Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Aug. 26: "The Dream Shall Never Die"

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Even before Sen. Edward Moore Kennedy died last night, it was not hard to guess what would be written and said about him - the highlights and the lowlights.

But Kennedy's life was one of contradictions. The relative length in years he had - he was felled by a brain tumor at age 77 - compared to his three fallen brothers Joseph, Jr., John and Robert, allowed him to show that.

The first contradiction was the privilege in which Kennedy and his siblings were raised, and the life of public service most of them chose - especially John, Robert, Ted and their sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics founder who died just two weeks ago.

During his first campaign for the United States Senate, in 1962, Ted Kennedy was lambasted as a lightweight who was capitalizing on the family name, and that if he'd been Edward Moore, he wouldn't have been elected. Kennedy spent 46 years in the Senate, tied in longevity with Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii and surpassed only by Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and the late Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

After the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, family members and Democrats looked to Ted Kennedy as the standard-bearer. However, it is easy to believe that he never really wanted to run for president. His personal demons hinted at a man haunted by that part of the family legacy. His challenge of incumbent President Jimmy Carter in 1980 seemed more of a campaign against Carter's political shortcomings than a true aim for the White House. He did not run either in 1976 or in 1984, more logical times for presidential campaigns.

And the biggest contradiction: This lion of liberalism reached across the Senate aisle frequently for legislation, whether in education, civil rights, international matters, health care or social services. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan was among those coming out with statements today mourning Kennedy's death; among his many friends, he counted Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and last year's Republican nominee for president, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

In his well-remembered speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention, Kennedy said, "Programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the ideal of fairness always endures. Circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue....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."

In his remarks this morning, President Barack Obama said of Kennedy, "The extraordinary good that he did lives on.....For America, he was the defender of a dream."

And because Sen. Edward Kennedy picked up the banner of public service and inspired others to achieve the ideals of fairness and take on the work of compassion, his dream, indeed, shall never die.

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