End of an era as Ted Kennedy dies at 77

WASHINGTON: Ted Kennedy, the last of the storied band of brothers whose triumphs and tragedies dominated a generation of American politics, has died after losing a battle with brain cancer.

The “liberal lion” of the Senate, who was once tipped to succeed his assassinated elder brother John F Kennedy as president, died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts after losing a year-long battle with cancer. He was 77.

“We’ve lost the irreplaceable centre of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever,” the Kennedy family said in a statement.

“He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it,” the statement said, praising his “tireless march for progress towards justice, fairness and opportunity for all.” Tributes to Kennedy, who had been a colossal figure on the left-wing of the Democratic Party for decades, poured in from across America’s political divide and the world.

As the Stars and Stripes was lowered to half-staff on the US Capitol, President Barack Obama said he was “heartbroken” at the passing of “the greatest United States Senator of our time.

“An important chapter in our history has come to an end,” said Obama, who was on vacation just across the Nantucket Sound from Kennedy’s home when he learnt the news.

Kennedy had campaigned for Obama during the presidential race, sometimes at the risk of his own health, poignantly telling the American people he was handing on the liberal baton to the next generation of leaders.

Cancer-stricken, he climbed on stage at the

Democratic National

Convention in August 2008 to give an emotional speech in support of the country’s first African-American president as he campaigned for the presidency and their shared commitment to healthcare reform.

“This is the cause of my life,” Kennedy said of the 46 million Americans who lack health insurance.

“The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on,” said Kennedy in passing the

torch to Obama. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

vowed to push through the embattled health reform

legislation this year following Kennedy’s death.

“Ted Kennedy’s dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration,” Pelosi said in a statement.

Obama’s sweeping plan to provide health insurance to all Americans, the top domestic priority of his administration, has met with stiff public and political opposition amid concerns over the costs of the plan and the role of government in providing medical care.

Ted Kennedy died just two weeks after his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, passed away at the age of 88.