Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday's Words for August 27, 2008

I try very hard to steer clear of issues and debates that can be extremely polarizing. For example, under the heading of topics I will never address in my weekly essay is the current election campaign being waged in the United States. Well, there was that one essay on the differences in the lengths of our respective countries’ campaigns, but that was as far as I’ll go.

I am a Canadian, but I do pay attention to American politics. The United States is the leader of the world and our closest neighbour, so why wouldn’t I? And I do have opinions on the race now underway, but it’s not for discussion here. In point of fact, it’s really none of my business.

As those of you who read my essay last July on our visit to Dallas know, I remember exactly where I was when I heard of the death of President John Kennedy. And, I was watching television when the announcement of ‘breaking news’ was made that Senator Robert Kennedy had been shot. Having only been 9 years old when the President was killed, and 14 when the Senator died, my imagination was captured by this incomparable family.

I have been watching the American National Political Conventions every four years since 1968. This year is no exception, which brings me to the topic of this essay.

Do you know what I found myself remembering from my early reading of the Kennedys when the video tribute to Senator Kennedy played? They had a sailing yacht called “The Ten Of Us”; but when Teddy was born, his father went out and got another boat and called it “The One More.” I think the reason that came to mind is that he is now one of only three of those eleven still living.

I don’t think I have ever witnessed a greater display of commitment to cause than I saw Monday night, as Senator Edward M. Kennedy addressed the Democratic Convention. Yes, there was a moment or two when he faltered slightly. But his speech held everything I’ve come to expect from him over the years: there was verve, there was power, and there was faith. The art of oratory is almost a lost one, but Senator Edward Kennedy is a master of the craft. And whether or not you agree with his politics, you cannot deny he is a man who loves his country, and that he has spent his life in service to it.

He didn’t have to do that, really. His father left him well financed. He’d watched his three older brothers stand to serve—one in war time, two in time of peace—and he watched as one by one they fell because of it. Who would have blamed him if he’d chosen to live the life of a recluse, enjoying the means he was born into?

And yet he has served in the United States Senate for more than forty-five years. That is longer than most of us expect to be active in our careers. And while he has from time to time been surrounded by controversy, he has also been steadfast in speaking out for issues that matter most to him.

His appearance in such a public venue at a time when he is struggling with dreadful health issues is further testament to his passionate love for his country and belief in his ideals. I doubt one man in a hundred, having undergone brain surgery, chemo therapy and radiation would have been capable of that appearance or that speech.

In these modern times, when phrases like ‘personal space’, ‘comfort zone’ and ‘me time’ litter our lexicon like so many discarded candy wrappers , it’s good to have an example like Senator Kennedy to remind us what ‘giving back’ is really all about. Too often, we become so concerned with our own personal comfort, that we miss opportunities to make a difference.

And it’s making a difference that life is really all about—in my opinion, at any rate.


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