By Paul Burgin
Amidst some of the tributes paid to Senator Kennedy over the past couple of days (some genuine, some hyperbole), we shouldn’t forget that here is someone we can look up to and learn from.
You may be wondering if you have just read that correctly. Ted Kennedy? The leading Democrat who was loathed by many on the Right for good reasons? The man who had alcohol problems, didn’t know how to treat women properly, who was a “friend” of the IRA, and who above all else, left a young woman to drown in a car in Chappaquiddick?
Yes, that Senator Kennedy.
No sensible person would try and defend him against many of those accusations by denying they happened, or to gloss over their awfulness, although the IRA accusation is unfair. Kennedy did his utmost to persuade Sinn Fein to help bring an end to Republican violence and it was Senator Kennedy who was highly critical of the IRA in the hours following their brutal and barbaric murder of Lord Mountbatten, one of his grandsons, an elderly relative and a boat boy.
But to go over his sins, many of which happened many years ago, is to ignore some of the great things he did. Kennedy worked tirelessly to help end Apartheid in South Africa; to bring forward Healthcare that is readily available for many in the US who cannot afford it; to achieve vital reforms in Education and Civil Rights.
These are not only honourable causes where one aims to help protect to vulnerable, they are causes that involve a tough fight and Kennedy did much to help push that fight by being prepared to work with unnatural allies who shared some of his concerns. Ted Kennedy was not a failure compared to his brothers – he was a succesful and hard working Senator and displayed talents his brothers may have lacked.
We in the UK need politicians like Ted Kennedy. People who are prepared to fight for hard causes, not all of them fashionable. We need politicians with big hearts who are prepared to lay aside personal prejudices and ally themselves with opponents of like minds on certain issues.
We ourselves perhaps need to learn something as well. That politicians are not two dimensional figures and that whilst there are some who are too corrupt for high office, there are also some who never forget why they became involved in politics and who have a strong radical and compassionate streak beside their failings