Friday, September 04, 2009

Ted Kennedy

Belatedly paying my respects to Ted Kennedy. I haven't had much time for writing the last few weeks; also, given the changes I've seen take place in the blogosphere in the last year, I've been thinking some about what the future of this particular piece of cyber-landscape should be.

Odds are that if you've turned on the news at any time in the last 50 years you've heard the Kennedy name; therefore, I am not providing a detailed biographical sketch. I did have a near-brush with Senator Kennedy back in 1980 when he mounted his primary challenge to President Carter. Kennedy scheduled an appearance at Wichita State during his campaign. The university administration hosted his speech at Wilner Auditorium, an old firetrap seating only a few hundred. On the day of Kennedy's arrival, naturally, the lines formed quickly, and by the time I made my way across campus to Wilner, the doors had long since been shut, leaving a line of hundreds of angry students who knew that more suitable facilities were available at WSU. In contrast, when Ronald Reagan came to speak a few weeks later, he was allowed to use the modern facilities at Hubbard Hall, where closed-circuit cameras connected a network of auditoriums that seated nearly 2000. Anyway, I did get to see Reagan that day; after which he came through and shook everybody's hand, from which I make my claim to meeting a President - if only for a couple of seconds.

Ted Kennedy was one of the Senate's fiercest advocates for the poor and disadvantaged; his steady support for expanding the health insurance system to cover all Americans is well-known. Sadly, many will remember him mostly for the incident at Chappaquiddick that probably cost him any realistic shot at becoming President. I can't say what happened on that day, but I can imagine that there were many days following that incident where Ted Kennedy wished that the assassins had come for him and spared his brothers. This seems to be a bit of a problem for us liberals - our most prominent spokespeople seem to be either decent souls whose desires for consensus often leave them appearing weak and indecisive (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama), or forceful advocates that appear morally compromised (Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy). When amplified by the media, these faults end up giving undeserved credence to dubious conservative arguments.

This Boston Globe series gives excellent insight to Kennedy's life and times.

There's no doubt we must do a better job of looking within ourselves and speaking
out for the principles we believe in, and for the values that are the foundation of
our actions. Americans need to hear more, not less, about those values. We were
remiss in not talking more directly about them - about the fundamental ideals that
guide our progressive policies. In the words of Martin Luther King,
"we must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope."

Unlike the Republican Party, we believe our values unite us as Americans, instead
of dividing us. If the White House's idea of bipartisanship is that we have to buy
whatever partisan ideas they send us, we're not interested.

In fact, our values are still our greatest strength. Despite resistance, setbacks, and
periods of backlash over the years, our values have moved us closer to the ideal
with which America began - that all people are created equal. And when Democrats
say "all," we mean "all."


Our progressive vision is not just for Democrats or Republicans, for red states or
blue states. It's a way forward for the nation as a whole - to a new prosperity and
greater opportunity for all - a vision not just of the country we can become, but of
the country we must become - an America that embraces the values and aspirations
of our people now, and for coming generations.

A newly revitalized American dream will, of course, be expressed in policies and
programs. But it is more than that. It is a challenge to Americans to look beyond
the next horizon, remove false limits on our vision and needless barriers to our
imagination, and open the way for true innovation and progress.

It is a commitment to true opportunity for all - not as an abstract concept, but as a
practical necessity. To find our way to the future, we need the skills, the insight,
and the productivity of every American, in a nation where each of us shares
responsibility for the future, and where the blessings of progress are shared
fairly by all our citizens in return.

-Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

The entire speech is excellent; if you're one of those Democrats disillusioned by recent actions of the Obama Administration and Congress, I highly recommend that you read the whole thing. You will find few better examples of what a fighting liberal sounds like.