Last night at Arlington National Cemetery, Ted Kennedy's grandchildren, nieces and nephews surrounded his casket, kneeling, laying on it and weeping. They seemed to be holding onto him as hard as they could, not wanting to say a final goodbye. Such a private moment. That family has shared so much grief with the public. While family members and friends visited the graves of JFK and RFK after Ted's graveside service, the kids stayed with him holding on as long as they could to their grandpa or uncle Teddy.
The new generations of young Kennedy's that we got to see during this mournful time let me know that the Kennedy legacy is far from over. I was impressed with eleven year old Ted III with his round full face and long hair. And I'd never seen Rory Kennedy who was an infant when Robert was killed. For her, Ted Kennedy had to be more father than uncle. Caroline Kennedy spoke on how Ted didn't miss a graduation, or birthday or any important or not so important event in the lives of all his children which included his brothers' children and their children.
Caroline and others also spoke of how Teddy took them all (some of the teens went kicking and screaming) on family history excursions. Ted showed them where their grandparents lived, where the Irish first came ashore to Boston, where Joseph P. Kennedy's first job was. He had them look at American relics and historical documents and see Irish American cultural places of history and literature as well cultural sights from other ethnic and religious interests. He wanted them to make the connection. To know where they came from so they could understand how they fit in the present and in the world. And, how America fit in the world.
He taught them to understand that everyone has a journey and to respect the journeys of others. He taught them to make connections regardless of differences.
I see on the streets everyday, young people who are disconnected. They make no connections to the past or to each other in the present. No sense of loyalty to family, culture or country. No sense of obligation to those who struggled and survived. Isolated from the past, directionless for the future. Disconnected.
Ted Kennedy's time spent with these children making those connections is a great gift. He knew that making connections would build strength and character. He knew spending time with children would too. And not only his children but a young black girl who he taught to read and tutored for years, and a 9 year old black boy who he promised $1 for every A on his report card. Ted kept that promise through college.
Ted Kennedy who could have been bitter after giving up three brothers to America, could have spent all of his time sailing. He could have spent his career resting on the laurels of his brothers. But he didn't. He served Massachusetts and this country well. Particularly by teaching children that we are all connected.