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Ted Kennedy -- My "Kennedy Moment" (529 hits)

August 26, 2009 -- The CNN.com Breaking News Headline interrupted my work late into the evening --

'Lion of the Senate' dead at 77
Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy died late Tuesday at his home in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, after a battle with brain cancer. He was 77. "We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," a family statement said.

President Obama observed, "An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader, who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States Senator of our time."

My memory of Ted Kennedy is grounded in the inspiration of three brothers whose legacy inspired generations. As I grew up in the 50's and 60's, we lived through tumultuos times -- lynchings, bombings and murders defined the height of the resistance to the advancement of civil rights.

Into that dangerous moment in history stepped the Kennedy brothers. For many of us during that phase of our history, they stood as icons of support on the other side of the gulf between our dreams and our reality. They fought for us in the halls of congress, in the Justice Department, in the White House. They suffered loss with us -- tragic loss -- until only Ted was left standing to carry on the legacy of the Kennedys. His 40 plus years in the Senate speak for themselves in the legislation he championed, the voice he raised for those unable to speak for themselves, and the friends and supporters he endeared himself to.

My "Kennedy moment" came in the Fall of 1963. I was attending the Prince Edward County Free Schools -- the interim organization put in place prior to the opening of public schools that had been closed for 4 years. Bobby Kennedy was coming to our school to speak to us about the victory over segreagation.

I sat among the several hundred children in the high school auditorium listening intently to his voice. The words he left were very significant to me. He assured us that his arrival was important, but not a magic wand to change everything. His visit was an investment in our future. He said that the investment he and others made to help the Black children of Prince Edward County Virginia only served "to open the doors of opportunity." He assured us that nothing he could do beyond opening the doors of opportunity would make a difference if we didn't take the responsibility to walk through those doors and make the best of the opportunity.

Shortly after his visit, John Kennedy was assassinated. This appeared to be a devastating blow to our progress. However, we learned that Bobby's passion ran deep. His energy and drive raised the Kennedy legacy to another level. When he was assassinated in 1968, the torch was passed to Ted Kennedy, and for the next 40 years he earned the title of "Lion of the Senate."

There will be few families that make such an imprint on the history of a nation, and at the same time, touch those less fortunate in such an endearing way. I have spent my days since that inspiring encounter in the Fall of 1963 making the very best of every opportunity in my life. I owe a measure of grattitude to the Kennedy family for my inspiration -- John, Bobby, and Ted. The mantle is now passed to those of us who were inspried to continue our work tirelessly, with vision, and optimism in the great potential within each of us.
Roger Madison
CEO iZania, LLC
Posted By: Roger E Madison Jr
Friday, August 28th 2009 at 10:12AM
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Great story, Roger. Thanks for that.

Ted Kennedy was elected to the senate in 1962, and he was there for every civil rights initiative that came out of congress, i.e. the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, etc. He supported Johnsonís Great Society programs and fought for every liberal initiative designed to help the common folk.

Kennedy was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, and yet that did not stop him from being able to empathize with and fight for those of us who had a much harder road to travel by virtue of class or race.

It is said that the best way to measure a personís character is by how he treats the least of those around him. By that measure, Kennedy was truly a great man of tremendous character and integrity. He will be missed.

Friday, August 28th 2009 at 11:21AM
Clark, I agree. There are few to match his character and integrity.

We will see what the future holds.
Friday, August 28th 2009 at 1:41PM
Roger E Madison Jr
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