In saying "kennedy" Obama conjures a feeling of our collective potential for being and doing good-—Ted’s life becomes the physical manifestation or embodiment of our country’s moral aspirations and identity.
I like watching my president because he consistently speaks to my higher self—he rises above my petty instinctual desire to simply conquer and come out victorious (as if that were ultimately satisfying?). In debate after presidential debate, McCain made me so mad that I just wanted to watch Obama stomp him, and I regretted the easy hits Obama missed. But he graciously never did that--and he was right not to. He always takes the higher road, not because he’s arrogant or pious, but because he sees what’s important, he sees through to the higher goal. And the point is, it’s NOT personal but rather it’s an issue of the collective public good. I want to be with him on that road! I feel better traveling there than when I get little and petty and street fight. I like the idea that there’s something bigger than me being right, and I love that Obama helps me see it.
I was particularly moved by the speech last night when the president evoked the weight of the kennedy name, a name that has a resounding iconic echo. A name that connotes America’s recent LIVED significant social change. With no need to speak of specifics the name itself conjures an era of ugliness: the hoses on Alabama, Edmond Pettus bridge, MLK, the four girls in the church bombing. We HAVE realized civil rights and societal change—basically within our lifetime. In saying "kennedy" Obama conjures a feeling of our collective potential for being and doing good—Ted’s life becomes the embodiment of our country’s moral aspirations and identity.
What better legacy, what better way to honor the recent death of the great lion than to relate him to America’s own large heart. Teddy becomes a parable, the embodiment of the American aspiration—here is a man who devoted his life to the cause, and succeeded in making friends and alliances with those who robustly disagree with him. And although he held on to a strong left liberal stance all of his life, he did so with integrity and vision and he remains deeply respected by the other side. This man is a specific example of the higher general principal involved which touches on the goodness of humanity, shows us that it is achievable, that indeed we have achieved it in the past, and that indeed there IS hope. Obama’s likening the heart and character of our country to that of the late senator honors us all.