Posts Tagged ‘Ted Kennedy’

Letter From New York 03 19 15 With the speech over, back to Delhi…

March 29, 2015

It is always hard to know exactly how well it went when you give a speech, which I did today. Personally, I think it went well. No one fell asleep. There were very few yawns. It was supposed to go for sixty minutes; it went for 90+ with all the questions.

Professor Ron Eglash, who spoke before me, stayed for my speech and when we got into the car to go back to the guesthouse, he told me that I was brilliant! And he’s American, so he wasn’t using “brilliant” the way Brits do, to say that was nice. He thought I was really good and I appreciated it.

Twenty students rushed the stage to have their pictures taken with me so I felt, for a few seconds, like a rock star.

All good.

The day came grey and drizzly today and the grey has never really gone away. Post speech, I’m feeling a bit tired and am going to finish this and then try to catch a few minutes catnap. I’d really love a glass of wine but the campus is “dry” so I will have to wait for Delhi for that.

Now that the speech is done and the conference closed, I have gone back to perusing world events a bit more closely.

Angie’s List has put on hold its expansion in Indiana until it further understands the implications of that state’s Religious Freedom Act. They were about to break ground in a few days on a $40 million building project. In the meantime, the legislature is drafting a “clarification” of the law, which it plans to unveil in a few days. I am very curious to see the clarifications. I’ll still be in India when they come out but I will be looking.

It is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Christian’s Holy Week. Pope Francis prayed for the victims of the Germanwings crash in the service today.

In other Francis’ news, he keeps hinting that he thinks his Papacy will be short, ended by some great event. I hope not. He is popular among Catholics and is stressing Christian themes in a way no Pope has for decades.

In good news for heavy drinkers, it is being reported that coffee counters the bad effects of drinking on the liver. One cup of coffee turns back the dial on three drinks. I predict coffee sales will rise.

Rising slightly are hopes that a nuclear deal will be made with Iran, but only slightly. There are still major differences and it’s not clear they can be overcome. Secretary Kerry was to return to the States for an event honoring his friend and colleague, the late Ted Kennedy. Kerry has cancelled the trip to remain at the negotiations.

Netanyahu says the deal is worse than he feared.

There are no negotiations going on in Yemen. There are lots of dropping bombs. Saudi Arabia claims to have destroyed the ballistic missiles the Shiite rebels seized when they toppled the Sunni government. The Arab League is holding a summit and is presenting a pretty united front against the rebels, announcing at the same time a regional security force.

The situation underscores the tensions between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Places like Yemen and Libya are the grounds now for proxy wars while the two powers attempt to become dominant in the Middle East.

In the confusing battleground that is Syria, the Al-Nursa Front has taken the city of Idlib. As they entered the city, they reported that Syrian troops had executed some detainees before fleeing the city. Al-Nursa is one of the groups, along with IS, vying for power in fractured Syria.

It is difficult to keep the players straight.

Singapore is saying farewell to its founding father, Lee Kuan Yew. The Prime Minister of India is there along with many other world leaders. The city is said to be at a standstill. For them, it’s like saying good-bye to George Washington.

Tomorrow, I leave Roorkee to return to Delhi. The weather looks ominous and so I will be praying for a safe driver. It will be good to be back in Delhi, where creature comforts are a bit more available. Not only is the campus “dry,” it is also vegetarian. I am hankering for some chicken tikka.

Letter From New York

September 4, 2009

A tale of two towns…

Or – as it seems to me…

September 4, 2009

Much of America paused this past Saturday to watch or listen to some of, if not all, of the funeral service for Edward Moore Kennedy, aka Ted Kennedy, Senior Senator from Massachusetts, the last of the fabled Kennedy brothers and the last male of that Kennedy generation –a bridge to the Camelot years – in other words, someone who was, pretty much, a living legend. He was the only Kennedy brother to live deep into adulthood, the others dead young, this one dying, hopefully peacefully, of natural causes – the only one of the four brothers to do so – male siblings felled violently in war or by assassins.

His brother Joe died a war hero; his brother Jack was the assassinated President and Bobby the martyred politician of such fierce promise. Teddy was the one who seemed to be getting his hand caught in the cookie jar of life – at least when he was younger. He seemed a bit of a charming n’er do well, then forever marked by his handling of the Chappaquiddick accident that claimed the life of Mary Jo Kopechne. That incident almost cost him the authoritative voice the Kennedy name and the iconic weight of his siblings granted him. Later he emerged as a statesman, the lion of the American Senate who was able to get legislation passed, pulling foes together for a common good.

He was a large man, florid, his face marked by the excesses of his life, eloquent, determined, witty, and close to the emotional rawness that comes with loss. I only encountered him in person once, long ago, when he delivered a eulogy for a friend’s cousin. The cousin had been a wealthy man, gay, and an AIDS activist who succumbed to the disease in the years just before the cocktail granted life extension to thousands. I don’t recall the words Kennedy said; I do recall they were inspiring and full of meaning, providing comfort to the family. One came away with the feeling that a lifetime of grieving gave him a gateway into that particular experience.

Perhaps that is what we remember most about Ted Kennedy and why we forgave him his trespasses; he buried so many and so many of us grieved with him over his losses. He was so eloquent in eulogizing Bobby that his words regarding his brother will continue to echo as long as Bobby is remembered. We will remember Teddy, as we will all Kennedy brothers, for their words, well chosen and eloquent, delivered with an elegance that has always seemed more European than American.

The Kennedy family seemed quintessentially American while at the same time sophisticated in an almost un-American way – they seemed to lack the rough edges of most of us. Uncharacteristically, the American nation forgave, eventually, the Kennedys their elegance and even began to emulate it and embrace it. That was part of the Kennedy magic – they could and did win us over. Teddy probably should have lost the love of the public. The Kennedy charm would not have been enough if he had not risen above his flaws. Once he shook the expectation that somehow he should be President, he devoted himself to becoming a skilled Senator, learning the job and performing it well. Tempered by all the tragedy he endured, he not only empathized, he acted upon his empathy. Each Massachusetts family that suffered a loss during 9/11 received a phone call from Kennedy, with follow-ups as necessary. If he knew you and you suffered loss, he would reach out. His strength in life was formed by his ability to survive and endure loss. When others experienced it, he reached out across the sad gulf that is grief to comfort.

His flaws were many, his politics unapologetically liberal [truly the last of a breed], his character suspect early on and almost universally admired later. He endured the tragedies visited upon him by both fate and the flaws of his own character, seeking redemption in hard good work for what he saw as the public good. May he rest in peace, at last.