I write a political column for Ottawa Delivered, a hyperlocal Web site and weekly newspaper that covers Ottawa, Ill. The following column, which was published Thursday, is about Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy, who died Aug. 25. It was the most-read article on the OD Web site Friday.
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The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy last week prompted me to do a Google search for any connection the so-called “lion of the U.S. Senate” might have had to Ottawa.
Turns out the book “Death at Chappaquiddick” was published here by Green Hill Publishing (now Jameson Books) in 1976. Written by Richard and Thomas Tedrow, the book focuses on one of the lowest points in Kennedy’s life – when, after leaving a party, he drove his car off a bridge, resulting in the drowning death of 28-year-old campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne.
The Chappaquiddick incident is the most notorious of Kennedy’s long and storied public life. As it turned out, Chappaquiddick was the boiling point, the moment in Kennedy’s life when all the tragedy he endured leading up to then finally came to a head.
Thinking about that, it occurred to me that no matter which side of the political aisle you’re on, Kennedy is worth admiring for his tenacity in the face of adversity.
Lesser men might have quit public life in the face of a brother’s assassination. Two of Kennedy’s brothers were assassinated, yet he carried on as the public face of a very visible political family, shouldering his pain the way he knew best – by using the legislative process to help the less fortunate.
In addition to Chappaquiddick and the assassinations, Kennedy had other experiences that might have set back others. His oldest brother died in World War II. His sister Kathleen died in a plane crash. He survived a plane crash in 1964. His son Edward Kennedy Jr. lost a leg to bone cancer at age 12. Another son spent time in drug rehabilitation for cocaine addiction. The list goes on. And so did Kennedy, never shirking from what he saw as his duty to his country.
Whether or not you agreed with Kennedy’s politics, there should be consensus that the longtime Massachusetts senator was a good example to us all.
Whenever he faced setbacks – even the most heart-wrenching ones – he always pulled himself together and did what he thought was right. And he continued to live life to its fullest, even when faced with his final setback, brain cancer.
We should all strive to do the same.
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