The passing of Senator Ted Kennedy was not just the death of one of the great legislators in the history of this country, it was a celebration of his humanity. From the time of his death until he was laid to rest next to his two brothers, Americans heard story after story of how the Senator made phone calls to the families of 9/11 victims, interceded on behalf of those who needed the help of government but had no voice, and quietly did good deed after good deed without the television cameras rolling.
As I listened to the tributes to Senator Kennedy from celebrities and average Americans, I began to think about what I should take away from the death of this man. What could I learn from Ted Kennedy that I can bring to my everyday life?
First and foremost I was struck by the generosity and selflessness of the Senator, not just in monetary terms, but in his sense of giving. For Ted Kennedy, scion of a wealthy family and always in the limelight, life was not about him, it was about others; it was about being there for those needed a helping hand or a emotional lift. To often ours is a society of selfishness and ego. But Ted Kennedy reminded Americans that life is about taking care of your neighbor first and foremost.
I also learned that it is vitally important to hold to your principles, to fight for what you believe in, and to never be afraid to challenge those who would demean or attack you. Ted Kennedy was a fighter, a champion of the liberal tradition and in many ways someone who put into practice the Christian message of love, tolerance and social justice. Sure he was a politician who practiced the art of compromise, but rarely did Ted Kennedy abandon his liberal principles out of partisan expediency.
Finally, Ted Kennedy taught me the value of hard work, a hearty laugh, a pleasant day on the ocean, a good song, and the importance of not taking yourself too seriously. Ted Kennedy was someone who most people would want to be friends with and enjoy a good, lively conversation. Ted Kennedy was quite simply a regular guy who just happened to be rich, powerful and important. He never forgot those Americans who were poor, neglected, sick or in need of support.
To spend forty seven years of your life in the U.S. Senate giving to others, speaking on behalf of others, and being there for others is quite a legacy. There is much that can be learned from Ted Kennedy. Hopefully Americans will remember those lessons.