Selected Commentary

“Three legislative steps stand out in the period from 1963 until (Robert Kennedy’s) death in 1968... (One came in) 1966, (when) Mr. Kennedy took the first step on the issue that has dominated his career — health care — by winning a $51 million appropriation to create 30 community health centers. Because Mr. Kennedy also fought off Reagan administration efforts to kill federal aid for the program, today there are more than 1,200 of these centers serving poor communities.”

Source: Adam Clymer of the New York Times (8/26/09), accessed 9/3/09 at

“To the left of the motorcade, on the landward side where a passionate sailor was no less a passionate senator, stood a small community health clinic where he had begun what he came to call ‘the cause of my life.’ In 1966, Ted Kennedy visited this clinic that two Tufts University med school professors started at a housing project where ambulances only ventured with a police escort. One professor, Dr. H. Jack Geiger, had gotten the idea from working as a medical student at a clinic for the desperately poor in South Africa. He and a fellow professor, Dr. Count Gibson, resolved to do the same after serving together as medical workers with the civil rights movement in the South. Their notion was that health care was also a matter of justice.... On seeing the clinic, Kennedy immediately understood he was at the front lines of the struggle for what should be every American's right.... He later said that the clinic was ‘where it all started.’”

Source: Michael Daly of the New York Daily News (8/28/09), accessed 9/3/09 at

“In the days since Ted Kennedy died, I've been thinking a lot about El Rio Community Health Center. Since 1970 El Rio has provided quality health care to Tucson's poor — people without health insurance and without the means to pay for the care they and their families need. For whatever reasons, they are not as fortunate as the rest of us. Most of us can get health care whenever we need it, which is why so many of us think we have the best health-care system in the world. Those people are wrong, and not everyone understands that, but Ted Kennedy did. He knew all about the top-notch doctor and hospital care this country has to offer. But he understood, too, how often that care is offered only to those who can pay…. (Kennedy wrote a bill) authorizing $51 million to build 30 clinics for low-income families around the country…. Kennedy changed the course of health care in Tucson, and across the country.”

Source: Jane Erikson of the Arizona Daily Star (9/1/09), accessed 9/3/09 at

“[W]hat truly set Kennedy apart is that he was a street-level policymaker. He talked to the people doing the work and needing the care. He could never be accused of living in an ivory tower. And so it goes that he didn’t just file and gain support for the legislation that created community health centers. He stayed in touch with the work of these centers and ensured their survival. Ten years ago, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center faced its darkest hour. A financial crisis was threatening our very survival. We needed help. And we called Kennedy. He swung into action. He got key policymakers at the federal and state levels around a table and made our problem everyone’s crisis. The result was the lifeline that kept us in business and allowed us to continue serving many families and almost every child in East Boston. Ten years ago, Ted Kennedy got why our mission was so vitally important. But then again, why wouldn’t he? In essence, he created us. The Senate has lost its liberal lion and Massachusetts has lost its senior senator. And families across America have lost the man who understood better than anyone why quality health care, provided without fanfare around the corner, is so important to our families and to our country.”

Source: Jack Cradock, CEO of the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center in the Boston Herald (8/29/09), accessed 9/3/09 at

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