STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR PATRICK ON SENATOR EDWARD KENNEDY
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Read Governor Patrick's remarks from Senator Kennedy's Memorial Service
Governor Deval L. Patrick
Senator Edward Kennedy's Memorial Service
Good evening family and friends.
Like a lot of people, some of you I suspect, I knew Ted Kennedy before I ever met him. I knew him from the grainy, black and white TV images of Camelot, when my mother used to say to no one in particular, "I love me some Kennedy." I knew him from the moving speeches, the eulogy of his brother Robert or the Democratic Convention speech in 1980.
I got occasional sightings of him as I got older, like when he entered my high school graduation with the rest of the family when his niece and my classmate Courtney was graduating. Or at Senate Judiciary Committee hearings when important civil rights laws were under review and I was working as a young staff lawyer at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
But the first time I actually met him was in 1993, when I was a finalist for the United States Attorney position in Boston. All three finalists were invited to Washington for a final interview with the Senator -- and I was nervous. He was already long an icon by then, a legend of progressive politics. We met in his famous Capitol hideaway, just the two of us. And before we got going good, I said to him that whatever the outcome of the selection process, I wanted him to know that I knew that my path from the South Side of Chicago to that interview was paved in large measure by his life's work, and that I was grateful for that.
Now I have to say that, in addition to being true and heartfelt, it was not a bad interview opener. But I still didn't get the job. And though he made a great choice, he felt awkward about letting me down. I know that because the next time I met him -- unexpectedly, at a party on Nantucket the following summer -- he blanched at first when he saw me and sent Vicki across the lawn just to make sure the coast was clear before he came over to say hello.
For our time, he was a master of the Senate. When President Clinton sent my name to the Senate for a senior post in the Justice Department, Ted took charge of the confirmation process in the way only a master could. The morning after the nomination was announced, he had me up to the Capitol and he positioned me in the Vice President's ceremonial office, just off the Senate floor. There was an early morning vote, and as senators came off the floor he steered colleagues one by one into that office so that they could shake my hand. His theory was it's hard to demagogue someone you've actually looked in the eye and met.
I met probably 60 senators coming off the floor after that vote, including most of the members of the Judiciary Committee. And we had more than a few laughs later about my first impressions of his colleagues, and his more studied ones. For example, the importance of just smiling and nodding when speaking with Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama, even though it was often, or at least sometimes, impossible to understand just what he was saying, or how not to worry about follow up questions during the confirmation hearings from Senator Strom Thurmond because he couldn't hear your answer to the first question that he had asked you. His observations were never harsh or sarcastic. He was never mean. He was a master of the Senate not just because he knew his colleagues' foibles, but because he so clearly respected their humanity. He knew their politics, yes, but he also knew them.
Of course, he was a ham. He loved to sing, as Nick was just saying. Two summers ago Ted and Vicki came out to Tanglewood for a Boston Pops concert of Broadway show tunes. The concert featured the famed Broadway ingenue Marin Mazzie and Tony-award-winning baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell, whom we'll hear from tonight. Now, this is significant because Stokes is what Ted thought he sounded like when he sang.
Diane and I invited Ted and Vicki for dinner at our house after the concert. And about a week before, Ted called to say that he was bringing Pops conductor Keith Lockhart and his then-fiancee along as well. Great. A few days later, he called again to say that he was inviting Marin and Stokes for dinner, as well. Delighted. But Vicki was horrified. She kept apologizing for Teddy inviting "all of these add-ons," as she said -- right up until we all sat down to dinner, when another total stranger walked in to the house. Vicki and I looked at each other, assuming we had to set another unexpected place at the table. Instead our mystery guest started to set up a keyboard because Teddy had also invited the pianist from the Boston Pops so that we could have proper accompaniment after dinner and we sang every show tune we knew until the wee hours of the morning.
That was the thing about Ted: he was in the same instant larger than life and completely down to earth. His record of achievement and contribution is unrivaled in the United States Senate. His humanity, his compassion, his kindness in some ways had just as great an impact. A friend of mine told me recently the story of Ted's plans to attend the funeral of Yitzak Rabin, the late prime minister of Israel. The day before he left for Jerusalem, he called the White House and asked if it would be appropriate to bring some soil from Arlington Cemetery. No one knew the answer. So that day, he went to the graves of his two brothers and scooped up some soil. He carried that precious commodity in a shopping bag to the funeral of Rabin. After the ceremonies, after the crowd had dispersed, away from the cameras and the press, he carefully, respectfully, lovingly spread that soil on Rabin's grave. No publicity. Just a good man doing a sweet thing.
Everyone in this room has some quiet, private example of his or her own. And what's even more powerful is to think how many thousands more, many of them lining the motorcade yesterday or filing in through the doors of this library over the course of the last two days to pay their respect or signing condolence messages around the world, who have private, quiet examples of their own.
No politician ever made me feel more that public life could be a noble calling or better about who I was and where I came from. He loved the Commonwealth and this country. He loved the American people. But he also believed that we could be better. And it was that vision of a better America that he went to work for every day. And millions of veterans and working people and woman and people with disabilities and racial and ethnic minorities, millions of pragmatic idealists who want to believe that they can make the world better through public service, are in his debt.
So many I've heard in the last couple of days are asking how best to honor his legacy. I say we should live it. His legacy to me is about what we do in our own lives and communities to keep the dream alive, to make a great country even better. It won't be easy, especially with the profound sadness we feel today that our standard bearer has been taken from us. But it never was. Even for our dear, lost friend. Ted Kennedy sailed more often than not into the political wind, in search of that better America. And he did it with skill and a grace so typical of him and his family. Let us honor his life and accomplishments by making his work our own.
God bless you, Vicki and all the family. Thank you.