Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Lion Sleeps

It's been a long time since my last post on SAM Online, but I thought I'd return to honor the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

I remember the first time I heard Ted Kennedy speak. I was 12 years old and listening to talk on the radio about Kennedy's race against the first serious challenger (after 32 years) to his Senate seat- young venture capitalist Mitt Romney. It was 1994, and polls were tight, but the buzz that morning was that Kennedy had put the up- start away in the previous night's debate.

They went to a clip of an excited Kennedy laying into his rival. A bombastic Boston brouge pierced through my clockradio's modest speakers. I was shocked at his volume, and at how articulate and how passionate he sounded.

You have to understand, if you grew up outside of Massachusetts in the early 90s you knew of Ted Kennedy as something of a punchline. Those years were not particularly kind to Kennedy as his drinking and carousing hit their peaks. His legendary brothers, whose pictures hung on the walls of my bedroom, only exaggerated his flaws.

Kennedy's voice, used tirelessly to advocate for the down trodden, shocked me that morning. I couldn't believe it, but it was equal to his family's incredible legacy. It was big, proud and instantly recognizable- like the man himself. That moment I first heard it, I gained new respect and reverence for Senator Kennedy. And the more I heard him speak and learned about his life and work the more my respect grew. An unabashed liberal, Kennedy rose the minimum wage, passed laws for the disabled, and got poor children health insurance. He made government work, used it to improve society.

I never met Ted Kennedy, but he seemed like my favorite type of person. He seemed to love life, and to be unashamed to live it boldly. He did great things, made some terrible mistakes, and had an impact. He and his family chose the public arena, fought for causes worth believing in and were rarely mere spectators.

Tonight we are without Ted Kennedy's voice, but we should never lose his ideals or the spirit with which he chased them.