Friday, August 28, 2009
"The Constitution does not just protect those whose views we share; it also protects those with whose views we disagree." -Edward Kennedy
When I was 9, I took my first trip to Washington, DC. I'm not one of those people who remembers everything about her childhood. In fact, the big overarching memory I have is just constantly being happy. And to me, that's memory enough. Certain memories though I remember so many details that I could write a book on that certain experience. One of those is meeting Senator Edward Kennedy.
One afternoon we were in the capitol building. My mom somehow ended up in the seat of the capitol subway next to Senator Kennedy. Not wanting to crowd him, she moved as far as she could to her side of the seat they were sharing . He looked over and said to her "you can scoot over mam." The way he said it and the small talk he made with us until his stop made us feel so comfortable. He told us he was running late to vote on a bill. When we arrived at our destination, my mom whispered to me, "ask him for his autograph."
I mustered up the courage and asked "Senator Kennedy, I know you're in a hurry, but do you mind to give me your autograph?" He put his briefcase down, smiled, and said "of course I don't mind. What's your name?" I handed him the paper and pen I wanted him to autograph and said "Ashley." He looked up and said "how do you spell it?" That stunned me. At 9 years old, the spelling of your name is important. A-S-H-L-E-Y is the most common spelling of Ashley. Sometimes though the end is spelled L-E-I-G-H or L-E-E. I was so impressed that he cared enough to get the spelling of my name right. That spoke volumes to me. This man, in a hurry to vote on what was I'm sure a very important bill, in my country's capitol, cared how I spelled my name. I sat down being aware that I was in the presence of a powerful man but after the dialogue with him, I knew I'd also been in the presence of a great man.
From that point on, I've been enthralled with politics. Even when I hear bad things about a politician, I repeat over and over again to myself, "they are good at heart, they are good at heart." One of my favorite quotes, is one by Anne Frank that says "despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart." Her words have always amazed me. I think of what she went through during the Holocaust and think "how in the world was she still so positive?" But I guess the same could be said for my outlook on politicians. Despite the media running stories about corruption and affairs, I still believe the majority of politicians run for their offices with the intent of being public servants. I think many times they get sidetracked and become enamored with the money and power. That is sad. I pray though that most of them will stay focused on doing what is right. Naive, maybe. The alternative though, being bitter and negative, doesn't sound appealing to me. So I continue to hold a high level of respect for politicians.
I really liked and respected Senator Kennedy for the same reason I really like and respect John McCain. He reached across the aisle. He was known for that. A maverick like McCain on certain issues, like health care, but still able to speak to those who were on the other end of the idealogical spectrum. John McCain and Edward Kennedy were friends. Completely different views on multiple topics, but friends nonetheless, because they both deemed it important to embrace and not just tolerate those with different views. Sometimes when I'm in a heated debate with a friend about something, hellbent on being right, I remind myself that preserving the friendship trumps winning the argument. Because at the end of the day, nothing is worth more than relationships with others. I like to think that Kennedy had this view also.
The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die. -Edward Kennedy