The Edward Kennedy Legacy

 

This column is decidedly local. Falmouth issues are my experience and interest, and as a local news source, Cape Cod Today is primarily concerned with the issues that touch our lives every day.  Sometimes, though, an issue - or person - is so significant that the local impact is noteworthy in this space.

In May of last year, when Sen. Edward Kennedy became very publicly ill, and courageously chose to share his illness and his struggles with all of us, I wrote the following column.  With his passing, the words ring ever true.

We've all felt it at one time or another - that tap on the shoulder when no one is around, that feeling that someone is with you when you're alone in a room. Most times, we attribute that unknown to a loved one, gone from the Earth, but still somehow present in our lives. Whether real or imagined, we can feel their presence.

Few people who walk among us can create that presence and be part of our consciousness, our hopes, and our attempts to help our fellow citizens while still existing in human form. These rare individuals, through their deeds and dreams, carry us to another level and make themselves felt in our everyday lives. Edward M. Kennedy is such a person.

I've spent much of my adult life waxing on about smaller and better government, fiscal responsibility, and how government should be. Ted Kennedy has taught us for 40 years how government can be. His presence in our political consciousness is so great that any proposal or policy initiative that attempts to better the plight of any struggling citizen or population is gauged on the Kennedy barometer for its true measure of hope and kindness.

The recent news that our neighbor and friend Senator Kennedy is struggling - but not suffering - with a cancerous growth in his brain, the epicenter of nearly five decades of public work, was a blow to us all. It was a crushing blow not just to our sense of decency and compassion for a family that has suffered so deeply and a man who has led America's family so adroitly, but for the idealism, the purest and simplest thought of the nobility and goodness of public service that will wither as this great man passes through this trying time to join his beloved brothers.

I have struggled at times to find an issue on which I agree with Ted Kennedy, yet I cannot think of a person in my lifetime, even President Ronald Reagan, who has had more of an impact on our American psyche and my personal commitment to good government than Senator Edward Kennedy. And that's just it.  Those who simplistically call Kennedy the "Liberal Lion," whether using that phrase with affection or disdain, miss the real impact of the youngest member of the Camelot clan in our lives. Through personal struggles, some epic, some tragic, Kennedy has remained a force in our lives. Yes, the causes he has championed can mostly be classified as left-of-center, but his passion for the plight of humanity knows no side of the aisle.

Like the legendary and mythical Phoenix rose from the ashes of its own demise, the power of the legacy, not simply the Kennedy legacy, but the Edward Kennedy legacy, will gain strength from today's struggles and move to inspire generations of citizens to choose service to others as a life's work. Edward Kennedy has risen from the ashes - personal and political - to fight another day for a better America and a better human kind. What better legacy could there be?

Thank you, Senator Phoenix, for tapping us all on the shoulder and being present in our lives. Thank you for reminding us that there is no greater call than service to mankind.

This column is reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.

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