I was sorry to hear about the passing of Sen. Ted Kennedy. His family and mine crossed paths several times over the years, but what I'll remember most about him is that he was always there. He became a senator when I was 9 months old, and as I cut my teeth as a political junkie, he was often lighting the way. Yes, he made some unfortunate choices in his personal life, but as a leader, he was a champion for many causes I care deeply about.

I parlayed my love of politics into a my first job after college. I was the second of a two-member public affairs team at Blue Cross and Blue Shielf of North Carolina. With Sen. Kennedy's keen focus on making health care better for all Americans, I was behind him again, also advocating for smart change to the system. I never got to work with him directly, but I did work with his staff from time to time. They, like me, shared the Senator's deep dedication to creating policy that challenges government to be its best self, and empowers all Americans to meet basic needs and achieve big things.

I still dabble in "professional" political work from time to time. But mostly I'm back on the grassroots side of things, advocating for causes I care about on my own time. But the lessons I learned from studying Sen. Kennedy (and his brother, Bobby) continue to serve me well.

It feels odd knowing Sen. Kennedy won't be part of the new administration's efforts. But he got the ball rolling and it's my hope that his legacy will be honored by a continued focus on those basic values he stood for for so long.

Godspeed, Sen. Kennedy. Thanks for everything.