Wednesday, August 26, 2009

R.I.P., Senator Edward Kennedy

by Marcus Sakey

As I’m sure you all know, Teddy Kennedy died last night. While hardly unexpected—the man was 77, and battling brain cancer—it’s still a blow. The end of an era.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, this was a man to be admired, a man who spent decades fighting for the larger good. Civil rights, voting rights, Americans with disabilities, healthcare, immigration, these were his central causes. In a world that was increasingly focused on personal gain, he fought for a better nation.

It’s interesting to me—his father, Joseph Kennedy, was not a good person. A brutal businessman, a bootlegger, a machine politician, an insider trader, a briber of politicians and journalists, he amassed a fortune by breaking the rules. The parallels to today’s shady tycoons are easy to draw.

But for all the reasonable comparisons you can draw to Ken Lay and James Cayne, one crucial point of difference is the love of country and the dedication to service that he instilled in his children. Joe Kennedy may have been a relentless grasper after money and power, but once he had both, he used them to assure that his children would do better than he had. It’s sort of a dark version of the American dream.

John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy all had personal failings. They all had skeletons in their closets. But they also had a dedication to making the world a better place that makes it hard for me to judge them.

These days, politicians have learned that it’s better to be seen as not standing for anything at all than to risk being seen as human. Watergate, the war, the eighties, the other war, the Bush administration, 9/11, the other war, they’ve shaken the system to a point where it seems like politics is less about country and more about campaigning.

Edward Kennedy was one of the last of the old guard. A sinner? Sure. But a man who fought to make the world better. And I for one will miss him.

May he rest in peace.


Carla Buckley said...

Senator Kennedy spoke at my high school graduation (I went to school with his daughter, Kara.) He did a pretty good job :)

A few years later, while I was working on the Hill, I glimpsed him across the underground train tracks that run between the houses. I was in a hurry, but when I saw him, I stopped and stared. It wasn't because I recognized him, but because he seemed to have a halo about him.

I puzzled on this and later realized that halo was literally charisma. He had it in spades, so much so that it was visible.

Today is a sad day.

Doug Riddle said...

He had strengths and weaknesses like all men, but he fought for those who had less then he did. No one can ask for a greater legacy.

He will be missed.

Steerpike said...

Fighting to make the world a better place is a rare, rare act these days, especially among legislators. I was one a business trip when Sen. Kennedy died and had the opportunity to spend a couple hotel room-bound hours watching specials on his life and activities. It struck me that for as much as I knew about him, there was much more that I did not, and I came away feeling the sense of his loss much more deeply than I had when I'd initially read of his passing.

"The lion of the Senate," they called him, and it is such an accurate title. Like you, Marcus, I will miss him enormously, and wonder whether his like will come around again.