God Bless Edward Kennedy
I just finished watching the short speech by Senator Edward Kennedy to the Democratic convention. It was noteworthy not because of the content but because he was there to give it live. Doctors and family members urged him not to make the trip to Denver as it was literally a life-threatening decision.
Now any of the four or five people who read my musings know that I probably would disagree with the man on many issues. But I have always respected the fact that he stood up for what he believed in. It didn’t matter if it was the high water mark of liberalism under LBJ in 1965 or the nadir of the movement thirty years later. Ted Kennedy was a liberal and he never tried to hide it, never tried to compromise.
At the same time however, from everything I have read and heard over the years, he has never stopped being a civil and honorable debater. He may have disagreed with you on the issues and, when it came to political debate, he was second to none in being vigorous in supporting his position and his emotions were clear and open.
But, at the same time, when he was off the political battlefield he was there for you no matter what your party or political viewpoint. I could fill a dozen pages with stories of how he has helped his friends and even total strangers regardless of who they were. But perhaps one of the best tributes is the fact that one of the most conservative Republicans to serve with him, former senator Orrin Hatch has called him ‘as close to me as a brother’.
To be sure, Senator Kennedy has his failings and they are considerable. We could rehash his affairs, divorces or the infamous incident in 1969. I do not excuse any of these incidents and indeed think he deserves to be condemned and criticized for these wrongs. I feel in some cases he may have much to answer for, but that is the province of God, not me.
But who among us has not made mistakes in their lives? And consider what the man has been through in his life. He has seen one brother die in war, two have been murdered, a sister has died in a plane crash and another was given a lobotomy by their own father.
He has watched family members die in accidents, suffer from cancer, and he himself has been in a near-fatal plane crash and is now dealing with a terminal disease. For any of us, one of these tragedies would be enough to damage our lives but he has been through all of them and has done so in the public eye. Throughout this he has managed to continue to serve the people of his state and his country.
As I said at the beginning, I am not a big fan of his politics and I think I have made it clear that I do not excuse his wrongdoing. Given his political views, I am glad that he never became President. But given his common decency, his hard work and his dedication, I am glad he served in the US Senate and it will be a sad day when he leaves.
So, in the unlikely event that Senator Kennedy reads these words, please accept this tribute from the respectful opposition.