The day the world received the news that Senator Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with a brain tumor, a fellow blogger I respect a great deal, Pamela Lyn, wrote an excellent piece that’s been in my mind ever since.
With yesterday marking the 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, I have been reading a number of blog posts on the Kennedy family and their legacy.
Like Pamela Lyn, a Kennedy family member has served in a leadership role in the United States government for my entire life to date. One of my favorite and most memorable books as a child was one on President John F. Kennedy. It was a book focusing on the last 3 days of his life. I attribute that book and my parent’s respect for President Kennedy to my early childhood desire to serve my community and my desire as a teenager to serve in the Peace Corp.
At 14-years-old, I traveled with the All American Gymnastics Camp. While in the Salt Lake City airport, I was in a phone booth (remember those) talking on the phone with my mom. At one point, a large framed gentleman leaned back on my door and it began to open up on me while I was sitting on the little seat in the booth. The gentleman quickly turned around to excuse himself and apologize.
You can imagine my surprise when I found myself looking up into the face of Senator Ted Kennedy!
He was as kind and as gracious and as concerned as he could be. I’m sure he thought I didn’t have a clue as to who he was, but I did! It didn’t matter to him if I knew who he was or not. His only concern was that I was not hurt or scared. He was so incredibly kind.
I have never forgotten that moment.
In 1983, I traveled with the international, nonprofit group Up with People. Part of our tour that year included performances at the International Special Olympics held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
For those not aware of the wonderful, nonprofit organization started by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, I encourage you to take the time to visit the Special Olympics website.
Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world were attending the International Special Olympics that year and the crowds were enormous. (They almost equaled the heat and humidity!) News cameras from more nations than I could count were at every venue following athletes and celebrities alike. What an incredible week in my life.
During that week, I was blessed to have been chosen to participate in a television sports special taping with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Jenner, and some of the athletes competing in the weight training events. To me, Mr. Schwarzenegger and Mr. Jenner were not the most impressive people in the room.
The athletes lit up the gym. They were the stars.
However, there was another group of people that spent the day with us. And they were more than impressive in their nature and their interaction with the athletes.
They were the Kennedy’s.
Maria Shriver, a brother or two and some of her male cousins were our companions the entire day. I remember sitting on a bench with a not-yet-famous Maria Shriver talking about her love for the organization and the athletes. Like her uncle before, she was as sincere and as genuine as could be. There wasn’t one false or pretentious bone in her body as she spoke to me. She didn’t know me and during that moment, it was just us on that bench. No cameras, no microphones, no one else within ear shot.
She was as genuine as they come.
And so were her brothers and cousins.
This is a family that has had its ups and downs.
REALLY big ups and REALLY big downs.
While this is not a family of perfect people by any means — none of us come from one of those — they are a family that has dedicated their legacy, generation after generation, to public service. In the face of some our countries most tragic and sad events involving their own loved ones, members of this family continue to pursue the common good for all.
This is a family with strong roots and I feel blessed to be of a generation that has benefited from so very many of their efforts to make this world a better place.