Friday, December 24, 2010

Dec. 24: Keeping the Kennedy Spirit

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The end of an era will come in two weeks when U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, leaves his Congressional post. It will end a 63-year tradition of Kennedys in Congress that began with his uncle, John F. Kennedy, serving Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Kennedy story is well known - probably the best-known story in American politics. Aside from their years of service, however, is the type of service they've engaged in.

Those who have held federal public office - John F. Kennedy, who became the country's 35th president; Robert F. Kennedy, attorney general and senator from New York; Edward M. Kennedy, senator from Massachusetts from 1963 until his death last year; and Patrick, congressman since 1995 - and many other family members have ingrained the ideas of public service to help others in many members of the last few generations. The family motto may just as well be "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," JFK's most famous line from his 1961 presidential inaugural address.

It's not a motto that seems to be shared, at least so far, by many of the newly elected people heading for federal and state office, including Florida office, in two weeks.

Those who oppose the Kennedy philosophy have even tried to insult it by labeling it - "liberalism" is one example. Well, if the opposite of liberalism includes meanness, selfishness and bigotry, then the Kennedys are true liberals.

Members of the Kennedy family continue the legacy of public service through countless projects and non-profit organizations. Eventually, members of the "fourth generation" and beyond - the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of John, Bobby and Teddy, as they were known - will likely run for Congress and the Senate again some day.

The question now is how to return the spirit of public service and progressivism to the body family members served for so long. It will be up to those who remember the greatest Kennedy legacy to honor it - and compel their elected officials to do the same.

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