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Anyone you talk to on the steps of the Capitol says Sen. Edward M. Kennedy was a one-of-a-kind lawmaker, that he's irreplaceable. But that said, many people who have worked with him hope to carry on his spirit of bipartisan cooperation.
"There's no one who can fill his shoes," said Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts. "But I think what was emphasized over and over by all those who spoke at the service was that those of us who loved him and were inspired by him need to do more than to tell wonderful stories about him, we need to take action. He dedicated his life to making a better world — we need to do the same thing."
McGovern added, "We have a role in making this country better, making the world a better place, and Sen. Kennedy woke up every single day and fought the good fight, and people like me need to work harder."
Even those who worked with Kennedy long ago worry about how a divided political scene could become even more divisive. Ellis Mottur started working with Kennedy in 1968 and stayed with him for 23 years until he retired. He said from the beginning Kennedy looked for ways to cooperate with Republicans on difficult issues.
"I hope that the spirit he brought will somehow infuse other people and that, somehow, in recognition of his life now, that Washington will become more a place where people can work together," Mottur said.
This was a recurring theme among people who worked with Kennedy: trying to keep his spirit of working together alive. Tom Dine and Jan Kalicki both worked with Kennedy in the 1980s and said they have been talking about who will now become Washington's cross-aisle deal maker.
"There's no replacement on either side of the aisle," Dine said. "There’s no one who seems to want to come forward and say 'I’ll be damned how it affects me and my career I want to change the nature and the health of the country.' And we don’t see anybody around right now."
"I hope this is a time for everyone to reflect on what he represents and try to build on that and move forward, and there’s an important opportunity ahead of us," Kalicki said.
For Kalicki, that opportunity is universal health care legislation, something Kennedy worked passionately for.
Ken Kaufman, who worked with Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee during Watergate, said legislators in Congress have a lot to live up to.
"There are many younger members of Congress who looked up to him and are going to try to carry on the life that he so brightly lit for the rest of us," Kaufman said.
Without Kennedy, Massachusetts loses considerable clout. But the state will eventually have a new senator. What no one is sure about in Washington is who will help lawmakers find common ground.
This program aired on August 31, 2009.
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