Contemplating the Kennedys
Edward Moore Kennedy
August 12, 1980
I feel bad for Patrick Kennedy. For reasons that I can't quite put into words, the poor guy never looked like he felt he belonged in the hallowed halls of congress. Given the fact that the place is chock full of nuts, crooks and mediocrities, it's no wonder he might have felt just a tad out-of-place. Although an obviously tormented man, there is much substance to be found there. Mitch McConnell he is not. Still, it's hard not to feel anything but compassion for the guy. As a person who has his own history of coming to terms with the bottle and all of its nasty little aftereffects, I can relate - big time. It's an Irish thing.
This week, the right wing SCREAM MACHINE is beside itself with joy. It is in utter ecstasy by the very idea that there will be nary a Kennedy in Washington for the first time since 1947. And it's not just the Hate Radio types and FOX Noise that are beside themselves with joy. Millions of regular Americans - the very people who benefited so mightily by the laws and policies the Kennedys have have championed these sixty-plus years - are joining in the celebrations. Here's the real irony: A lot of these same people will, in due time, miss that family now that they're gone.
And they are all gone - or almost. Take a good look at the photograph at the top of this piece. Out of all of the members of that extraordinary family, only Jean survives (She is the little girl sitting at her father's feet). Of the nine children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, four of them would die violently and young - two in airplane accidents, and two at the hands of misguided assassins. We all know the story so I won't depress you with the details. There is already too much to be depressed about this week.
It's no secret that the Brothers Kennedy were four flawed human beings - not unlike you and I. Of the three brothers who survived into middle age (or barely in the case of Jack and Bobby) it's a safe bet that not one of them would ever have been chosen Husband of the Year. And from what we are able to discern, Joe Junior was a reactionary waiting to happen. As a delegate at the Democratic National Convention in the summer of 1940, his was one of the few votes against a third term for Franklin Roosevelt. Maybe it's just as well that he is not the Kennedy we all remember. But human frailties aside, we can't forget that in most cases these guys - particularly Ted - were on the side of the angels.
Oh, and did I mention they were funny? Unlike most of the unintentionally funny politicians that fill the U.S. Capital today, those Kennedy brothers were genuine wits. My favorite JFK line of all time was when the Army football team (of which he was Commander-in-chief) was getting ready for a big game against the Catholic Trinity College (He was also our first Catholic president). When some smart alec reporter asked him who he was going to root for, the president answered without missing a beat, "Well, I'm going to root for Army and pray for Trinity." What can I tell you? Jack Kennedy was a frustrated comedian.
One of the perks of being Irish Catholic is that we get to refer to the late president as "Jack". No disrespect intended.
The Kennedy Era is within months of ending forever. Maybe that is as it should be. I imagine that had the dynasty of John Adams lasted into the twenty-first century they would be a boring annoyance by now. Early next year when Patrick Kennedy walks out of the House of Representatives for the last time as a legislator, It will be the end of an era that began when my late father was a senior in high school. This coming October 27 would have been his eightieth birthday. He campaigned hard for John F. Kennedy in 1960; was part of the welcoming committee that greeted the president when he arrived at Stewart Air Force base in Newburgh, NY on June 6, 1962. My family - uncles, aunts and cousins - were all Kennedy Democrats. When those two remarkable brothers were cut down within less than five years of one another, we Degans took the loss personally. Being Irish Catholics probably didn't help matters any.
No family in American history - not the Adams, not the Roosevelt, and certainly not the Bush family - paid a higher price in the cause of public service than did the Kennedy family. And to tell you the truth I'm getting sick and tired of hearing them kicked around. From listening to the half-witted cries of jubilation that are greeting the news of the end of the Kennedy presence in Washington, it is easy to conclude that there are a whole lot of people in this silly country who don't appreciate the Kennedy legacy. To listen to the way some of them are talking, you would think the Kennedys were some kind of organized crime family. The Irish Mafia!
I have said more times than I can count that I wish every law and program for which Ted Kennedy was responsible could be overturned just for one week. You'll see then how fast the people start to miss the old guy. History will be the final judge as to what kind of senator Edward Moore Kennedy really was. That he was not fully appreciated by his fellow countrymen and women during his lifetime is not a fluke of American history. Most of the greats were not given the credit they were due until long after their deaths. Posterity is the ultimate score keeper.
Tonight I'll be drinking a toast. I am Irish. That's our job. We drink toasts. So sue me! My toast tonight will be for all the members of that remarkable clan - living and dead. From old Ambassador Joe all the way down to the his youngest descendant.
A toast: That they all have found peace - in this world and the one beyond. That the survivors are able to look back on their family's vital contribution to the last century and be proud of a unique and valuable legacy.
Someone once said:
"Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass....It's about learning to dance in the rain."
Here's to the the Kennedy family! May they always be found dancing in the rain!
Former vice-President J. Danforth Quayle announced to the press this week that his son Ben will be seeking a congressional seat from the state of Arizona.
We here are pleased and privileged to witness at this great moment in the history of our grand and glorious nation, the birth of the Quayle family political dynasty.
I need a drink.
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"The Rant" by Tom Degan