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WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM TED
The cause still endures, the hope still lives. Thus spoke Senator Ted Kennedy in what is widely regarded as his finest speech. Now more than ever, we need the same kind of visionary commitment in Ireland.
The Whole Hog, 16 Sep 2009
It seems that every day brings another reminder of past events that resonate into the present. All the talk here is of how we have been returned to the bad end of the ’80s – cutting back and cutting off and frightened for tomorrow, never mind the future.
Other anniversaries broaden the scope. It is, for example, 70 years since Europe went to war. That alone, and recollection of the terrible cost of that war, should be enough for us to recognise the fantastic achievement that the EU represents in ending that kind of conflict and bringing Europe into an era of peace and, damaged though it might be in these days of days, prosperity. But more of that anon.
It’s also forty years since America’s youth gave us a new kind of music festival, for good (Woodstock) and ill (Altamont).
Earlier that summer Ted Kennedy drove off the bridge at Chappaquiddick with Mary Jo Kopechne beside him in his car. What exactly happened then is still murky. What is not disputed is that she died, and he fled the scene. It was the latest, though as things transpired not the last, in a series of tragedies to befall the Kennedys.
Hers was the third death to scar the life of Edward Kennedy, following on the assassinations of his brothers John and Robert. He took to the drink. But he also committed himself to the hard end of politics.
That he was celebrated so generously on his death is a tribute to the zeal with which he set about this task. Even his enemies saluted his political commitment, graft and wile.
In his eulogy to Kennedy, Barack Obama called him “a champion for those who had none, the soul of the Democratic Party and the lion of the US Senate.” The U.S. President also observed that Senator Kennedy had “experienced personal failings and setbacks in the most public way possible.”
Striking a note with some resonance for Ireland today, Obama also quoted Kennedy as saying that “individual faults and frailties are no excuse to give-in, and no exemption from the common obligation to give of ourselves.”