AFN and Alaska Natives Have Lost a Champion and a Friend
Anchorage, Alaska – August 27, 2009
The Alaska Federation of Natives and the entire Alaska Native community mourn the passing of a remarkable man: United States Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Ted Kennedy consistently used his intelligence, kindness and dedication to make a better country and a better world. For 47 years in the Senate, he was an unflagging advocate for the “have-nots” in American society – the people who don’t have money or power or voice. Born to privilege, he invariably stuck up for the little guy and refused to betray his principles in the face of political opposition.
At the same time, he was one of the best “compromisers” in the legislative process, working with friend and foe alike to make good law. This capacity for flexibility, negotiation and personal respect made him one of the most productive senators in the history of the country. His name is associated with virtually every major piece of reform legislation in almost half a century. Little wonder that his colleagues, including political opponents, held him in such high regard. They loved his droll sense of humor, and they nicknamed him “the lion of the Senate.”
“Senator Kennedy came to Alaska more than 20 years ago and toured rural areas of the state, meeting many Native people. Later, when issues of importance to Natives arose in Congress, he was our consistent supporter. Because he had seen the needs of our people with his own eyes, we did not have to explain to him why a given issue mattered so much. He got it. Our deepest sympathies go out to his devoted family,” said AFN President Julie Kitka.
Until the day of his death, Ted Kennedy fought for what mattered: quality education for all children, affordable health care for all families, an economy that works for every American, and equal rights for all human beings.
There will be many more good lawmakers in the future, but there will never be another Ted Kennedy. That is why Alaska Natives, along with millions of other Americans, are so saddened by the loss of this good and decent man.