The Immigration Reform movement has just lost a major ally. But it’s more than just this group who has lost an ally. On August 25, 2009, this country lost a major icon and a fierce fighter for the unfortunate, the poor, and those with very little voice and power to fight. The world has lost another human rights supporter and promoter. All of these should be the highlights of his life. Many articles and blogs have been and will be written about his accomplishment, but I’d like to focus on him as a human being whose response and coping style to the multiple losses in his life was typical, ordinary, yet inspiring throughout.
If you look at the history of his life as a Kennedy, you can see that he had many ups and down, some downs were very extreme. I don’t need to list them all in this essay. Turn the television on for the next few weeks or go on the internet and you can find them. I can only imagine that being a Kennedy then and now is not easy. All of these Kennedy adults and children have lived their lives under the eyes of the whole nation. Particularly with Senator Kennedy, the eyes of the nation and the rest of the world were on him in the years following his brothers’ assassinations, watching his every move. The pressure and the stress must have been tremendous.
As a human being, he responded the way many average people would do, by coping. He was not without a flaw. As a matter of fact, he had plenty of them; some had even stood as obstacles to his political pursuit to the White House. His chosen coping mechanisms were to drown himself in work, alcohol, and unstable relationships. If we take the Kennedy name out of his last name, give him another last name, and take politics out of his family history to make it sound like a typical U.S. family, his coping style would have been seen as predictable. Those who work in the field of mental health have been trained to detect coping mechanisms, particularly after so many losses.
What is amazing about Senator Kennedy’s life is how he bounced back from all those dark, challenging years. In 1991, he made a speech to the public and apologized for his wrongdoings in the past. A year later, he remarried and made a major turn around in his life. But some of us remain to wonder how he did it, especially with the background history of having been to a series of funerals, many as a result of tragic death, and given many private, heart-wrenching eulogies. My guess is that in order to turn his life around, he must have gone back and faced those dark years that pushed him to rely on those less effective coping mechanisms. Before he could move forward, he first had to deal with his past. He then started a new chapter when he made the turn around in early 90s. This time, the new chapter has been jam-packed with what he was meant to do. We are all familiar with the content of that chapter, which just ended on the evening of August 25, 2009. That day also marks the exact one year from the day he gave his memorable speech in the 2008 Democratic National Convention for President Obama, where again he reminded people of hope and change, as he did for himself almost two decades ago.
His life story is a story of resiliency, possibility, hope, and redemption. I think his losses, pain, and suffering had better prepared him to do his job as a senator and made him a strong, humane, fierce fighter that we all know. I believe we haven’t seen the ending of his legacy yet; a new chapter has just begun. Young people and leaders in this country will take over the torch and continue to run, filling up the new chapter one page at a time. It’s just part of the Kennedy’s legacy and curse that no Kennedy can leave the public view that easily.
So, Uncle Ted, you will be remembered. Rest in peace now and watch your legacy continue your work.