Watching the coverage of the passing of Ted Kennedy, I am overwhelmed by the simple stories of his impact on the personal lives of so many people. So I shall tell mine.
I’ve rarely told my story to anyone because it is relatively insignificant but for the fact that it was Ted Kennedy. Ted taught me how to tie a flying bowline one early evening at the end of a private dock in the Vineyard Sound in 1974, I think.
If the setting puts me in elitist territory, it by circumstance. It wasn’t my choice, I was 14ish. Some of the Kennedy/Schriver clan had sailed over in the Maya from Hyannisport, as they did sometimes several times every summer. They always stayed next door at the Styron’s and invaded the small detached house house that was our primary hangout.
I was the summer of poker. There were a group of us, all 14-years old. We played poker into the wee hours of the morning, every night with a vengeance. That was also the summer I first met James Taylor and Carley Simon. Tommy and I were sitting on the green steps of the front porch of the main house when Carley strode down the lawn with this straggly, skinny guy wearing nothing but gym shorts. I recognized Carley immediately. As they continued toward us, I asked Tommy, “Who’s the straggly guy with Carley?”
Things like that happened at the Styrons all the time. Ted rarely came over on the boat. He seemed to show up out of nowhere and disappear as fast, as was the case that day.
So there I sat, alone at the end of the dock at dusk when Ted Kennedy came walking out. I held a piece of line in my hand. He sat next to me and offered to show me how to tie a flying bowline. I thought to myself, “sure, old man. Lets see what you got.” Of course, I could already tie a bowline in my sleep. But he did it faster than anyone I had ever seen. I was impressed. He knew it.
Then he showed me in slow motion how to do it. I practiced a few times until he approved. Then we sat for a while and looked out at the Mya anchored a hundred yards off. He said “nice to meet you,” and walked back.
I have taught this technique to many people since. That was my only encounter with Ted.
As you listen and watch to stories, histories, and postmortems, you will hear one single word more than any other; Justice. For all the Kennedy’s justice was the litmus test. The standard. The bold clear line. It was never a thin one for any of the Kennedy’s, and justice is not a thin line for me or any of the millions of progressives for whom the Kennedy’s were the standard bearers.
Many in conservative America cannot understand how such a liberal man could be so powerful for so long. The answer is justice. Justice prevails over righteousness and ‘freedom’ every time. This is the essence of America. Justice must win every time and in each case where justice meets freedom, justice must always prevail.
Teddy Kennedy’s passing leaves a gaping hole in The American Psyche that I fear may never be filled.
But, “The Dream lives on.”