Saturday, August 29, 2009

Senator Kennedy's Services were Historic and Inspiring

I thought till very recently I was very lukewarm at best toward liberal causes and parties, Though I have always had a strong sympathy for the tribulations and terrible sacrifices of the Kennedy family, my initial response to Senator Kennedy's passing was gratitude his suffering was ended, after a long and accomplished career, and he alone among the brothers had lived long enough to die of natural causes. As with the recent deaths of Michael Jackson and other icons, I realized the news services would spend many hours honoring and celebrating his life--hours I would probably tire of. But as the tributes and services continued into the weekend I found myself drawn to them. They spoke of a man I really didn't know, or only knew one side of, and a most remarkable life. In it I found enduring values. Loyalty. Love. Patriotism. Adventure. Compassion. Wit, humor, grit and determination--this man grew throughout his life as I would hope to grow, despite his shortcomings and unbearable tragedies. In the end he reached a personal character and stature that might have been impossible in a normal life.

Senator Ted Kennedy's passing closes a long history of steadfast service to the nation he loved despite its toll on him and his family. I did not embrace his causes, but I was very moved by his funeral and memorial services. At his funeral came his colleagues from both sides of the aisle to pay homage and tribute to a truly great American, family head, friend, colleague, father, brother, son, uncle, grandfather, and remarkable human being. His Democratic colleagues from the Senate were there of course, but so were Senators John McCain and Orrin Hatch, among many other Republicans. It was the first time I can remember seeing so many political rivals together in civility, common sympathy, and cordiality in many years, and one commentator remarked that Kennedy began his career at an age when political rivals still could view their opponents as fellow patriots.

Teddy wasn't perfect, but he was larger than life in both his accomplishments and shortcomings, and his concern for his fellow man was legendary. He was a champion of political accomplishments, but even more a champion of human compassion, so much so , eulogized by the President and honored by the presence of three former presidents at his funeral, including Carter, Clinton, and Bush. Placido Domingo and Yo-Yo Ma were among the musicians to perform, and to hear his children speak of their father, and the children of Robert and Jack Kennedy of their uncle, to hear so many touching stories of courage and humor, love and concern from one's own family made me weep with many others.

Regardless of one's politics and philosophy, from a human standpoint I hope that every American will one day listen to what has been said of this remarkable man, because it contains inspiration and lessons for us all to emulate. Perseverance. Compassion. Family. Faith. Love. It wasn't just about Ted Kennedy and partisan politics, liberalism or conservatism. It was about how to live and how to treat others. Teddy Kennedy's life had lessons for us all.