Selections From Kennedy's Funeral And Memorial
NEAL CONAN, host:
On Saturday, the funeral for Senator Kennedy was held in Boston at the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Friends and family joined four presidents, senators, representatives and governors, and members of the senator's staff. You probably heard excerpts from President Obama's eulogy. We're going to listen to two others as they remember Senator Kennedy.
We start with his oldest son, Edward M. Kennedy Jr.
Mr. EDWARD M. KENNEDY JR.: There is much to say and much will be said about Ted Kennedy the statesman, the master of the legislative process and bipartisan compromise, workhorse of the Senate, beacon of social justice and protector of the people. There's also much to be said and much will be said about my father, the man; the storyteller, the lover of costume parties, the practical joker, the accomplished painter. He was a lover of everything French: cheese, wine and women. He was a mountain climber, navigator, skipper, tactician, airplane pilot, rodeo rider, ski jumper, dog lover and all around adventurer. Our family vacations left us all injured and exhausted. He was a dinner table debater and devil's advocate. He was an Irishman and a proud member of the Democratic Party.
Here's one you may not know: Out of Harvard, he was a Green Bay Packers recruit but decided to go to law school instead. He was a devout Catholic whose faith helped him survive unbearable losses, and whose teachings taught him that he had a moral obligation to help others in need. He was not perfect, far from it, But my father believed in redemption and he never surrendered. Never stopped trying to right wrongs, be they the results of his own failings or of ours.
But today, I'm simply compelled to remember Ted Kennedy as my father and my best friend.
When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with bone cancer. And a few months after I lost my leg, there was a heavy snowfall over my childhood home outside of Washington D.C. And my father went to the garage to get the old Flexible Flyer and asked me if I wanted to go sledding down the steep driveway. And I was trying to get used to my new artificial leg and the hill was covered with ice and snow and it wasn't easy for me to walk, and the hill was very slick.
And as I struggled to walk, I slipped and I fell on the ice and I started to cry - and I said, I can't do this. I said, I'll never be able to climb up that hill. And he lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I will never forget. He said, I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can't do. We're going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day.
Sure enough, he held me around my waist and we slowly made it to the top. And, you know, at age 12, losing your leg pretty much seems like the end of the world.
But as I climbed onto his back and we flew down the hill that day, I knew he was right. I knew I was going to be okay. You see, my father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable. And that is - it is what we do with that loss, our ability to transform it into a positive event - that is one of my father's greatest lessons. He taught me that nothing is impossible.
During the summer months when I was growing up, my father would arrive late in the afternoon from Washington on Fridays. And as soon as he got to Cape Cod, he would want to go straight out and practice sailing maneuvers on the Victura in the anticipation of that weekend's races. And we'd be out late and the sun would be setting and family dinner would be getting cold. And we'd still be out there practicing our jibes and our spinnaker sets, long after everyone else had gone ashore.
Well, one night, not another boat in sight on the summer sea, I asked him, why are we always the last ones on the water? Teddy, he said, you see, most of the other sailors that we race against are smarter and more talented than we are. But the reason…
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. KENNEDY: But the reason why we are going to win is that we will work harder than them and we will be better prepared. And he just wasn't talking about boating. My father admired perseverance. My father believed that to do a job effectively required a tremendous amount of time and effort. Dad instilled in me also the importance of history and biography.
He loved Boston and the amazing writers and philosophers and politicians from Massachusetts. He took me and my cousins to the Old North Church and to Walden Pond and to the homes of Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne in the Berkshires. He thought that Massachusetts was the greatest place on earth. And he had letters from many of its former senators like Daniel Webster and John Quincy Adams hanging on his walls, inspired by things heroic.
He was a civil war buff. When we were growing up, he would pack us all into his car or rented camper and we would travel around to all the great battlefields. I remember he would frequently meet with his friend Shelby Foote at a particular site on the anniversary of a historic battle just so he could appreciate better what the soldiers must have experienced on that day. He believed that in order to know what to do in the future you had to understand the past. My father loved other old things. He loved his classic wooden schooner, the Mya. He loved lighthouses and his 1973 Pontiac convertible.
My father taught me to treat everyone I meet, no matter what station in life, with the same dignity and respect. He could be discussing arm control with the president at 3 PM and meeting with a union carpenter on fair wage legislation or a New Bedford fisherman on fisheries policy at 4:30. I once told him that he had accidentally left some money - I remember this when I was a little kid - on the sink in our hotel room. And he replied, Teddy, let me tell you something. Making all - making beds all day is back-breaking work. The woman who has to clean up after us today has a family to feed. And that's just the kind of guy he was.
He answered Uncle Joe's call to patriotism, Uncle Jack's call to public service, and Bobby's determination to seek a newer world. Unlike them, he lived to be a grandfather. And knowing what my cousins have been through, I feel grateful that I have had my father as long as I did.
He even taught me some of life's harder lessons, such as how to like Republicans.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. KENNEDY: He once told me - he said, Teddy, Republicans love this country just as much as I do. I think that he felt like he had something in common with his Republican counterparts, the vagaries of public opinion, the constant scrutiny of the press, the endless campaigning for the next election, but most of all the incredible shared sacrifice that being in public life demands. He understood the hardship that politics has on a family and the hard work and commitment that it requires. He often brought his Republican colleagues home for dinner and he believed in developing personal relationships and honoring differences.
And one of the wonderful experiences that I will remember today is how many of his Republican colleagues are sitting here, right before him. That's a true testament to the man. And he always told me that: always be ready to compromise but never compromise on your principles. He was an idealist and a pragmatist. He was restless but patient. When he learned that a survey of Republican senators named him the Democratic legislator that they most wanted to work with and that John McCain called him the single most effective member of the U.S. Senate, he was so proud because he considered the combination of accolades from your supporters and respect from your sometime political adversaries as one of the ultimate goals of a successful political life.
At the end of his life, my dad returned home. He died at the place he loved more than any other, Cape Cod. The last months of my dad's life were not sad or terrifying, but filled with profound experiences, a series of moments more precious than I could have imagined. He taught me more about humility, vulnerability and courage than he had taught me in my whole life.
Although he lived a full and complete life by any measure, the fact is he wasn't done. He still had work to do. He was so proud of where we had recently come as a nation. And although I do grieve for what might have been, for what he might have helped us accomplish, I pray today that we can set aside this sadness and instead celebrate all that he was and did and stood for. I will try to live up to the high standard that my father set for all of us when he said: The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die. I love you dad. I always will. And I miss you already.
(Soundbite of applause)
CONAN: Edward M. Kennedy Jr. speaking at the funeral for his father, Senator Ted Kennedy, on Saturday in Boston.
You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.
On Friday, the night before Senator Kennedy's funeral, friends and family gathered at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Some of his friends from the Senate spoke there: John Kerry, John McCain and Orrin Hatch.
Senator Hatch said that he and Ted Kennedy were like fighting brothers. Although they were from different political parties and different political philosophies, they were great friends. In his remembrance, Senator Hatch focused on Ted Kennedy and his family.
Senator ORRIN HATCH (Republican, Utah): It seemed that Teddy had life that most people could only dream of. But I think at times the pressures that came with that life left him unable to enjoy it. That all changed when he met Vicki.
Vicki was the love and light of Teddy's life. Their marriage in many respects saved Teddy. He was forever a different man. He was still the fierce, stubborn leader in the Senate he always was, but it was clear from that time on that he enjoyed his life and the role he played far more than he had in the past. Teddy and Vicki's marriage made him a better man and a better senator.
Well, I remember one time he got mad as heck at me and demanded to come to the office. I brought him in, and he started yelling at me. And finally, I just said: Wait a minute. I said, you know, I wrote a song for you and Vicki. He said, you did?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Sen. HATCH: I said yes. I said, do you want to hear it? He said oh, yeah. He forgot all about his anger.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Sen. HATCH: I just had a little cassette and I played it for him. He said I've got to have that. I've got to have that. It was called "Souls Along the Way." Actually that song was in "Oceans 12." You can't hear it, but it was in there. I could hear it, just barely.
Here I was working as usual, on, I think, July 3rd of that year in Salt Lake City and I get this phone call from Ted Kennedy. He was out on his boat, you know, as usual. And he said Orrin, he said, I just played that song for Vicki. He said she's over there crying at the end of the boat. He said she loved it. And I said that's great. I said why aren't you working like I have to work? And he just laughed because he knew that his life was a far different one from mine. And I laughed, too, because I knew it as well.
On my way back today, let me just say that I thought about our relationship and how much I sorely miss him. A couple of months ago, we met for our last hour together, had pictures taken together. That means so much to me, and I have to say it was a wonderful occasion. And I miss fighting in public and joking with him in the background. I miss all the things that we knew we could do together and that he would do with others as well.
On the way back today, I, you know, I just thought about the apostle Paul who shortly before his death wrote: For I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith.
So as I came back, I just wanted to write a few thoughts down in my own handwriting. And I hope you won't mind if I read them to you just before I finish: Some are weak and some are strong. Some people go along to get along. Some people are larger than life. Some are born in poverty, some are born in wealth. Some are like a flashing light that dissipates in air. Some are like a gift of life who never find a spare. Some fulfill their destiny. Others lose each day. Some are filled with daily joy, while others waste away. Some are like my liberal friend. God be with you till we meet again. In the end, the good thing's won. He leaves the earth a better place. In the end, we all can smile. He cared for all the human race. In the end, we all look back and see the many things. In the end, we all look up, he's carried there on angels' wings. In the end, those in repose are greeting as we speak. In the end, the darling rose no longer has to seek. I will miss my Irish friend. God be with you till we meet again.
God bless this family. God bless all of you. Thanks so much.
(Soundbite of applause)
CONAN: Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah speaking at a memorial service for Senator Ted Kennedy Friday night. Senator Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday evening. He was 77 years old.
(Soundbite of music)
Tomorrow, as fires burn again in California, we'll talk about a day in the life of a firefighter. Plus, imagine if anonymous Web reviewers had their way with "King Lear" or the "Aeneid." Joe Queenan will join us.
This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.