NAFSA: Association of International Educators is deeply saddened by the news of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. We join Americans and many people around the world in reflecting today on the profound legacy of this great American statesman, remembering his steadfast commitment to social justice and human rights, his dedication to fostering ties of peace and understanding between the United States and other countries, and his enduring example as a courageous and effective public servant whose work improved the lives of millions of people.
Sen. Kennedy’s work in the U.S. Congress over 46 years of service is reflected in legislation on some of the most important policy issues in America, including health care, voting rights, immigration, education, labor, and civil rights. He was also passionate about the importance of engaging his fellow Americans in the civic life of the country, playing a key role in the creation of AmeriCorps and other service programs. Most recently, in April of this year, President Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which expands opportunities for Americans of all ages to participate in national service, including programs for Americans to volunteer overseas.
Sen. Kennedy was a strong supporter of cultural and educational exchanges. Not long after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, he and Senator Richard Lugar were instrumental in the establishment of the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, which provides scholarships for secondary school students from countries with significant Muslim populations to live and study in the United States. In a letter about their vision for the program published in the summer of 2002, they wrote: “As part of our national effort to counter the ignorance and hatred that breeds support for acts of terrorism and to undermine the recruitment efforts of terrorist organizations and extremist groups, we need to send more American leaders in all fields to Islamic countries and bring more Islamic leaders to the United States.” Sen. Kennedy was also a co-sponsor of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, currently pending in Congress, which would establish a program to make study abroad possible for many more American college students. In 2004, NAFSA presented him with its Global Leader Award. “Sen. Kennedy was untiring in advancing his conviction that international education is a critical tool for U.S. foreign policy, security, and public diplomacy efforts,” said NAFSA Executive Director and CEO Marlene M. Johnson.
America has lost one of its greatest public servants, and the international education community has lost a good friend. Sen. Kennedy lived a remarkable life. His extraordinary contributions of leadership and service will not be forgotten.