I only met Sen. Ted Kennedy once...at a parade in North Adams, MA. I was recruited to run as a Republican assembly candidate in 1988 and one of my jobs was to walk in the parade and wave to all the registered Democrats lining the parade route. I felt so uncomfortable with the idea that one of my brothers sent me a bullet proof vest to wear during the festivities.
I tried it on...but it looked so boxy under my suit that I decided it was better to die of a gun shot wound than to look like I was wearing a cardboard T-shirt.
Herded into the parade starting area, I was surprised to find myself introduced to Sen. Ted Kennedy who - like me - was waiting to march in the parade. I immediately noticed that his eyes seemed to sparkle as if the departed President John Kennedy was looking at me. It was eerie. This face-to-face meeting helped me understand the unreasonable affection that voters in MA seemed to have for Sen. Ted Kennedy.
The second thing I remember is that his bullet proof vest was a lot smoother and rounder looking than the one I had left behind in my Williamstown apartment. It was apparent to me that wealth and power had its privileges...include the ability to protect yourself while still looking cool to the general public.
Although Sen. Kennedy took out time to greet me and exchange pleasantries, this superficial wholesomeness was not enough for me to forget or forgive his past. Even today, I see Sen. Kennedy's legacy in the burnt out buildings of Detroit...the crumbling gang-infested inner-city neighborhoods of Los Angeles...and in the shattered lives of everyone harmed by high unemployment and racial preferences for minorities.
Like his sad personal life, Sen. Kennedy's policies did great damage to our nation, even as he received the praises of those who, momentarily, thought they benefited from his ideas.
Sen Kennedy left a profound amount of wreckage in terms of the people harmed by his life including his ex-wife, his children, and - of course - his most famous victim - Mary Jo Kopechne (July 26, 1940 – July 18, 1969). Of course, I didn't mention Ms. Kopechne during that face-to-face meeting with Sen. Kennedy. For that tiny moment, I was part of the general lethargy of the living, too constrained by social niceties to vent my true feelings - that Sen. Kennedy should have been a felon and not a U.S. Senator.
John C. Drew, Ph.D. is an award-winning political scientist.