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.