Generations unite, pull through nation’s difficult time periods
My generation grew up in the shadow of the Kennedy legacy: a large, looming darkness that beckoned to service to country, compassion for the disadvantaged, hope for the disillusioned, and above all else a dream for a better world, the will to make it happen.
It did not begin as a shadow, rather a call that rang out from President John Kennedy’s inaugural speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Rather, ask what you can do for your country.” The words served as a beacon for a generation that responded with vigor and enthusiasm.
Many of us remembered where we were the moment the flame holder was struck down, when the flame flickered, and we wondered if a better day would ever come again, if there was a shred of promise for a better world anywhere in the world.
In the years to come, we were buffeted by stormy seas, watched helplessly as those who inspired, lead and challenged us were violently taken from us — Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy —beacons of hope extinguished.
It was in those years that many of us, who aspired to public service, took our careers in different — perhaps we thought in safer — directions. What has formed the foundation for those careers, however, has remained intact.
I don’t know what it would be like to be a child of Rose Kennedy. I do know what is has been like to be a daughter of Helen Timmons Sedgwick, the granddaughter of Bernice Hanway Timmons, the sister of Joanne O’Brien, the aunt of Barbara O’Brien.
My mother said two things to me when I was very young and afraid of the dark: “I didn’t raise a sissy, and I didn’t raise a quitter. There is nothing in the dark that we cannot overcome. I’ll come with you and show you how.”
In that instance, she took me by the hand and walked me around the perimeter of the house in the darkness. She then met me half way around and finally waited for me as I made the entire distance alone, running as fast as my legs would carry me. Safely home.
I thought of her recently in listening to Teddy Kennedy’s funeral, thinking perhaps that with his passing, the flame has finally been extinguished; realizing instead that there is another generation within whom smoldering embers will one day again burst into flame.
A well-lived life simply is not a life lived for self; It is a life in which one is compelled to push forward through the darkness, cleaving the shadows, through which a brighter, better day may emerge. Hope has not died. The dream lives on. The voice whispers: here, take my hand. I’ll come with you and show you how. Walk on.