Senator Teddy Kennedy Impacted My Life
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.