Special to CNN
In the aftermath of the 2004 presidential election, the Democrats were roundly accused of losing the "moral values voters" in America, and of being the party of secularists who were hostile to faith and religion.
The first Democrat to call me and ask to talk about that accusation and how to change the moral debate in America was Ted Kennedy. He invited me to his home, where he and his wife, Vicki, engaged me in a long and very thoughtful conversation into the night about the relationship between faith, morality and politics.
Their deep Catholic faith was evident and their articulation of it very impressive, especially the impact of Catholic social teaching on both of them. Our discussion was not partisan at all, i.e., not about how to "win religion back" for the Democrats. Rather, we focused on the great moral issues facing the nation, and how we as people of faith needed to respond to them.
Stay with CNN for coverage of Senator Ted Kennedy's farewell.
12p: Private mass at Hyannisport
1p: Depart for Boston
4p: Arrive at JFK Library in Boston after a "farewell to Boston procession" with several stops, planned among them:
6p – 11p Thursday
8a – 3p Friday
Tonight we’ll have an in-depth look at Sen. Ted Kennedy’s life, legacy and battle with brain cancer.
As you’ve heard by now, the Massachusetts senator died last night, surrounded by his family, 15 months after learning he had an aggressive form of brain cancer. Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join us with details on malignant glioma and its treatment.
Senator Kennedy’s final months were not easy. He knew the odds he was facing–but he didn’t put his life on hold.
After serving for 47 years in the U.S. Senate, the issue he cared so deeply about, health care reform, is in play again. While his illness and treatments prevented him from playing as big a role in the debate as he otherwise may have, Kennedy stayed in the game as much as he could. Tonight, we’ll look at what his loss means for the health care reform battle ahead.
Allies and adversaries of Senator Kennedy have been speaking out all day, reacting to his death, paying tribute to his accomplishments. He was the youngest of the Kennedy clan, the baby brother who grew up to become the third-longest serving senator ever. He was the only Kennedy son to live beyond middle-age and die of natural causes. Tonight you’ll hear from many who knew him.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/26/williams.ted.kennedy/art.erica.williams.cap.jpg caption="Erica Williams says Ted Kennedy consistently exemplified the hope for an open, just and inclusive America."]
Special to CNN
Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy may have been 77 years old, but he embodied the spirit, determination and core values of my generation - the millenials - in a way that no other senator has in our lifetime. How ironic that the passing of one of the oldest and longest serving senators has left me, a 25-year-old woman, frantically searching for a fierce, dedicated ally for causes that concern young Americans.
As a young person with equal parts hope in - and criticism of - America's body politic, I value the length of time Kennedy spent championing the causes of those constituencies that are traditionally underrepresented in the political process and also the tenacity, savvy and consistency with which he did it.
Editor's Note: Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, the patriarch of the first family of Democratic politics, died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was 77. Take a look at these rare photographs from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/26/rollins.kennedy.gop/art.kennedy.gi.jpg caption="Senator Edward Kennedy died late Tuesday at his home."]
Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, the patriarch of the first family of Democratic politics, died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. He was 77.
"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," a family statement said. "We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice."
Kennedy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, just a few feet from the graves of his brothers, a senior Defense Department official told CNN. He is eligible for burial at Arlington due to his congressional service and his tenure in the Army from 1951 to 1953.
In a way, I now realize, I have always subconsciously considered Ted Kennedy to be immortal. I remember the first time I saw him in person. It was the summer of 1994 and I was at the Yankee Homecoming Parade in Newburyport, Massachusetts, a few miles from where I grew up.
The senator was at the time locked in a tough re-election bid against a little-known businessman named Mitt Romney. From my perch on the sidewalk I heard the crowd down the street start to cheer. And then I saw him. The famous face, the wavy hair, the stylish polo shirt. And then I heard the voice – that inimitable sound.
He bounded down the street with his beautiful new wife Vicki in tow, shaking hands and greeting the crowds in that uniquely Kennedy way. For a teenage news junkie like me, shaking the hand of the man whom I had read about and watched on television for my entire life was a thrill beyond words. He was one of the original political rock stars.
Program Note: Tune in tonight for more from Jeffrey Toobin on Sen. Kennedy's influence on the Supreme Court. AC360° 10 p.m. ET.
Jeffrey Toobin | Bio
CNN Senior Legal Analyst
New Yorker Columnist
The vote to confirm Sonia Sotomayor last month was sixty-eight to thirty-one—but the one senator who was missing may have had more influence over the Supreme Court than any in history. Edward M. Kennedy won election in 1962, voted on every nominee from Abe Fortas in 1965 to Samuel A. Alito, Jr., in 2005, and to an unprecedented extent shaped the composition of the Court itself.
Early in his tenure, in 1969 and 1970, Kennedy helped lead the fight to defeat two of President Nixon’s nominees, Clement Haynsworth and Harrold Carswell, both of whom lost by narrow margins. In 1971, Kennedy was one of only twenty-six senators to oppose the nomination of William H. Rehnquist as an associate justice. (Kennedy voted against Rehnquist for Chief Justice, too, in 1986).
Still, the summit of Kennedy’s influence on the Court—and perhaps his career as a senator—was his role in the fight over Robert H. Bork’s nomination in 1987. Kennedy was fifty-five at the time, his dreams of the Presidency having been put away for good nearly a decade earlier. At the time, Kennedy had little to gain politically by leading the opposition to Bork, but he did it nonetheless, and he did it with a passion that has defined Supreme Court fights ever since.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/08/26/ted.kennedy.reax/art.obama.gi.jpg caption="President Obama says he profited as president from Kennedy's encouragement and wisdom."]
A sampling of reactions to the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died Tuesday night at age 77:
U.S. President Barack Obama: For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.
I valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I've profited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.
An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time.