Monday, June 28, 2010

A tribute to U.S. Senator Robert Byrd

West Virginian U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving member of Congress in the history of our nation, passed away this morning. The so-called "dean" of the Senate, Byrd was a historian of the esteemed chamber, often reminding his colleagues of the important role they played through his eloquent use of the English language.

Some will focus on the mistakes of Byrd's life -- he was once a member of the KKK in the 1940s, and filibustered against Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s.

But if there's one thing Byrd's storied career symbolizes, it is that redemption of one's character is not out of reach for any man, no matter what his sins may be. Byrd rejected his racist past, describing it as one of the biggest regrets of his life. "I apologized a thousand times," he once said, "and I don't mind apologizing over and over again."

In recent years, Byrd's age didn't stymie his progressive values. He adamantly opposed the Iraq War from its start. Earlier this year, despite his ailing health, being wheeled in on a wheelchair by an aide, he proudly voted for health insurance reform.

Byrd isn't just a person, just a member of government -- he's an institution within the Senate body itself. Regardless of your feelings of him, Sen. Robert Byrd's death marks the end of an important era of statesmanship within the United States Congress.

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