The longtime senator from Massachusetts has been the subject of countless tribute speeches and awards ceremonies since he was diagnosed with brain cancer last May, but Kennedy told the Times he thinks the accolades -- which have a slight posthumous slant to them -- are unncessary.
"Obviously I've been touched and grateful," Kennedy told the Times. "Beyond that, I don't really plan to go away soon."
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Kennedy's son Rep. Patrick Kennedy deemed this type of attention "the premature eulogizing" of his father, and vice president Joe Biden says such talk is "a bordering on an obituary" but nevertheless this is the reality Kennedy has come to know in the months since his diagnosis.
The Senate lion continues to lobby the White House on behalf of health care initiatives in between sessions of chemotherapy and physical therapy in an effort to create a base for legislation that he calls "the cause of my life," the Times reported.
In his first length interview since the May 2008 diagnosis, Kennedy told the Times that a sense of optimism has been instilled in him since an early age.
"That's the way I was born and brought up," he told the paper. "That's the way we're dealing with the challenges we're facing now."
Kennedy's illness has brought together a bipartisan group of admirers.
"The fact that he has cancer leads people suddenly to try to put into perspective what he has done over time," Justice Stephen Breyer told the paper. "That makes them tend to appreciate him more, whatever their politics."
Kennedy is reportedly speaking more about the past and his family with loved ones these days but was scant on the details of how he planned to spend his 77th birthday -- only that he was celebrating quietly with family, the Times reported.
"I have lived a blessed time," Kennedy said upon receiving an honorary degree at Harvard in December. "Now, with you, I look forward to a new time of high aspiration for our nation and the world."