Consistency of Purpose
In his nearly five decades in the Senate, if there's any one leadership quality that Ted Kennedy epitomized, it's unswerving consistency. Like his friend Ronald Reagan, people of all classes--and on both sides of the political aisle--knew who Kennedy stood for and what he stood for: decency, fairness, and, above all, the rights of the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised.
Kennedy's consistency as a leader was not what's been referred to as "the hobgoblins of little minds." Rather, he lived consistency as Winston Churchill described it: "The only way a man can remain consistent amid changing circumstances is to change with them while preserving the same dominating purpose."
In 1969, for example, long before health care emerged as a national issue, Ted Kennedy gave his first speech calling for national health insurance for all Americans. Forty years later, it remained his dying wish, and we can be sure, wherever the debate goes, the senator's passion will be both prominent and resonant.
Equally remarkable is the consistency and breadth of who Kennedy became--and what he overcame, in the case of his faults. Although born of privilege, educated at Harvard, and elected to the Senate at age 30, he didn't allow ego to obscure his legislative mission, just as he never let tragedy diminish his optimism and humor. And he didn't allow the global arena to obscure his devotion to the issues of seniors and the handicapped, to housing, wages and workers rights here at home.
For me, Ted Kennedy clarifies the need of the leader to be consistent in aims and values while possessing the adaptability needed to achieve those ends. With the recent loss of his sister, Eunice Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, this is the passing of an era. The warrior from Massachusetts reminds us that, to make things stick, the leader needs to stick to what matters.
The comments to this entry are closed.