For a progressive and a sentimentalist, one of the advantages of living in the Boston television market has been its coverage of Senator Kennedy’s last public appearance. He was one of ours, and he did a lot of good for a lot of individuals and families here, apart from his many services to the welfare of all Americans. I’ve been glad to sniffle through many an anecdote from the people who came to witness the hearse carry Teddy’s casket from Hyannisport, through Boston’s Government Center and the North End streets where he first politicked, to lie in state at his brother’s JFK Library in Dorchester.
People like the couple whose son was killed in Iraq, and Kennedy not only sent a note of condolence, he found out the soldier’s father was having problems obtaining his citizenship — problems that magically disappeared within two weeks of Kennedy’s intervention. And when the couple started a scholarship fund to honor their son’s memory, Teddy sent a personal check. People like the Republican parents whose son’s last words from Iraq lamented the lack of decent body armour; they contacted Kennedy “despite our doubts” and the Senator successfully fought to change the Pentagon rules protecting Blackwater and its private-contractor ilk by denying civilian donations toward ‘non-approved’ equipment. “Teddy did more for us than any of the senators we contacted who voted for the war,” they said.
People like the 9/11 widow who’ll be standing with the Kennedy family overnight, at the coffin wake. It wasn’t just that he contacted her and the other families immediately, she said, or the “dozens of little things, stuff that was only important to us” that he’d done in the years since. “He walked me through those first terrible days, taught me how it was possible to go on, when I thought I would never get through it… He told me I could, and I knew I could trust him, because he’d had to — he’d done it himself.”
And then I made the mistake of looking at Andrew Sullivan’s blog, hosting the smug and disingenuous Hanna Rosin, whose back-handed ‘tribute’ to Teddy’s public service went beyond the usual Wingnut Welfare Wurlitzer “Chappaquiddick today, Chappaquiddick tomorrow, Chappaquiddick forever” sniping to “the bigger problem of the Kennedy women”:
“If they were lucky, like Eunice Kennedy Shriver, they managed to install themselves at the head of virtuous nonprofits—“charities,” we used to call them.” — Goodbye, Kennedy Women, Double X, August 26
Rosin is treating Eunice Kennedy Shriver the way she laments Joe Kennedy did — as a mannequin, a non-person whose highest ambition was to worm its way into a figurehead position. This is a grave and willful misunderstanding, which denigrates not only Mrs. Kennedy Shriver’s lifetime of hard work, but the worth of the Special Olympics and the Special Olympians.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver was not “lucky”, she was brave.