On the Passing of Senator Kennedy
Yesterday, we lost a mainstay of modern, American politics. For almost a half a century, Senator Edward Kennedy championed what his heart told him was just.
Breaking legislative deadlocks, forging unsuspected political alliances, and advancing importunate initiatives, Senator Kennedy left his mark which will have place in our chronicles not yet written.
Though his life was marred with great scandal and controversy at times, Senator Kennedy found stability and love with Victoria Reggie and, hopefully, truly found peace with his inner demons as he publicly recognized and apologized for his “own shortcomings, the faults in the conduct of [his] private life.”
Kennedy’s political success found purpose in his indubitable and sincere passion. Whether one accepted the senator’s beliefs as just or condemned them as misinformed, it is self-evident that Kennedy was a good man in the sense that he did most everything asked of him as a public servant for his constituents.
I had the brief pleasure of meeting Ted Kennedy while serving as a Senate page for John Cornyn. I had been downstairs, near the trams that whisk Hill staffers and politicians to-and-fro, notifying the Republican cloakroom of the various senators on their way to an important vote. I was making my way back to the Senate chambers when I found myself walking next to the Lion himself.
After exchanging a short “good day”, the senator noticed my shiny, smooth-belly ostrich cowboy boots and joked, with a big smile and a warm demeanor I had not expected, that I “must be the page from New York for Clinton.” I laughed and quipped back that I was paging “for the man who talks about marrying box turtles.” Ted chuckled as we headed towards the elevator on the way back up to the Senate floor.
I then informed the senator that my boots were actually out of dress code for pages and had been reprimanded on a few occasions – much to the understandable amusement of the boot-wearin’ Cornyn, Enzi, and Lott. I told him I didn’t mind as my boots are a source of my pride and represent who I am. I’ll never forget his response:
Well, as an outspoken person, you’ll soon learn that your confidence in your character and convictions, whatever they are, will never please everyone. I guess if we please everyone we never truly fight for someone.
The elevator door opened and the senator promptly bid goodbye as he made his way to the floor to fervidly fight for someone. I remained in the elevator for a second humbled and inspired by such an unexpected exchange.
On Saturday, Senator Kennedy will be buried at Arlington Cemetery. From a grave resting nearby and a plot looking down from a neighboring hill, Robert and John will welcome their brother home after all these years for continuing the impassioned legacy they had begun and to which they devoted their lives.