The recent news about Senator Kennedy's seizure has me reflecting on the "liberal lion." The first political speech I can recall leaving an impression upon me was Senator Kennedy's concession speech to Jimmy Carter at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. I was eleven at the time and quite stirred by it. Many instead recall Senator Kennedy's inability to be gracious to President Carter on the podium and blame him for Ronald Reagan's victory. For me though, this speech by Kennedy stands the test of time. It was a defiant clarion call against the growing tide of callous predatory conservatism.
Unable to restore Camelot's throne, Kennedy resumed his Senate career and became an indispensable progressive advocate within the legislative branch. While the center of political gravity shifted to the right, Kennedy was a powerful counterweight. In 2002, unlike too many of his cowardly colleagues, Kennedy voiced dissent against President Bush's march towards war with Iraq.
Yes, I acknowledge Kennedy's personal failings. They've been well documented. The death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 when Kennedy left the scene of the accident and failed to immediately report it to authorities was despicable. Unquestionably, he got off far easier than the average person would have. If I were a member of Mary Jo Kopechne's family I likely could never forgive him. That said, this country is far better off for Kennedy's service in the Senate.
Below are four YouTube audio recordings of Kennedy's memorable speech divided in four parts. It's words still echo today.