Edward Moore Kennedy, 1932 - 2009.
It will be decades before historians take a proper focus on his life and career (along with a progressive legacy and extensive legislative history in his 46-year Senate career, his final accomplishment is still up for a vote this fall with health care reform, after all), but at first blush the loss of this legislative lion lays bare the central paradox to American democracy: in our mythology, even our brightest stars seem to be cut from a different cloth than the rest of us.
Born into privilege, the scion of a political dynasty, with a Senate seat his family saw as private property, he was nevertheless an advocate of the lowest of the low. It's a nagging problem, but one I would prefer to examine with him still among us. (If for no other reason than the man sure knew how to deliver a speech.)