But this morning was different. Back pain awoke me about 5 a.m., and I hit the radio by my bedside to listen to NPR, hoping to fall asleep again. And I heard the horrible news. Senator Edward Kennedy died last night. This one did get to me.
To me, this is the end of an era. Whatever their private flaws, the Kennedy brothers behaved as true public servants, not just politicians. They often embodied profiles in courage. They sometimes went against their supporters. They seemed to care about the nation and our common weal. These privileged white boys from Boston championed civil rights. Perhaps it was their “aristocracy” that gave them the freedom to stand for values that I shared then and now.
As it happens, I had a meeting a church this evening that got me home late. PBS was showing the documentary, The Kennedys. It’s been difficult for me to watch. President Kennedy was the first President I remember; he was President when I was in 1st grade, and I remember that school was cancelled the day he was killed until after his burial.
And then Martin and Bobby were murdered in 1968. I developed a visceral reaction to those “Special News Bulletins” that blocked out our black-and-white TV screen back in those days. Julian Bond spoke of the death of hope after Bobby Kennedy’s murder: “And then it was over. The whole thing was just over.”
Routed by Carter for the Democratic nomination in 1980, Senator Edward Kennedy assuaged his supporters: “… the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die” in his 1980 concession speech And work he did for that work, those causes, those hopes, and those dreams.
And now Teddy is dead. Many people are explaining how that barely-30-year-old man grew into his full stature as a Senator who could make legislation, moving things forward for human rights and justice, working across the aisle to protect “the least of these.” He is not the man he was way back in the 1970s when he was first elected to the Senate. I have missed his voice in the health-care discussions. Now his voice is silenced forever. We shall not see his like again.
That line comes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2, in which he says to Horatio, about his dead father:
He was a man, take him for all in all,This one hits home, and it hits hard.
I shall not look upon his like again.