Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Voice of Ted Kennedy

I've always cherished the memory of my work on George McGovern's 1972 presidential cempaign, in part because it gave me a chance to hear the voice of a great liberal orator--Ted Kennedy.

The scene was a rally at the county courthouse in Hackensack, NJ. I was a young McGovern organizer working with other high school students. McGovern was, of course the main speaker of the evening. But what I remember most is the voice of Kennedy.

In strong, bold tones, he sized up President Nixon and offered him mock sympathy: it must be difficult, he said, to be stuck with your hand in the till, your foot in your mouth, and your eye on the polls. We went home laughing and talked about it for days.

Two other Kennedy speeches will always stay with me. I am haunted by his eulogy for his brother Robert ("Some men see things as they are and say why, I dream things that never were and say why not.") And his concession speech in 1980, when he summoned a Democratic Party drifting right to remain true to its liberal heritage, is still inspiring in its conclusion: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Kennedy was a great legislator, a great speaker, and a great steward of the best in the Democratic Party. I'll miss him.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was at that rally in Hackensack too, and as hard as we all worked for McGovern I think the real attraction of that night was hearing Ted Kennedy speak.

Steve Zurier

Anonymous said...

I too, was at that rally with my father, albeit; as a ten year old.
I remember the crowd chanting "Teddy !, Teddy !, Teddy !" during his speech and I joined in with equal enthusiasm. As which point, my Dad turned to me and scolded, "That's Senator Kennedy to you !". "Yes Daddy", I murmured. I miss you both.

Harold said...

How did I miss this article before? I was at that rally and read about it the next day in the Bergen Evening Record. First it described the overflowing crowd. Ummm- it wasn't. The square wasn't half filled. Next the wildly enthusiastic crowd. Ummm- only those in the two or three rows closest to the stage. Most people, like me and my friends, were there just to observe, and neither applauded or jumped up and down like the loons in the front row. And, NO protesters at all! If, of course, you completely ignored the guy up front with his constant refrain of "Tell us about Chappaquiddick! Tell us about Chappaquiddick! There were some others, but he was the most notable. My first first hand experience in biased news media coverage. That was pre-internet days. They can't get away with reporting like that any more.