I’m watching the funeral services for Ted Kennedy. What a remarkable life.
But I think the key lesson that his life and death provides is that of redemption; redemption is possible, no matter what your circumstances, no matter what your wrongs. Take Kennedy: Kicked out of Harvard for cheating (later readmitted); Chappaquiddick; womanizing and other activities about which his mother wouldn’t be proud.
His funeral, though, is attended by nearly all the past presidents; at his memorial service speakers like Orrin Hatch and John McCain. Kennedy evolved into a person respected and admired by all but the most uninformed or calloused quarters.
By most popular accounts, Kennedy shed his playboy activities and image when he was about 60 – apparently with the help of Victoria Reggie Kennedy, a woman he married in 1992. With his new-found stability, Kennedy became a model senator. He was known for his successes in such areas as education, but his real triumph seemed to be in his ability to reach out to others of all political stripes. He was unfailing in his support of women, of the disadvantaged, of the oppressed. And he made a difference.
My Christian faith – along with other faith traditions – teach that redemption is possible; that forgiveness is mandated. Ted Kennedy is proof of the effect of redemption and forgiveness. The United States is a better place because the people of Massachusetts believed in forgiveness and Kennedy believed in redemption.
In our current political climate, Kennedy’s ability to reach across the aisle, compromise, listen, will be sorely missed. Maybe, just maybe, his legacy could continue his redemption through breaking down barriers to mutual respect in the corridors of power.