Kennedy’s Rough Waters and Still Harbors

Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times:

Bookslide4 At the end of his deeply affecting memoir, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy writes about his grandson “Little Teddy” — the son of his son “Medium Teddy” who delivered such a heartbreaking eulogy at the senator’s funeral on Saturday — and his difficulties mastering the family tradition of sailing. The senator told the 10-year-old “we might not be the best,” but “we can work harder than anyone,” and Little Teddy stayed with it, grew eager to learn and started winning races. That, the senator writes, “is the greatest lesson anyone can learn”: that if you “stick with it,” that if, as the title of his book suggests, you keep a “true compass” and do your best, you will eventually “get there.”

And that, in a sense, is the theme of this heartfelt autobiography: that persistence, perseverance and patience in pursuit of a cause or atonement for one’s failures can lead to achievement and the possibility of redemption. It’s the story of how this youngest and most underestimated of siblings slowly, painfully, incrementally found genuine purpose of his own in shouldering the weighty burden of familial expectations and the duty of carrying on his slain brothers’ work. He found a purpose, not as they did in the high-altitude pursuit of the presidency but in the dogged, daily grind of being a senator — of laboring over bills, of sitting through endless committee meetings, of wading through briefing books and making deals with members across the aisle. The resulting legislation — including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program of 1997 — would help the poor and the disenfranchised and those with disabilities, and win him recognition as one of the foremost legislators in American history.

More here.