by Marcus Sakey
As I’m sure you all know, Teddy Kennedy died last night. While hardly unexpected—the man was 77, and battling brain cancer—it’s still a blow. The end of an era.
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, this was a man to be admired, a man who spent decades fighting for the larger good. Civil rights, voting rights, Americans with disabilities, healthcare, immigration, these were his central causes. In a world that was increasingly focused on personal gain, he fought for a better nation.
It’s interesting to me—his father, Joseph Kennedy, was not a good person. A brutal businessman, a bootlegger, a machine politician, an insider trader, a briber of politicians and journalists, he amassed a fortune by breaking the rules. The parallels to today’s shady tycoons are easy to draw.
But for all the reasonable comparisons you can draw to Ken Lay and James Cayne, one crucial point of difference is the love of country and the dedication to service that he instilled in his children. Joe Kennedy may have been a relentless grasper after money and power, but once he had both, he used them to assure that his children would do better than he had. It’s sort of a dark version of the American dream.
John, Robert, and Edward Kennedy all had personal failings. They all had skeletons in their closets. But they also had a dedication to making the world a better place that makes it hard for me to judge them.
These days, politicians have learned that it’s better to be seen as not standing for anything at all than to risk being seen as human. Watergate, the war, the eighties, the other war, the Bush administration, 9/11, the other war, they’ve shaken the system to a point where it seems like politics is less about country and more about campaigning.
Edward Kennedy was one of the last of the old guard. A sinner? Sure. But a man who fought to make the world better. And I for one will miss him.
May he rest in peace.