Above: November 1999. Left to right, that is I (then Development Coordinator of the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester), the Executive Director of the B&GC, and Senator Ted Kennedy.
Yesterday, I went to pay my respects to Senator Edward Kennedy at the JFK Library in Boston. I got on the very last shuttle bus to the wake, but we just missed out on actually getting inside. The family needed time to get ready for the evening's memorial service (and no doubt they were exhausted). Those of us on the shuttle bus did get to sign the guest book and pay our respects that way. I'm certainly glad I went, and ultimately I'm glad there was an overflow crowd.
I will always have great admiration for Ted Kennedy. To me, in addition to being -- by all accounts -- one of the most successful and important legislators in the history of the United States -- he will always be a reminder of at least a few important things:
1. It is possible to be born a wealthy white man, straight, privileged in every way, and still care about the oppressed and fight for them with all your energy.
2. It is possible to love and be beloved to those who disagree with you on important matters.
3. It is possible to go on in spite of one's foibles and even after tragic mistakes and lead a meaningful, full life.
4. It is possible to have joy doing difficult work. It is possible to be joyful in the day-to-day tasks. It is possible to be joyful after tough times in life, some of your own making.
My (very, very limited) personal experiences with Ted Kennedy go in 10 year gaps. In 1989, I was an intern for a U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C. (I was then a junior in college). Wandering around the hallway of the Russell Building, I passed Senator Kennedy a few times. He always made eye contact, smiled, and said, "Good morning" or the like. Very polite, very friendly. (Many less prominent senators ignored my existence completely.)
Jumping ahead a decade... In 1999, I worked at the Boys & Girls Club of Worcester. Senator Kennedy took time out of his very busy schedule to come and present the city some funding toward a project in Main South (including a new Boys & Girls Club facility, badly needed). It really jump-started the capital campaign. Today, there is a beautiful new Boys & Girls Club Building in Worcester. (The picture at the top of this post is from that day.)
Jump ahead another decade... and yesterday I was part of a massive crowd of people who never knew Ted Kennedy personally, but who were immensely grateful for all his incredibly hard work -- "tireless" is the only word for it -- on our behalf. We all flocked to the JFK Library to pay our respects.
There will never be another Ted Kennedy. I am very sad and sorry that he is gone.
You can read (current President of the Unitarian Universalist Association) Rev. Peter Morales's reflection on Ted Kennedy at this link. You can read (former President of the UUA) Rev. Bill Schulz's reflection on Ted Kennedy at this link.