One of the most venerable traditions in the Federal Government is the publication of memorial addresses commemorating the careers of recently deceased Members of Congress. Even a cursory review via the Internet reveals that this practice extends back to the mid-19th century. That same review shows that, for the most part, despite the undoubtedly distinguished services of the individuals so honored, history has a way of eroding their fame, as it does for most of us.
I suspect that this won’t be the case for Senator Edward M. Kennedy – at least not for a long time. His unique family background, with its achievements and tragedies, as well as his own long, eventful, and productive career in the Senate, should keep his fame alive for a generation or two, at least.
What strikes me about Edward M. Kennedy, Late a Senator from Massachusetts: Memorial Addresses and Other Tributes, though, is what it shows about the more human interactions among the late Senator and his colleagues. Regardless of party or ideological persuasion, it’s heartening to read about political opponents who still are able to find common ground on certain issues and act positively to address them. You’ll also find a fair amount of humor, as well as personal anecdotes that portray Senator Kennedy as a genuinely genial and thoughtful person and a man of his word both politically and personally. It’s not a bad way to be remembered, and makes me think that there may be more good will and understanding among our legislators than we’re usually led to think. It cheered me up to read this book.
A typical quote, this one from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina: “The only thing I can tell you about Senator Kennedy, without any hesitation, is if he told you he would do something, that is all you needed to hear. A handshake from him was better than a video deposition from most people.”