Midvale School for the Gifted Alumni Association

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Lion Sleeps

All week, Massachusetts has been mourning the passing of our senior Senator, Edward M. Kennedy. He was a tremendous man, tremendous in his successes, in his image, in his failings. And all week, I have found myself reflecting on what his legacy as a legislator has meant to my life. Nearly every cause I've fought for, my own profession, has somehow been shaped by his legislative influence, and mostly for good.

Those of us in politics, even lowly positions like School Committee, own the Senator a great debt of gratitude for his model of public service. As that is what we are, public servants. We are elected to be the voices of the people in our towns, to represent their voices on the boards that make decisions that affect their everyday lives. And with that role comes great responsibility. We have been so fortunate here in Massachusetts to have such a long running, tireless model of how to manage that responsibility and work for the common good. His shoes will never be filled. Never. Senator Kennedy was bigger than life, and so much more than just his office. As Vice President Biden so eloquently stated, "It was never about him; it was always about you," I am reminded to keep that in the forefront of my dealings with the citizens of my town, and with the parents of the students I serve in my district. It is not about me, or my agenda, it's about them.

I was one of the 50,ooo people that passed through the Kennedy library to pay their respects to the Senator, and it was a moving experience for me. I was there early, before the family had arrived, and I waited for 3 1/2 hours to get inside. But, it was a tremendous afternoon, and I'm glad I was there. All week, I had felt compelled to act somehow. Standing in line, I spoke to the people around me, and why they were there. We even made it on television. We were there when Caroline came out to greet the crowd, which was incredibly humbling.

Caroline Kennedy

I thought about my grandmother, how she worked on both his and JFK's campaign, how she was invited to a barbeque on the compound to thank her for her efforts, how, had she been alive, she would be standing in line with all these other women, to thank this family for this man and his service. I wrote in the condolence book, and prayed as I passed by the flag-draped coffin, and was left nearly speechless as his widow, Vicki, and nephew Joe greeted us as we left the viewing room. I thanked them for allowing me to participate in their mourning.

Because, remember, as much as he was a senator, from a storied American family, he was also a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and dear friend, and these individuals should be allowed to have their private moments of grief and sadness as well. Just because you're a Kennedy does not make you immune to sorrow; in fact, I think, you might actually learn to expect it. And there they all were, regal and comforting, even in their own sadness. It was an honor to be there, and a touching afternoon.


This morning I watched the funeral, and the dignitaries lined up row by row to pay respects. My alma mater's Chancellor, Father Donald Monan, celebrated the Mass, and our President delivered a stunning and elegant eulogy. But, President Obama was clearly upstaged by the pure emotion and tenderness from Teddy Jr.'s moving words. And as the rain falls on Massachusetts, as the Senator flies off to be buried by his brothers in Arlington National Cemetery, I am thankful that I have lived in a time that was made better by this man's life's work.

Godspeed, Senator. Thank you for your service, for your life.



Blogger courtney said...

My mother also reminded me this morning that my grandmother was working the switchboard at his campaign office the night he was in the plane crash, and she was the one who answered that call when it came in.

1:55 PM  
Blogger yellojkt said...

What a great tribute. You are so lucky to have been part of all that.

10:35 PM  

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Midvale School For the Gifted

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