Profile in Integrity — Senator Ted Kennedy

by Dr. David Gruder

On my Integrity Talk Radio show this past week I made the following comments as a tribute to the late Senator Edward (Ted) Kennedy:

"It wasn’t exactly a secret that Senator Ted Kennedy, who died earlier this week, was the lion of liberalism in the United States Senate… During his nearly five decades as a US Senator, the last remaining brother of the political trio of assassinated President John F. Kennedy and assassinated Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy, was an ongoing champion of liberal strategies for addressing civil rights, education, the economy, and health care reform… Several hundred of the more than 2500 bills he authored during his 46 years in Congress were signed into law… Despite a number of glaring integrity deficits in his personal life, he was also the deeply beloved patriarch of the remaining Kennedy clan…

"But, most of all, Ted Kennedy was perhaps the last of a dying breed of Democratic Senator… He was the liberals’ undisputed master at carving bi-partisan agreements… He was able to appreciate and make room for points of view that were different from his own… He inspired those around him to remember the higher goals that joined all of them together as elected representatives… And he never resorted to personal attacks on anyone’s character… Senator Kennedy deserved the deep respect he earned from so many Republican Senators, like John McCain and Oren Hatch, because he was a pragmatist who knew when and how to compromise in order to break congressional gridlock in the name of serving the public… Kennedy was a master of compromise who consistently placed serving the American people ahead of his liberal ideology…

"While I have said repeatedly that the age of compromise is over, and that synergy is the problem-solving strategy best suited to creating sustainable solutions, I honor Ted Kennedy for having masterfully maximized what compromise is capable of doing… And I fervently hope that the huge vacuum his departure has created will make room for another Democratic Senator to emerge who has Kennedy’s bipartisan commitment, and his extraordinary gifts at negotiation, but who, unlike Kennedy, becomes the Senate’s first lion of synergy rather than compromise."

Senator Kennedy was by no means a poster child for impeccable life-long integrity, as anyone familiar with his personal life knows full well. But, as his namesake son, Teddy junior, so beautifully described in the following eulogy during his father’s funeral, his father was a work in progress throughout his life. Ted junior’s stories about his father provide a profile of the particular ways his father did exhibit wonderful integrity with his family and as a public servant. It appears that during his second marriage he also gradually grew into embodying a level of personal and marital integrity that appear to have been integrity deficits of his when he was younger.

Ted Kennedy, Jr., eulogy of his father, Part 1:

Ted Kennedy, Jr., eulogy of his father, Part 2:

I watched the videos of a number of eulogies, but watching Ted Kennedy’s son’s eulogy helped me realize that I had never gotten over the Chappaquiddick incident, or how long it took Senator Kennedy to finally deal with his alcoholism. Listening to his son healed the judgmentalism I didn’t know I still held toward his father.

For me, Ted Kennedy was a deeply human Profile in Integrity, not some theoretical perfect ideal of three-dimensional integrity. He appears to have learned from his significant integrity deficits rather than having remained locked in them til death do he part. For this reason he has become an inspiration to me, and a reminder to all of us, about how growing into 3D Integrity is a life-long journey, not an end point that most of us achieve at a young age.

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