At its 2008 annual dinner, Human Rights First had honored Senator Kennedy as a lifelong champion of human rights. Upon his death this week, Elisa Massimino, the group's First Chief Executive Officer, shared the following comments:
"Human Rights First mourns the passing of our cherished friend Senator Ted Kennedy, and extends our deepest condolences to his family, his colleagues, and his many friends. Senator Kennedy spent nearly 50 years championing the cause of human rights. He was a voice for the voiceless and a true advocate for the fundamental rights of all people -- Americans, as well as those beyond our shores, including refugees and immigrants, victims of armed conflict, and political prisoners in all corners of the globe. Senator Kennedy's belief in the inherent dignity of all people, combined with his drive to ensure that the United States lived up to its potential to advance that concept at home and throughout the world, animated every battle he fought in his long and distinguished career. We have lost a tireless ally, but the lessons we all learned from him -- about perseverance, principle, and how to make progress towards a world in which all people can live in dignity and freedom -- will ensure that his legacy lasts forever. We will miss him greatly."Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, weighed in as follows:
"Amnesty International is saddened by the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. The world has lost an active supporter of human rights around the globe, especially in the United States. He worked tirelessly on behalf of people whose voices were never heard, whose plights were hidden from view, and whose well-being was ignored. In that regard he consistently championed the cases of individual prisoners of conscience, who benefitted from his relentless determination to ensuring their freedom. "The senator played a main role in passage of historic human rights legislation including the Immigration & Nationality Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which expanded employee rights in discrimination cases. "From advancing reforms on immigrant detention, to championing healthcare as a right for all Americans, to pushing for torture victims' relief, to pressing for humanitarian aid for refugees around the world including the most recent conflict in Sri Lanka, to defending the rule of law, Senator Kennedy always knew and acted to end the misery of those who were suffering. "His absence will be hard to miss. But the Kennedy family legacy of helping the disempowered remains vital and vibrant."Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW), praised Kennedy's work and then offered a practical way to honor him:
"We lost a true legislative hero in Ted Kennedy -- a defender of women, children, and all those who are discriminated against and underserved in this country. We have Kennedy to thank for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. He was a great leader in the fight for health care reform, and I only hope that we can honor him by passing real reform designed to benefit the people -- not insurance CEOs."A fine idea indeed.
Rest in peace, Senator Kennedy. Thank you for all you've done to make the world a better place. You've left some big shoes to fill. And you will be sorely missed.