Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thoughts on the Speeches at Ted Kennedy's Wake

The memorial service for Ted Kennedy at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston earlier tonight was extraordinary. Almost all of the tributes were superb. Here are the ones that struck the deepest chords in me ...

Joseph Kennedy, II, former Congressman, son of Robert Kennedy, set the tone with captivating anecdotes and restatement of Ted's political ideals. I hope he runs for Ted's Senate seat.

Chris Dodd spoke of what it was like to have Ted Kennedy as a close political ally and friend. I was impressed with Dodd during the 2008 Democratic primary. He has a crispness of vision, and should play a crucial role in the battle ahead this September for health care.

John Kerry's speech at the Democratic convention in Denver last year wasn't carried live by the networks and all-news cable. But it was one of the best at the convention, and his speech at the JFK Library tonight was the most politically powerful. (I saw Kerry briefly this June, as he was boarding a boat in Hyannis. I was too far away to tell him how much I appreciate his continued fight for a better America.)

Orrin Hatch's speech was also impressive, especially given that he, too, was a close friend but also a staunch political foe of Ted Kennedy. I wonder - will Hatch search his soul and find room in there to do the right thing and help all Americans get good, affordable health care? Maybe.

Joe Biden gave another very moving tribute, as only someone who has had such close personal tragedy in his own life could provide. I don't know what the Vice President has been doing behind the scenes in the health care legislation discussions, but I'd like to see him set loose to ply his unique political skills with recalcitrant Senators.

John Culver, former Senator and Ted's Harvard classmate, provided comic relief, in the best sense of the phrase at a time like this. His story of how he wound up on a small boat with Ted, inveighed to go sailing, brought tears of pure laughter to my eyes.

In contrast, Caroline Kennedy's concluding tribute brought tears of something else. As did Joe, she brought home what it meant to have Ted as an uncle. I still can't forgive Gov. Patterson in New York for not appointing her to Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. Our state and our nation would have benefited greatly.

Tomorrow Barack Obama gives the eulogy at Ted Kennedy's funeral.

And then the full business of governance resumes in September. There are two possible paths to universal health care. One comes from a few Republicans and recalcitrant Democrats truly taking a chance on reform and the American people. The other comes from Obama leading a take-no-prisoners charge, and getting the needed legislation with no Republican help. I'll take whichever works.
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