The conscience of the Senate

The Kennedys are a moveable feast in the way that Hemingway wrote of Paris for the young. Experience Paris when you are young, he said, and you will take it with you forever.

In their youth, John, Robert and Edward Kennedy were the young generation within the Great Generation. In The Kennedys at War, Edward Renehan writes about how the young Kennedys rallied to the cause for which Americans pulled together.

The millworker and mailman fought alongside the mogul and movie star. The men fought in combat while the women served courageously as Army nurses and rolled up their sleeves in the factories for the arsenal of democracy.

When that war ended, the young men and women who mobilized to win the war then mobilized to rebuild the world. Never before in history had a nation so victorious in war been so generous in victory.

These were the lessons learned by young John, Robert and Edward Kennedy.

When Berliners dreamed of freedom, Jack Kennedy was there. When Latin Americans dreamed of democracy, it was Jack Kennedy’s picture on their wall.

When Martin Luther King looked to the mountaintop, when Cesar Chavez staged a hunger strike for hope, Bobby was their friend. When Poles dreamed of ending communism, they greeted him with waving arms and standing ovations. When South Africans dreamed of ending apartheid, Robert Kennedy told them of stones thrown in water sending out timeless ripples of hope.

Ted Kennedy embodies this ethic of dreaming big dreams, realized through hard work. He is the conscience of the Senate, in ways reminiscent of Thomas Jefferson’s rules for conducting Senate business.

Today the moguls have high-powered lobbyists and big money to protect their interests. The poor, the hungry, the hurting, the homeless, the despairing and the destitute have always had Kennedy.

It is an even match.

In the Great Generation spirit, Ted Kennedy knows that what matters is having an impact, making a difference, getting things done. He continues to build a massive body of work that touches virtually every aspect of American life.

The conscience of the Senate is about attitude, not party. Working with Republicans, building friendships across the aisle, treating friends with loyalty and adversaries with good will, this is the conscience of the Senate, too.

The conscience of the Senate can be found in Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-Kan.) prayers, in Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-Utah) wise counsel, in Sen. Chris Dodd’s (D-Conn.) faithful friendship, and in the great senators memorialized in Profiles in Courage.

The conscience of the Senate can be found in Bob Dole and George McGovern, war heroes of their generation, war horses of their political parties, still joining together to promote great causes they share.

The conscience of the Senate can be found in the former Kennedy aide who is now a Supreme Court justice, and the young aides today, who learn the lessons that Kennedy teaches, and will someday reach for greatness themselves.

Now Kennedy battles on for himself, for his causes that endure, for the candidate he dreams will inherit the torch, for the Senate he loves, for his hopes for tomorrow.

With a million prayers at his back, with a thousand dreams to inspire his spirit, this conscience of the Senate, this moveable feast of hope still seeks a newer world. As we do, with him.

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then-chief deputy whip of the House. He serves on the Advisory Council of the Intelligence Summit and as contributing editor of Fighting Dems News Service. He can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.