Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Is redemption possible?

Ted Kennedy2 On Monday afternoon, I read several articles about Senator Ted Kennedy in the September 7 issue of Time, the one with him on the cover. A fascinating read.

Some love him, some hate him, and I suspect that many, like me, have had serious concerns about issues in his past. Reading these articles, and reading about how many positive things he did in his many years of Senate service, made me wonder if perhaps there is more to be considered. Things are rarely black and white, and the same holds true here.

To begin with, the mere circumstances of his early life had to be almost overwhelming. Three older brothers who were shining lights in the family, cut down in the prime of their lives by incredible violence and unspeakable hatred, leaving the younger brother, Ted, to hold the reins of the family and be its patriarch at an absurdly young age. That's a lot of pressure, and he obviously didn't handle it well. He made many mistakes in his life, including his involvement in the death of a young woman at Chappaquiddick, his heavy drinking, and his womanizing.

But from everything I've read, he turned his life around when he married his wife Victoria in the early 90's. Whatever mistakes he'd made in the past, he seemed determined to atone for them by being a mentor to new members of the Senate (like some young kid from Illinois) and the patriarch of the Kennedy family. He was obviously well-loved by his family, his wife, and by his colleagues in Washington. Even those who often opposed him politically spoke fondly of their personal relationships with him.

Whether you loved him or hated him, or fell somewhere in-between, there is no denying that he had a very profound impact on our nation and its policies. The Civil Rights Act; the Ryan White Act helping those with HIV and insufficient health care coverage; the Family and Medical Leave Act; the No Child Left Behind Act; sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa; the Americans with Disabilities Act; and a constant and unflagging support of the disenfranchised and forgotten.

If you have issues with any of those legacies, that's your choice. I suggest that you remember that he was also a beloved husband, father, uncle, and grandfather. He was many things to many people, including some on an intensely personal level. I have to wonder about those who have suggested that he was dispatched immediately to hell. I'm not sure when it was anyone's place to decide the ultimate destination of the departed, or to be judge and jury. I know that's above my pay grade.

Senator Kennedy was a flawed person with many personal issues, as are many of us.

He was also a devoted family man who spent many years serving his country and trying to help people. Did he achieve redemption? That is not for me--or for anyone--to decide. Those who would have him spend eternity in the fiery torment of hell, or who would dance an Irish jig on his grave, would do well to remember that.


  1. Beth:

    This a very well written and truthful entry. I have tried to convey these thoughts to many people. I suppose a person will believe what they want no matter is the truth.

    I loved the man for the good things that he did accomplish.

    I can relate to his having to grow up at an early age, having to be the Oldest and only son. The responsibility is great and to be a Kennedy! That would have been a difficult situation to have lived, let alone make a difference in millions of lives.

    Thank you for your heartfelt entry.
    I wish you a great week as well.

    Wes Ackerman

  2. I agree with Wes. I watched Larry King in various interviews over several years. He admits he did much he was not proud of and accepted responsibilities and I truly believe he paid for every mistake he ever made in his life. I deeply respect the man and as we all know none of us want to make the horrific mistakes he did, but like you and every other human being, we are human and mistakes are made. He paid his dues.

  3. In other words (mine), he was a Brillant, but normal, Human being. Amen and Bless his goodness, forget the human mistakes.

  4. The articles certainly helped paint him in a different light. While articles about the passing of an icon tend to scew to the high ground, I think that his good deeds certainly outweighed his mistakes.

  5. He made one horrible mistake and did countless positive things for his family, our country, and the world. I hope he will be remembered for the good, just like all of us hope we will be remembered.

  6. there is no one perfect walking this earth. Ted Kennedy did more than we will ever know for the working poor, for blacks, for hungry American children (innocent and defenseless). Many will judge but i'd like to see their obits at the end of their lives and see if they led a life that saved lives and changed lives, as Ted's did.

  7. I fall in line with most every other comment, save that I 'blame' him more for giving us Reagan in 1980 (by challenging Carter) than I do for mis-handling the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

    Still, I would take the Goldwaters and the Dirksens, the Rockefellers and the Kennedys any day, over the Delays and the Demints and the Dimwits that now pass for Senators.

  8. I read something a few days ago that surprised me. He was heading a committee for Native American healcare back in the late 1960's, early 70's. After being told the bill may not be voted in if he was heading the committee due to personal feelings of other members. He stepped aside. Kennedy thought healthcare for the natives was far more important than and grandstanding that might be gained by heading the committee.

    I was surprised and happy to learn this. I'm including a link to where I read about it here:



  9. Ugh! No sleep equals an inability to spell apparently. I meant healthcare. Indy

  10. Newsweek also had an issue that was full of interesting Kennedy articles, especially one from a woman (I forget who it was-might have been Eleanor Clift) who took him to task for Chappaquiddick but also thoughtfully explained how one can have a level of distaste for someone's specific action yet also appreciate other accomplishments.

    I've heard his memoirs are to be published soon, and I will have to read them, I think.

    I am so freakin' tired of those who think that they have the moral authority to judge others, and I don't care what side they are on. Ironic though, that those who so quickly inject God into politics seem to be the worst offenders. What was that Bible verse I love? Ah yes, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

    Very thoughtful entry, as usual.

  11. PS. I love the "no psychos" emblem in your sidebar!

  12. That family endured more loss and tragedy than most people ever will. He certainly seemed to do a lot for others and could have buckled under all of it. He's a survivor who became more compassionate because of events in his life.

  13. I'm in between but c'mon, going straight to hell? Really? I don't think his life was hell worthy personally, at least not from what the public knows about his life. I think people should pay more attention to where they're going in their own afterlife and not so much to others. I, for one, have decided to live on a rainbow in the bahamas. I already purchased the afterlife timeshare. :)

  14. I personally loved him. I'm a born Bostonian and grew up with the Kennedys. They all worked very hard for the people.

  15. Would that we all were able to atone for our past mistakes as effectively and passionately as he did. In his later life, he became a person to be admired.

  16. This was a very balanced entry. Fair tribute to Ted Kennedy the Senator and Ted Kennedy the man.

  17. Hi Beth,
    I guess Ted's life and legacy are a reminder that nobody is perfect, we all have a chance to do good and we all make mistakes along the way. Kennedy did seem to live up to his mistakes in the end, which to me sets him apart from so many of the characters these days who preach morality on the one hand and try to sweep their indiscretions under the carpet with the other.

  18. In the end we are all just human, full of mistakes and indiscretions. He lived his life under a microscope for the world to see & criticize - fortunately for us our screw ups are fairly low key compared. Your last paragraph is so very well said.


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