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Professor Emeritus and Former Secretary of Labor Ray Marshall Remembers Friend, Colleague Senator Ted Kennedy

Remembering Ted Kennedy

By Ray Marshall

AUSTIN, Texas-- Aug. 27, 2009-- All of us who shared Ted Kennedy’s interests, values, and dreams will sorely miss his leadership, counsel, company, and support.  My earliest remembrances of Ted Kennedy after I became Secretary of Labor were how well informed he was about the issues and how he surrounded himself with strong and enthusiastic staffs.  It was always a pleasure to appear before a committee on which Ted Kennedy served; he was well prepared and asked penetrating and helpful questions.  He worked hard at being a very good politician; he understood that most of the world’s really serious problems are political.  No senator had a better ability to garner bipartisan political support for controversial issues, an especially challenging task in our system because, with filibuster threats, a super majority is required to pass controversial legislation.

Ted’s commitment to public service derived from a deep understanding of the importance of politics and a strong concern for those who do not have the high quality education, health care, and other services available to the affluent.  He believed strongly that social safety nets; worker empowerment; civil rights for minorities, women and immigrants; and shared prosperity would not only help those who are marginalized by society, but also would strengthen democratic institutions.

I don’t know of a political figure that had more compassion and understanding for individuals in trouble than Ted Kennedy.  It was not uncommon for politicians to have these sentiments, but much less common for them to act on them.  I experienced this side of Ted’s character when my son Chris was diagnosed with the same kind of deadly bone cancer his son Teddy had had.  Ted called me immediately and gave me very good advice about how to get the best medical treatment, had his son visit Chris at NIH, and had his doctors confer with ours.  The day our son died, Ted was waiting in our front yard with words of comfort when we came home from the hospital.

After I returned to the University of Texas in 1981, I often discussed matters of common interest with Ted or members of his staff.  And when I worked on education, labor, civil rights, or immigration reform proposals Ted was always a valuable source of advice and encouragement. Just before he was diagnosed with brain cancer, he gave us some very important advice and pledged his support for our efforts to get immigration reform back on track.  I think we can reform our seriously broken immigration system, but there is no doubt that this, health care, labor law reform, and other important legislation would have a much better chance with his leadership and support.  He will be sorely missed, but, because of his legacy, “the dream shall never die.”

Ray Marshall is  Professor Emeritus at  the Lyndon B. Johndon School of Public Affairs and holder of the Audre and Bernard Rapoport Centennial Chair in Economics and Public Affairs at the University of TExas at Austin. Marshall served as Secretary of Labor under the Carter Administration from 1877 to 1981. Dr. Marshall continues to chair the advisory board of the LBJ School's Ray Marshall Center for the Study of Human Resources, at the forefront of public policy research and evaluation of human resource development issues.

Related Links:

Austin American Statesman - Texas Political Players Remember Kennedy - August 27, 2009

KXAN - Central Texans Remember Ted Kennedy - August 27, 2009

The Daily Texan - Austin, UT Remember Kennedy - August 27, 2009

The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum - The LBJ Library and Museum and the Johnson Family Remember Senator Edward Kennedy - August 26, 2009