Sunday, August 30, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy (1932-2009)

We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make. - Ted Kennedy, accepting an honorary degree from Harvard University, December 2008

Last week, we lost a member of the Senate whose ideals and vision were the driving force of his politics and legislation. Ted Kennedy's ferocity was both inspiring and intimidating to those of us who didn't know him personally, but felt they had an insider's view into the closely held private world of one of the most recognized and well-known families on the planet. I can only imagine what he was like for those who worked with him, played with him, loved him, and was close to him.

He wasn't merely a spectator to history, as most of us are. The unfortunate circumstances surrounding his family have made him a central figure in it. Despite his personal downfalls and tragedies, he worked tirelessly to change the world for the better. Whether it was school lunch programs, civil rights, Medicare, or the recent health care reform, he sought to put everyone on a level playing ground, knowing full well that he had a leg up in everything that he ever personally accomplished. When it seemed the best of the Kennedys died in those dark days in 1963 and 1968, he continued on course, and one might say, eventually became the best version of himself.

Not everyone always agreed with his policy-making, but most people could admire the passion he had for the job he did, and the compassion he had for others. And behind him is the legacy that will continue on with his influence on the family he became patriarch of, in the speeches he gave in times of horrible sorrow and immense joy, and in the legislation he penned.

The commitment I seek is not to outworn views but to old values that will never wear out. Programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the ideal of fairness always endures. Circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue. - Ted Kennedy, at the Democratic National Convention, 1980