A letter from Michael Brown: Senator Edward M. Kennedy

To our City Year community,

On behalf of the City Year community of corps members, alumni, staff, board members and supporters, I am writing to share our deepest sympathy with the family of Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his legions of friends and colleagues on the sad occasion of his passing.

Senator Kennedy was a hero to us, and to all idealistic people in America and across the globe who believe that the world can be more just, more fair, more peaceful and more hopeful.

At City Year, we seek to inculcate the idea in young people that they can be ‘big citizens,’ idealists who act to improve the world around them. For a generation, there has been no bigger citizen, no greater idealist than Senator Ted Kennedy. His idealism transformed our nation and lifted our sights – he challenged America to live up to its founding mission to form a more perfect union and to its founding creed that all people were created equal.

His lifetime commitment to the common good is unmatched in American life, and his energy level and work ethic legendary. He moved us forward as a nation on civil rights, economic justice, public education, national service, and the cause he now leaves for all of us as citizens to complete with open hearts and open minds, healthcare for all.

As a Massachusetts native, I have had the privilege of having had Ted Kennedy as my senator for nearly my entire life. Senator Kennedy’s commitment to service and active citizenship – indeed the public service commitment of his entire family – was a deep source of inspiration for us in our founding of City Year, and Senator Kennedy was City Year’s greatest champion from day one.

From the founding of City Year, Senator Kennedy took Alan Khazei and me under his wing, encouraging and leading us at every turn. In 1988, in just our founding year, he held one of the first Congressional hearings on national service at the John F. Kennedy Library and invited City Year to testify. He spoke at City Year’s first graduation ceremony in June of 1989, giving a moving speech about the power of service to transform not only those who are helped, but those who serve.

Senator Kennedy believed so powerfully in the idea of investing in the idealistic spirit of America’s young people. He wrote the legislation that established AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service – and reached across the aisle to build bipartisan support for service in America. Today, because of his leadership, there are more than 10,000 City Year alumni and more than 600,000 Americans who have served in AmeriCorps. He fought to establish AmeriCorps and then fought to save it, fund it and grow it. Most recently, Senator Kennedy worked with his friend and colleague from across the aisle, Senator Orrin Hatch, to dramatically expand service in America. In April, President Obama signed the largest federal expansion of national service since the New Deal, The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, named to honor the hero of the service movement for more than 40 years.

Senator Kennedy often honored City Year by donning his red City Year jacket, especially as he sailed joyously with family and friends off of Cape Cod. The 2009 – 2010 national City Year corps is preparing to put on their City Year jackets. They will be officially sworn in on October 2, 2009 in ceremonies across the country. On that day we will dedicate their work in high poverty schools across the country – two and a half million hours of public service – to remember and celebrate the life and legacy of our hero, our irreplaceable idealist, our beloved friend, Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

We are so grateful to have had Senator Kennedy in our lives and in the life of the nation we love. It is now up to all of us to carry forth his legacy, to seek the common good through common ground and to express the love of country that he shared in full measure every day through service, idealism and active citizenship.

With deepest sympathy to the Kennedy family and gratitude for a life of inspired public service,

Michael Brown
CEO & Co-Founder
City Year, Inc.