09/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Private Measure of Self: A Crucial Part of Ted Kennedy's Legacy

We are all of us a composite of conflicts from which may emerge a sense of who we truly are - a center of self. Some of us never find this place, leading lives of "quiet desperation" forever pushed and pulled.

Senator Kennedy found his center and used it to better our lives. He was not perfect. As his son Ted lovingly said it hadn't always been easy "to live with this name." Yet this same controversial man rose to so many occasions in a family more than peppered with tragedy, more than gifted, and in a country with so much to offer peopled with many willing to lessen its greatness. He was there to stand strong for both.

As we watch this family embedded deep within the psyche of the American experience, the lesson Senator Kennedy conveyed by much of his life and in death is that each of us can find within ourselves a marvelous strength. We can persevere even facing what may at first seem more than can be borne.

You don't have to be a lover of history as Kennedy was to learn, as he did, that your own history is worth study. To not know it is to assure repetition of its less admirable parts. To know it, truly, is to have within your grasp the ability to draw and build upon its impressive moments.

Ted Kennedy came to know himself. He angered many but he also left those with mental illness, disabilities, and struggling with so many other challenges clearer pathways around otherwise formidable obstacles. He left all of us a blueprint for living with harsh events thrust upon us as well as struggles of principle and practice raging within.

The public measure of ourselves so often seems the defining one, and yet, as we grow to know ourselves, it is the private measure, how we treat those we love, those who at times despise us and those we hardly know, that is ultimately the more telling. This is a lesson Ted Kennedy leaves. It is an invaluable one.