It always makes me so happy and proud when I say something that my father agrees with. He is my source of validation, and the only one that really matters to me. I called him this morning to see how he was doing in light of last night's death of Senator Edward Kennedy. He hadn't even heard. When I broke the news, daddy kept saying how sorry he was, and for the first time in my life, I heard his voice tremble slightly. It became clear to me that Teddy was, like his brothers before him, one of America's great hopes. The way things are going nowadays, I believe he was our last, and consequently, today I feel the tears welling up every now and again as I read his obituaries.
I never really gave Teddy much thought until recently when I listened to his speech at the DNC. The 2009 HBO documentary taught me about his life's work, which was truly inspiring, mostly for the resilience with which he carried out that work. I was intrigued, albeit much too late. When they found a tumor in his brain last year, I knew he didn't have a lot of time left, and what little time there was would be rough. But as always, he came back. He wanted to be there for the 2008 DNC, and he was. He wanted to be there for Obama's inauguration, and he was. He witnessed some of the best times in history, hell, he MADE some of the best times in history. And even after experiencing times of profound grief, he always came back and stayed true to his commitment to continuing the work of his brothers and seeing to it that ALL Americans get their due.
Teddy fought for universal healthcare, and in 2006, the people of Massachusetts got it. He fought for an increase in the minimum wage, and in 2007, Congress raised it. He wasn't afraid to speak out, and in 2004, Teddy said, "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam, and this country needs a new president." In 2008, he endorsed Obama and made that great speech in Denver: "And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on." And Barack won.
I suggested to daddy (and he thought I was right) that Bobby and Teddy were "the brains of the operation". John was the image with which to promote their product. Regardless, all three were, are, and will always be the embodiment of commitment to the common good, great ideas combined with hard work and an unmatched strength and resilience that they carried with them into every area of their public and private lives.
When I think of Teddy Kennedy and his fight for universal healthcare, I think of my dad. Daddy taught me a great deal of what I know now. He taught me to think and to question. He inspires me, regardless of his failures and faltering strength. While daddy's work was on a much smaller scale, the purpose was the same: to get people their due. Daddy's work was in Latin America, and one of his achievements that I'll never forget is when he found money in his organization's budget to provide sorely needed incubators for a hospital in rural Honduras. No one else bothered to look for that money or to lobby for it from the donors. But daddy left no stone unturned, and after that, everyone knew him as "the guy to get things done." He never accepted praise, and insisted he was just a simple man doing his job. And there is the parallel I draw between my father and Teddy: two men with a tremendous sense of humility, humanity and work ethic whose purpose was to make a difference.
Mention of Teddy Kennedy calls to mind the words with which he eulogized his brother Bobby*. I love hearing that speech because, towards the end, Teddy's voice trembles. You realize that nothing and no one is perfect, that everyone has emotions and are sometimes consumed by them. What always remains is hope. It's everything. Teddy held it in his hands.
* - "My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it."