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Senator Teddy Kennedy Impacted My Life

August 26, 2009

The news that flashed over the airwaves after midnight concerning the death of Senator Teddy Kennedy made my heart sink.  I know it should not have come as any shock.  We were aware of the valiant fight he waged against the cancer, and so we were ready for the news that had to come eventually.  Right?  Wrong.  No matter how hard we try this news is never easy.  As much as we prepare for the end of a life the thud of the news in the soul still stings, and makes us pause and reflect.  After all this was not just another politician, another senator.  This was one of my heroes.  One of the good guys who stood up and fought for what he believed in even when the odds were stacked against him.  I think I uttered “No….No….No…” half a dozen times as my heart sank in the kitchen as the words of his death tumbled out of the television. 

My interest in the Kennedy family started young, as my mom found the various family members of interest while I was kid.   As I grew up my interest in news and politics was formed, and the liberal leanings I developed were sharpened and focused by the work of  Senator Ted Kennedy.

In 1980 I sat transfixed in front of the television in our home as Senator Kennedy gave one of his most powerful speeches of his career while at the Democratic National Convention.  The final words that summed up his efforts to win the party’s nomination stirred my soul.  At age 18 I was intensely interested in politics, and also struggling to find how a kid from Hancock, Wisconsin could find my own niche at making a difference with the causes I cared about.

At the end of an emotional and dramatic speech that brought tears and standing ovations from the crowd Kennedy ended with the words that left goose bumps on my arms, and a calling to higher ideals that still lingers.

“For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”

Soon thereafter I bought a large piece of tagboard and in very neat and precise penmanship wrote out the last line of his speech.  That reminder about  the intensity of politics, and the noble and uplifitng end result that a hard fight can produce made its way with me through various apartments over the years.    The words of Senator Kennedy followed me at broadcasting school, during my stint at a radio station, and while working at the Wisconsin State Legislature.

The words and what they mean never left my soul.

There is much work left to be done on the never ending story of America, and the people who are blessed to live here.  During the last months of his life  Senator Kennedy was determined to do what he could to fight for his signature issue of health care.  The dream he had for such a policy was not realized in the final summer of his life.  It should have been.  It stings that this was the time that all should have made the right policy choice, but instead allowed divisive politics to prevail.  Yet tonight it he could, I am sure Ted Kennedy would beckon us onwards to fight again for the cause that America needs, and to keep the  hope alive for all that we aspire to as a nation.

Senator Ted Kennedy is gone.  In the morning when I awake for the first time in my life there will not be that liberal fighter in my corner, and that saddens me greatly.  I am sure that countless others feel the loss and understand my thoughts.  But the dream and hope of a better and more just society has not faded.  It never does in America.  Teddy knew that.  We know that.  The best way to honor the ‘The Lion Of The Senate” is to commit ourselves to the ideals we hold in our hearts.

God Bless Teddy Kennedy.  

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Bill Bartmann permalink
    September 23, 2009 7:37 AM

    I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..
    Bill Bartmann

  2. tomdegan permalink
    August 26, 2009 9:00 AM

    The lion sleeps….

    “….to speak for those who have no voice; to remember those who are forgotten; to respond to the frustration and fulfill the aspiration of all Americans seeking a better life in a better land….for all those whose cares have been our concern, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

    Edward Moore Kennedy, August 12, 1980

    I’ll never forget the night Ted Kennedy gave that speech at the Democratic National Convention after failing to win his party’s nomination for the presidency. I was staying in a one-room kitchenette in Liverpool, NY, just outside of Syracuse. It was – and remains – the greatest political oration of my lifetime. Watching the event on a small, black and white TV I instinctively knew I was witnessing one of those sublime moments in American history that would be remembered a century into the future.

    Teddy Kennedy died late last night at the age of seventy-seven. In a life that is littered with ironies, here’s the biggest one of all: His three older brothers – Joe, Jack and Bobby – are eternally frozen in our imagination as the personifications of youth. How poignant that our final image of the baby of that family will be as an old man, frail and mortally ill.

    An incredible realization just came to me: Teddy represented the state of Massachusetts for forty-six years, eight months and nineteen days. That is nearly three months longer than all the years his older brother Jack lived on earth. Forgive the cliche that is so overused it has become trite through repetition, but this really is the end of an era.

    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

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