So it turns out that you can't submit pieces to a newspaper if they're on your blog. Who knew?...which is why you are not reading what I've written about Teddy Kennedy yesterday. It's my hope that you'll actually be reading it in print. Print - you remember that antiquated idea of an actual newspaper...where you fold it just right so you can read it while standing up on the subway and getting your hands covered in ink by the time you get to work? Ah yes, it's a glorious thing!
Anyway, I've been spending the last twenty-four hours like most of you probably have, immersed in non-stop coverage of the life and times of Senator Edward M. Kennedy. It's not usual for me to refer to our elected officials without their hard won titles, if for no reason than out of respect for the offices they hold. However, it is difficult not to refer to Senator Kennedy as "Teddy" even though I am not a colleague, a relative, or a close personal friend. Maybe it's hard to look at any Kennedy as formally as we should, so embedded in our psyches are they. The photos of them that we've seen for decades could just as easily be our own family photos, and in some cases I have an easier time naming all of the Kennedy's than I do my own relatives, but that's besides the point. We have come to know Joe and Rose and their children as if we are talking about people we hold near and dear to our hearts. And maybe that's fitting.
How many of us have lost three sons in service to our country? Who could imagine the horror and the grief of such public atrocities as the way in which Jack and Bobby died? And then it all came down to the youngest son, Teddy - both the burden and the privilege of being the patriarch, the one to whom all could turn and the one on whom all relied. I've often wondered how Teddy got up in the morning. Did he fear for his own life? Does the next generation?
In recent years the word "liberal" has become one that most democrats have shied away from in favor of "centrist," mostly because republicans say it with such disgust and disdain that being coined a "liberal" is akin to having leprosy. But not to Teddy, the liberal lion. He wore the label of "liberal" proudly, and because I grew up with those "liberal" values of equality for all (as opposed to equality for all who can afford it, or equality for all white men) ingrained in my psyche, I too wear the label of "liberal" proudly. But now it's time to do something with those liberal Ted Kennedy values - like pass substantive healthcare reform.
In watching all the footage of Teddy, while I am struck by his booming voice, his smile, and his charisma, I am struck more by his unrelenting sense of purpose. I am struck by his ability to look people squarely in the eye and disagree. I am amazed at his ability to take people to task for their actions and their positions. I am in awe of his ability not to waver, not to falter, and not stray from who he is and what he believes at his core. And though his flaws as a human being have at times far overshadowed his gifts, I am inspired by the courage he showed to take responsibility for them and to spend the remainder of his days trying to exemplify what redemption looks like.
So I aspire to be like Teddy in ways as seemingly small as speaking up with confidence and conviction, and ways as big as using my life to make something better and being that person who can be counted on by those I love.
Life is a ripple effect. What we do matters. It reverberates out into the world in ways that we can't begin to imagine from our current vantage point. Maybe Teddy knew this. Maybe he didn't and he just did the best he could with what he had from where he was.
While we can take comfort in the fact that at least one Kennedy boy of that generation lived to see old age and die of natural causes, he left so much undone. Really the only fitting tribute we can pay him is to be the voice for whom he was the voice, and to finish the work he started.
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