Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Passing of Senator Edward Kennedy

Senator Edward Kennedy will be mourned by people around the world who know that he held the banner for the kinds of causes that have been so identified with the Kennedy family. He was one of the most passionate and effective advocates for the rights of the poor and dispossesed around the world. His voice was one of the few that could be heard above the general noise--clear, articulate and most of all passionate for the values and causes that drove him. On NBC news this morning they showed a clip from the late Senators' eulogy for his brother Robert. In that remarkable speech (one I have to say I was not aware of) some powerful statements were made about the importance of global awareness. The section from the speech I quote below begins with part of a speech RFK gave in South Africa:

"There is discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere. These are differing evils, but they are the common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility towards the suffering of our fellows. But we can perhaps remember -- even if only for a time -- that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek -- as we do -- nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can...

Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again. The answer is to rely on youth -- not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to the obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful progress."

The Senator then went onto quote other deeply moving words from the speech

"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society. Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live."

The words are no less true today as they were then. We must all continue the flame of hope that the Senator and the Kennedy brothers embodied.

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