Thursday, August 27, 2009

Vale Ted Kennedy

For those of us who came of age in the sixties, and were of a liberal or radical persuasion politically, socially and theologically, Ted Kennedy was a hero.

His defining moment, the one that forever etched its profound mark in our consciousness, was his eulogy for his brother Robert in July, 1968. Simply and movingly he said this: 'My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.'

With that familiar New England cadence, common to the Kennedy brothers, with its traces of Irish lilt and rhythm, the melodious upward inflexion in all the right places, Ted Kennedy powerfully defined the contours of much in our lives - the idealism, the reach and failure, the sins and the tragedies.

For over 40 years he engaged in the hard, wrenching and unforgiving task of achieving some sort of practical progress in the cause of a progressive, liberal agenda in the US Senate. He fought fiercely but constantly reached across the aisle when he judged it necessary to secure satisfactory legislative outcomes. He was the epitome of everything the conservatives hated, but in the end earned their respect and enduring friendship. Some of the most moving tributes to him today have come from conservative Republicans.

Ted Kennedy modelled the path of idealism for those of us in less exalted realms and places, and we continue to be inspired.

Thank you Ted.