Thursday, August 28, 2008

Short, sweet and stirring

Hendrik Hertzberg on US Senator Ted Kennedy:

“The Kennedy family occupies, for the moment, a place of equilibrium and purity. It is no longer at the center of a roiling drama of power and striving. Its younger members, including the nieces and nephews among them who have tried for and sometimes achieved elected office, have settled quietly into lives of service; they are not, for the moment, a threat to anybody else’s ambitions.

“The violent deaths of John and Robert, murders most foul and horrifying, tore the nation’s heart as painfully as did the death of Abraham Lincoln, and the historical consequences of their deaths were arguably as baleful. Now the last brother, the only one to survive beyond the youthful cusp of maturity, is dying, too. Teddy was the youngest and the slowest, the one who relied the most abjectly on family connections for his advancement and who, at Chappaquidick in 1969 and then with his doomed and damaging campaign for President in 1980, seemed destined to do the most to squander and tarnish the family legacy. Yet in the twenty-eight years since then he has gradually constructed a life of large and consistent accomplishment that has earned him a stature that, in its way, is as impressive as his brothers’.

“His appearance at the convention last night was a surprise, at least to me. (I imagine the TV audience knew all about it.) A greater surprise was the strength of his voice and his message. This was no feeble invalid. Kennedy’s energy was fully a match for that of the vast crowd. That he and his niece Caroline, who introduced him with great affection and respect, were there less to celebrate themselves and their past than to accelerate a future represented by Barack Obama, whom they plainly see as the inheritor of what they represent, kept the moment from becoming maudlin. The tears that streaked so many faces came from everywhere tears can come from: from joy and grief, from pride and sorrow, from love and hope, from a simple upwelling of mingled emotions. The lion roared one last time, and we were all his cubs.”

PLUS: Eloquence and the Kennedys--they've been an inseparable pair, from John's soaring inaugural address to any of Bobby's speeches to Ted's own eulogy for Bobby in 1968, which is moving in its dignity and simplicity:

My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

“Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

“As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: 'Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.'”

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