February 23, 2009

Our Ted Kennedy

Folks from other parts of the country might not understand why we in Massachusetts have strong feelings for Ted Kennedy. Nationally, he's been a target for bloviating right-wing talk show hosts who need a caricature for their diatribes.

The Boston Globe has been doing a good series on Kennedy's life, and a lot of it has been quite impressive and moving, but this from the latest installment has perhaps made the biggest impression on me:

...over the next few weeks, Kennedy called each of the 177 families in Massachusetts who lost loved ones in 9/11. One was Sally White, of Walpole, who describes herself as a "dyed-in-the-wool conservative Republican," and whose daughter, Susan Blair, died in the 9/11 attacks. The last person whose voice she expected to hear on her telephone was that of the quintessential liberal Democrat. "I had not heard from one local politician, one medium politician, or certainly any federal guy. Nothing," says White. "He was the first one to call and offer assistance, or even sympathy."

Kennedy framed his words to White in the most personal of terms: He told her that his family's experience of loss had acquainted him with pain, and he talked about the time he had spent with Caroline after John Jr. was killed. He asked the grieving mother what Susan had been like. "He talked to me like he was my next-door neighbor, my best friend," White says. "He had all the time in the world for me. I was just overwhelmed by a person of his stature reaching out to me."

Kennedy is clearly driven by a feeling of responsibility; knowing that he had unique experience in grief led him to use that experience to do good. If that were a model for life, we would see people acting out of responsibility based on their ability. It's not a bad model at all.

I've heard it said that "just because you can doesn't mean you should." Sometimes "because you can" is the reason why you should.

Posted by James at February 23, 2009 5:10 PM
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James, I have a horrid little friend who likes to "wave the Chappaquiddick" at dinner parties whenever anyone mentions "Pumpkinhead Ted." I wonder if she's seen The Globe's moving -- and informative -- series. Aw, what the heck... I'll just give it to her, next soiree.

Thanks for pointing this out.

Posted by: PJ at February 23, 2009 7:58 PM

In my experience, if someone is still clinging to Chappaquiddick, it's because they want to. And because their priorities are badly fucked up.

Still, maybe there are a few who will listen to reason.

Posted by: Julie at February 24, 2009 9:13 AM

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