Love him or loathe him, Sen. Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy was an undeniably great public figure. But his greatness did not spring from who he was -- the surviving one of four, larger-than-life brothers of a powerful American family -- but from what he did -- champion the rights of all Americans, including those not born to such wealth and privilege.
Ted Kennedy was not African American, Hispanic American, Native American, or Asian American. But he championed the Voting Rights and Fair Housing laws, immigration laws, and other legislation advancing civil rights, what he called "the still unfinished business of America."
Ted Kennedy was never a person of color in South Africa. But he championed the fight against Apartheid.
Ted Kennedy was not gay or lesbian. But he championed legislation protecting the rights of homosexual Americans and funding AIDS research.
Ted Kennedy was not a girl or a woman. But he championed women's reproductive rights, health and nutrition programs for pregnant women and infants, and Title IX.
Ted Kennedy was not born into nor did he die in poverty. But he championed the minimum wage, Meals on Wheels, and countless other programs helping those far less advantaged than he.
Ted Kennedy was never a working class laborer or even a middle class wage earner. But he championed the Family Leave Act, OSHA, and the rights of labor unions.
Ted Kennedy was never denied a good education. But he championed No Child Left Behind (which President Bush failed to fund as promised) and higher education for all.
Ted Kennedy was never a serviceman in harm's way. But he came to champion the fight against the Vietnam Conflict, which he called "a monstrous outrage"; he pushed to abolish the draft and give 18-year-olds the right to vote; and he voted against the 2002 authorization for Bush to take us to war in Iraq, which he called "the best vote I've made in my 44 years in the United States Senate."