, 2009 at 3:11 pm |
  4. RLWellman

    What I want to know is if the state of Mass. is going to change the laws again so the democratic govenor can pick the new replacement of Ted Kennedy? or Is the state going to leave the laws the same way Senator Kennedy changed them 4-5 years ago so then Govenor Mitt Romney couldn't pick the replacement senator for the Senator John Kerry who was trying to be president?

    This is a question I would like the answer to, are the democrats going to keep changing the laws to suit their needs?

    You can keep calling the majority of the nation names and you are going to keep losing more and more followers! The majority will not continue to close it's eyes and let this administration ruin the country! Those of you who continue to keep your eyes closed can fall off the cliff, but the majority will not follow!

    August 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  5. Lenora

    We should not "idealize him more in death than he was in life"–All of the accolades given to Kennedy since his death only shows young people today that one does not have to be responsible for one's actions. A person can drink, drive drunk, cause a death, condone sexual misbehavior, etc., and not be held responsible....indeed be afforded high praise, if one is rich enough and can afford good PR and influence.

    August 27, 2009 at 2:47 pm |
  6. lampe

    Pansy: Once again it seems like Obama Supporters, are unable to get their point across, without stooping to name calling. I believe if you want to get your point across to someone who is not understanding it, the best way is to explain it to them with kindness. Maybe this HealthCare Reform Bill will pass, maybe it won't. Only time will tell. But, how do you think it will go down in History that Obama and The Dems passed a bill, that half of Americans wanted no part of? We need some sort of HealthCare, I totally agree with that, but not at the expense of tearing Our Country Apart.

    August 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  7. pansy

    ""Senator Kennedy taught us CLASS, COMPASSION, and CREDIBILITY. The Gop teaches everyone how to be a disfunctionall illiterate, and be a total class act moron and display despicable
    behavior. Again, GOP PEOPLE HEALTH CARE WILL PASS BIGGGG TIME BECAUSE OF COMPASSION. Compassion help to calm things down in the BIBLE. Conservative ideology is absolutely moronic at this time in America. We need health care for the buffoons who bring GUNS to PRES. OBAMA"S town hall meetings. They have social and mental health issues. Just say GOD BLESS AMERICA AND GET HEALTH CARE PAST."

    August 27, 2009 at 11:36 am |