“…The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.” – Senator Ted Kennedy (Democratic convention 2008, Denver)
I’ll be doing some media today, including on Al Jazeera English, talking about Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (so I’ll be checking in via Twitter). As the insanity on the right continues to mount, Huckabee the latest screwball to add his ignorant musings to the batch.
Some final thoughts as Ted Kennedy is brought back to Washington to be laid to rest near his brothers Jack and Bobby at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
People have been asking why Barack Obama? Why is he giving the eulogy when Sen. Kennedy had so many friends, colleagues and family members closer?
Once Ted became the patriarch of the Kennedy family, one of his duties was to also protect and further embed the Kennedy legacy into American history. Jack may have started the push towards civil rights, which you can feel in this forgotten speech, but it came with a push from others, including Dr. Martin Luther King and his brother Bobby, because Jack, for one thing, was worried about losing southern voters in ’64. Bobby took up the cause of social justice after Jack’s inspiration, adding an impassioned challenge, but was also stopped short, with Ted taking the torch and completing so many of the Kennedy family’s missions, starting with his maiden speech in the Senate, which was on the Voting Rights Act of 1964.
When Ted passed the torch to Barack Obama in the primaries in 2008, many were enraged. Kennedy would certainly forgive that, because he came from a family of red meat politics. So, like him, people like me moved on, never holding a grudge, always remembering what he’d done for this country. Understanding that endorsing Barack Obama was an act of passion, pride and politics, but also of family mission completed to the nation the Kennedys served.
Sen. Kennedy saw in Obama a new generation, much as people saw in Jack Kennedy when he began rising in the 1950s, with Bobby and the whole clan around him, soon to include Teddy, a part of a new wind whipping up an era of big changes. When the hip, cool, handsome and in generation of the political 1960s was born.
Pres. Obama giving Ted’s eulogy is personal, no doubt, a point of honoring a mentor, but it is also a matter of American history. Given the Kennedy family’s legacy on civil rights, but also in ushering in a new era over 50 years ago, Pres. Barack Obama is the manifestation of their dreams, but also Bobby Kennedy’s foretelling that it would happen, though it took way too long the get our first black president.
However, unlike some, for me Obama accepting the torch had nothing to do with continuing the Kennedy legacy, as their time, their era has now fully passed, regardless of what future Kennedy generations do, a mark that must now be their own.
As it is with the Democratic Party that must now wrestle with losing its liberal light and whether we can keep that alive ourselves, even with the path laid out so clearly.
That said, like Jack began civil rights legislation that he never got to realize, Ted’s life’s mission of getting health care for everyone, something he saw as a right and not a privilege, still awaits. The one thing we must make sure is done, even if it’s in Ted’s 80-20 compromise, getting eighty percent, if that’s what it takes, coming back later for the twenty, though as Teddy knew all too well you sometimes don’t get to go that last mile.
More important for the Kennedy legacy is that Ted Kennedy completed the play begun by Jack, then Bobby. Passing the torch; manifesting in the end the completion of his brothers’ work, which began with Kennedy family hopes and dreams, adding so very much of his own. A legacy that cannot be forgotten because Ted accomplished what Joe Kennedy couldn’t himself, not even through Jack or Bobby, waiting a long time before it was finally manifested through his own life’s work.
An American story completed. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s chapter, the longest and most thoroughly well lived, closing the book on the Kennedy brothers’ family legacy.
The rest is now up to us.