Made Real by Contradictions
Ted Kennedy's life as a high-profile public leader, spanning half a century, was extraordinary both in terms of its contradictions and consistencies. As a national leader and on a personal level, Ted Kennedy has engendered passionate reactions from people of all ages and backgrounds--ranging from love and admiration to disdain and scorn. His ability to pick himself up and reach ever higher levels of achievement in spite of seemingly unbearable family tragedies and personal frailties punctuates his remarkable leadership story.
The contradictions made Ted Kennedy real. We have seen him as a loving father figure for the whole Kennedy family and an impulsive bad boy; as a public leader by choice and hard work and the successor in a family dynasty; as an eloquent speaker who lifted our spirits and a contrite "victim" trying to explain himself.
The consistencies in Ted Kennedy's leadership produced important changes and a lasting legacy. From his early days of campaigning for his brother to his last days working on health-care reform, Kennedy was passionately committed to providing opportunities for all people to reach their full potential. He was relentless in his efforts to guarantee full access to quality public education, a fair system of justice, and, of course, universal health care. His sense of humor, ability to relate on a personal level to just about everyone he met and openness to other points of view allowed him to accomplish a great deal as a legislative leader. He was both an optimist and a pragmatist who mastered the art of persuasion and compromise to enable big steps toward his goals.
I did not know Ted Kennedy well but having interacted with him in the Senate, at the Kennedy School of Government and on high school soccer fields as he (and his dog) rooted for my stepdaughter's team, I know he will be missed, not only as a leader, but also as a caring person and a great guy.
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