He was far from a perfect man.
There is a better version of ourselves that we can pursue. There are deeper meanings we can invent for our lives. There is nothing written (worth reading) that says that a person must never fall down or err, or speak the wrong words at the wrong time. We're allowed to fail. It's what we learn from that failure that matters.
Call whatever larger meaning you discover for yourself whatever you want to, but do it the respect of answering it honestly. "By their fruits you will know them". Whatever you think of Ted Kennedy personally, the words he spoke at his brother's eulogy make me want to the best version of myself I can be. Listen:
A few more thoughts:
Everyone will be mulling over Kennedy's legacy this week. We'll hear every opinion under the sun as to whether or not his policies were good or bad*, what kind of man he was, and how he fits into American history. It will all be very interesting. What interests me right now is something that occurred to me on the ride back from my sons' soccer practices tonight. Kennedy's story is a great example of the notion of redemption. Kennedy made many mistakes in his life, and inherited a significant family legacy. It wouldn't have been surprising if he had fallen into a certain kind of despair, wallowing in his own degeneracy and defeat, as other members of his family have done. But that's not what he did. Through a variety of tribulations, he seems to have learned from his mistakes and misfortunes, rolled up his sleeves, and went to work. He fought ferociously for what he believed in, but not in a way that belittled his opponents. He passed a significant amount of landmark legislation, much of which I agree with, and think made our country a better one.
The notion I'm taking away from Senator Kennedy's passing tonight is that redemption is possible, and that a life surrendered to higher notions is a life lived right, a life deserving of redemption.
*Kos has a good piece up about Kennedy that I agree with and recommend.