Much has been said about Ted Kennedy, and there is still much to say. He grew into greatness as a statesman, overcoming many of life's obstacles.
His greatness was shaped by his life's experience. He is the greatest senator in our time because of his political passion, family sensibility and dedication. Vice President Joe Biden said he is "the best strategist in the Senate."
Historically, Kennedy is the third longest serving senator in U.S. history, having won nine elections since 1962, serving 47 years. He was proud to be the liberal democrat and he rose to the position, following his brother John's footsteps.
Sen. Kennedy knew the art of the deal. This was his legislative success, realizing the other side. His negotiating principle was, 'never let the perfect be the enemy of the good.'
Life didn't deal Teddy a fair hand.
He was born the youngest--the ninth child--into the "royal" Kennedy family. Rightly so, he was never expected to be the elder of the family. His greatness, to me, however is that he rose to that occasion--life's occasion. He was tall, dark and handsome with a name, fame and fortune that followed him. He could have done other things, lived a life of leisure, but he chose to serve. He contributed much more than life gave him. He could have succumbed to life's unexpected frailties but he didn't. He stood up to life, no matter where it took him.
He was, admittedly, sometimes reckless.
He lost two brothers to assasinations, John, the president, and Bobby, the senator turned presidential candidate. He reared their children.
When it was time for Ted to run for president, his life took yet another unexpected and grim turn. The incident at Chappaquiddick in l969 became a primary issue with the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. He admitted being guilty of leaving the scene of an accident. He was permanently tarnished and his personal life appeared in turmoil, mixed with heavy drinking and womanizing. Eventually, he divorced his first wife, Joan.
He was a stellar, honest politician because he knew firsthand the full drama of the human experience. He knew the challenges of endurance. He knew the triumph of overcoming. This man was exceptionally human with the ability to relate. He knew family illness; an airplane accident left him on his back for a long time, and his patient status fostered his life-long interest in health care. He knew how to take his son by the hand and demonstrate triumph and give him a sense of dignity and empowerment when he was challenged with cancer at an early age. Ted, the dad, grabbed his hand and showed him how to defeat the obstacle and move forward. He assumed family responsibility, not only his, but he became the father figure to thirteen of his nephews and nieces. He walked the walk for his brothers. He walked his niece, Caroline, down the marital aisle. He buried his brother's child, John. He held the banner and became the Kennedy mantra. He was true to the cause and epitomized the best of the human spirit.
From this host of experiences, he, the wealthy man, knew the common man, and had the common touch. He represented the best of America--her ideas, ideologies and philosophy. He was always there for the Civil Rights Movement because it was the right side. He passed the Democratic Party torch to President Barack Obama. He timed his speech perfectly and knew his impact and the power of his message. He came and spoke to the Democratic National Convention in August of 2008 when he was ill and many questioned whether or not he should appear. He knew the historic convention's importance and showed up in Kennedy fashion, mustering strength to do what some thought was impossible. The white-haired lion with a big heart spoke, and it was so. America had become what he had worked for. America had become what the Kennedy brothers were killed for. He was strong, sincere and unapologetic. He was the purposeful Democrat who knew the principles of leadership.
He was the great politician with a gentle touch. He sent flowers to those who lost their loved ones in an airplane crash. He made phones calls of congratulations at the right time. He lived a full life and one of triumph. He became the man his father so willed for all of his sons to be. He left the Kennedy touch--the trademark--on America. Even when he knew his dream of the presidency would never be realized, he became the best senator of his time, with 2,500 bills written and 300 bills passed into law. He impacted the major social issues of his day, to include, immigration, race issues, cancer research, health insurance, disability discrimination, children's health insurance, apartheid, women's issues, gay rights, education and AIDS.
He had political swagger, the power of a name and he served America well with them. We are a better nation because of him.
Ted Kennedy, the gentleman from Massachusetts, as I pause and review his life now, I can't help but wonder what might this country look like now, had he become president. May he rest in peace and serve as an example for the next generation. Because in his words, "the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."