Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Senator Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009

In the family and community in which I grew up, Teddy Kennedy was symbolic of everything that was wrong with America. I remember long rants of my father about all the Kennedys, but Teddy specifically, whenever his name came up in the news or in conversation. I knew almost nothing about him, except my father’s opinion that he was a “drunk womanizer”.

That was an impression that stayed with me for years, as I personally moved from the political right, to the political far right, to the political center, and now to the political left. Even as I became a liberal both religiously and politically, I carried with me that impression of Teddy Kennedy that my father had left me. But as I inhabited the political left, it was an impression that I could not hold for long.

There is little that has happened in liberal politics in the last three decades that are not touched by Senator Edward Kennedy. Beyond the issues he personally championed, his work behind the scenes became apparent to me. It became apparent to me that the caricature that my father had given me of the man was flawed. Teddy Kennedy was a flawed human being, but so are we all.

To publically have to work his way through generic imitrex cost tragedy after tragedy, to have lost brother after brother, and to spend his entire life wondering if he would be next, was a challenge in life few could have lived with and remained functional. It would have been easy to surrender completely to alcohol, fear, and dispair… and yet he did not. He found his way through it, and became an incredible statesman. He challenged the IRA, and played an important role in ending that war. He championed health care for all here in America. More important than perhaps anything else, generations of U.S. Senators learned how to be a Senator from his example.

In many ways, he was the greatest example in modern American history of “noblesse oblige”… of the responsibilty of the aristocracy to service to society and to others.  In a time when our modern aristocracy seems intent only upon profits and self, his example of what it means to be American nobility is one we need desperately. 

I am glad that I got to know more than his caricature before he left us. As my picture in this article implies, let us mark the Kennedy legacy as more than the brothers assassinated… let us place the “Lion of the Senate” with his brothers at Arlington National Cemetery.

Yours in Faith,


3 Thoughts on “Senator Edward Kennedy, 1932-2009

  1. That’s a terrible thing for American…and the world; we all lost a great man and also a long legacy of family patriots and supporters to the American people and politics. We will miss you. Condolences to the family.

  2. n a life that is littered with ironies, here’s the biggest one of all: His three older brothers – Joe, Jack and Bobby – are eternally frozen in our imagination as the personifications of youth and vigor (or “vigah”). How poignant that our final image of the baby of that family will be as an old man, frail and mortally ill.

    His was the most impressive evolution in American political history. Let’s be honest; in 1962 the guy was a lightweight. He ran for the Democratic nomination against another young man, Edward McCormick, whose uncle was the speaker of the House of Representatives. During a debate McCormick told him that were it not for his name, his candidacy would be viewed as a joke. It was a point well made. It is obvious when looking at film of that campaign that our boy Ted is in way over his head.

    Who would have dared dream all those years ago that this punk kid would one day evolve into the greatest senator ever to walk those halls?

    An incredible realization just came to me: Teddy represented the state of Massachusetts for forty-six years, eight months and nineteen days. That is nearly three months longer than all the years his older brother Jack lived on earth. Forgive the cliche that is so overused it has become trite through repetition, but this really is the end of an era.


    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  3. I just heard on NPR that the Pentagon announced that Sen. Edward Kennedy will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, about 80 feet from his brothers.

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