Sunday, February 15, 2009

The 'Liberal Lion'

I was raised to respect the Kennedy's. I can remember my mother telling me her version of JFK's passing and her following of John John and Caroline from a distance. I wasn't aware of Teddy's prowess in the Senate until high school. I'd read JFK's Profile in Courage in middle school.

Reading over this morning part one of a seven part series on Teddy you begin to see just how much work Joe and Rose Kennedy put into fulfilling the dynasty that it often taken for granted or mocked today.

A few money quotes:
Something worthwhile. That was one of the many mantras the Kennedy parents imposed upon their children. Do something with your lives. Make something of yourselves. Give something back to others. Joe Kennedy Sr. set up million-dollar trust funds and told his children they'd never have to earn money; they should devote their lives to public service.

...Second place was never good enough for their father, whose parenting slogans included, "I don't want any losers in this family," and "No sour pusses." There would be no "rich, idle bums," either.

... With nine children, Rose had to run a tight ship, and she set household rules that few dared break for fear of a whack from her infamous wooden coat hanger. Child-rearing was a strict endeavor in that era and Rose, a perfectionist, followed the books to the letter. The children were to get up at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time. Dinner was always at 7:30, and Rose would lead the way into the dining room. At the end of the meal, she would lead the way out.

...In 1975, when Ted was a third-term senator and Rose was 85, she wrote him: "I watched you speak about drugs last Friday night . . . Please say, 'If I were President,' not 'If I was president.' The reason is the old what used to be known in Latin as condition contrary to fact. For instance, 'if I were he,' etc."

...Perhaps the toughest parental scolding was that which compared the siblings with one another. In a letter that reveals much about the family dynamic, Joe wrote the 11-year-old Teddy: "You didn't pass in English or Geography and you only got 60 in Spelling and History. That is terrible. . . . You wouldn't want to have people say that Joe and Jack Kennedy's brother was such a bad student, so get on your toes."

...Just as important was a note he got from Joe, who couldn't resist a family comparison: "You did a great job winning that event. Scholastically, it certainly fits with anything anybody has ever done before — including your father!"
The simple fact the Globe started the series is a symbol that Teddy won't be around much longer. From what I've read, the push for health care reform the first year of the Obama administration is a thank you for Teddy. It's appropriate to end this with Teddy's "The Dream Will Never Die" speech (part 2).

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