Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last Post for the Last Lion

The remarkable era of the Kennedy family played its final act of the trilogy on Saturday afternoon.

Edward Moore Kennedy, the youngest brother of the fabled three political Kennedy’s was laid to rest in the American capital, accorded many of the honours and pageantry of a President, but celebrated as the champion of the ordinary citizen.

There has been much said this week of his political life on behalf of his constituents of Massachusetts, of the trail followed, one blazed by his brothers Jack and Bobby, both tragically taken too soon by assassins bullets.

It was through the works of the third brother to hold office however, where much of their vision and agenda of change for America came to pass. Not through Presidential office as had been planned, but rather in the thrust and parry of a Congress that was at times acrimonious and petty. More known for its ability to say No, than it’s destiny to say Yes .

It was through a bi-partisan spirit nurtured by the senior senator of Massachusetts that much of the social progress in America moved forward, a quest for a more equal America, one that professes to provide for all, but sometimes comes up short. For much of Senator Ted Kennedy’s career the goal was to move America to live up to the beliefs many hold dear.

The tales have been spun this week of his ability to bring contrarian opinions together for common good, of having fought a good fight, fired by the dedication to a cause or ideal.

The stories weave a remarkable litany of accomplishment and some political failure, of holding to principle, but yet finding an ability to seek out the opposing side, outside the halls of debate in the spirit of service to country.

His public life was on the record, as were his personal failings. His sense of good judgement on political issues, clouded at times by his lack of judgement on personal ones. All of it was played out in a very public way, on a most public stage the triumphs and the tragedies both external and self inflicted.

His passing writes the final chapter of a fascinating era for American politics. In the shadows of the legacy of his brothers for a good portion of his early political life, he came to represent much of what that legacy stood for. His efforts in civil rights, in respect and assistance for the disabled and those with mental challenges and his long fought battles for health care, so far unfinished, highlighted his work on Capital Hill.

There were of course many other pieces of legislation that bore his stamp and ability to find consensus, as well as many unreported acts of kindness towards those who had suffered a loss, or needed assistance or guidance.

For some those works may never be enough penance for his past, for others his efforts in politics were a balancing of the accounts of a flawed, but determined man.

History will judge him in the end, as it always does, weighing the good he brought forward with negatives that dogged his trail.

Through his many documented flaws however, came much progress for a nation that constantly strives to create a perfect union. On that point, there would be no argument that Senator Kennedy played his part, and in the words made famous by his slain older brother, asked not what his country could do for him, but what he could do for his country.

His many years in office and the impact of them on the face of political debate in America lived up to that credo which proclaimed the opening act of the political dynasty that became the Kennedy’s.

The Senator’s passing at 77 draws the curtain down on that remarkable period of American history. One which saw the youngest of the brothers become the patriarch of a large, boisterous extended Irish American family. He would become the uncle who became the anchor of the family, both in times great joy, or on the far too frequent occasions of despair. The eulogies and commentaries this week have frequently evolved into that discussion of his place as the head of one of America’s most famous families, a task which with the responsibility accepted; must have provided for a heavy burden.

Born into a family of wealth and privilege, he in the end was the champion of those Americans that had neither. He leaves a torch for others to pick up, whether they be future generations of the Kennedy name, or others inspired by the most public of American families.

Destined to follow the road mapped out through his long contribution to public life, following instructions as most famously proclaimed “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die”

It’s a celebrated piece of word craft that perhaps today makes for a most fitting epitaph to his remarkable career and journey.

New York Times-- Soul’ of Party Is Memorialized by Nation
Boston Globe-- A Final Farewell

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