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Sharing Ted Kennedy With A New Generation

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My husband Jerry Dunfey and I were profoundly honored to be on vigil during the final hour Ted Kennedy’s casket was at the JFK Library before his family brought him to the church for his funeral. The next day one of our granddaughters called to say, “I saw you on TV. How did you know him?” I want her generation to know he championed legislation that greatly improved the lives of women and girls. And I want my grandchildren to know he profoundly touched our lives.

Jerry knew him for more than 60 years since John F. Kennedy’s first congressional campaign. When JFK couldn’t attend an early event, he sent his then very young brother Ted to speak in his place and thus a friendship began. JFK announced his presidential candidacy at a Dunfey Hotel and Dunfeys led campaigns for him, his brothers Bobby and Ted, Sargent Shriver, and many next-generation Kennedys.

Senator Ted KennedyAs an activist in the civil rights and women’s rights movements since the 1960s, I also worked with them, their sisters, sisters- and brothers-in-law and children through political and civic activism that grew into friendship. We worked with Joe's son on Barack Obama's campaign, moved to stand in New Hampshire gymnasiums with Matt almost 50 years after Dunfeys had organized such gatherings for his great uncle's presidential campaign.

In private moments the connection among our families was sustained. At our wedding Ted danced the hora with my Jewish relatives and sang Irish ballads with Jerry's relatives with a gusto described so lovingly in tributes. When sailing into Nantucket, he would chow down on Jerry's homemade lobster stew. Patrick, through his teens, brought his board to surf the ocean below our porch.

Teddy Jr. stayed with us to ski. At the funeral he captured his father's very essence: how he stood by his side with unwavering certainty that he could do anything. Listening to Teddy tell that sled story, I thought about how it was just a decade later when he would throw off his prosthetic after a full day of intense skiing and I realized what a sense of empowerment he’d developed from his dad’s encouragement.

We worked with Ted on the equal rights amendment, minimum wage, family and medical leave. We celebrated as he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. With leadership to pass these and other bills that improved countless lives, he never gave up. In 1982 he sent a handwritten note: “You have shared the challenging times and the winning times with all the Kennedys. For that and your continued friendship, I am deeply grateful. There are nine innings to the game and I plan to play them all.”

Last weekend we were at another one of our granddaughter’s soccer games and realized her generation, before them our nieces’ and, even earlier, our daughters’, played sports because Ted championed Title IX so girls have school athletic funding like boys. My grandchildren and their peers are fortunate Ted played all the innings brilliantly.

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About nadinehack

  • Arch Conservative


    No one cares.

  • Actually, Arch Conservative, many people do care. And the wonderful thing about living in a free country is we’re all entitled to our opinions and always are able to express them.

  • Arch Conservative

    I never said you weren’t entitled to your opinion Nadine.

    Kennedy is nowhere near as beloved throughout the nation as he was in MA. He was no Ronald Reagan….that’s for damn sure. (and neither were his brothers)

    Also I’m 32. Most people around my age and younger don’t give a damn about camelot. Camelot is dead. Maybe not in your mind and in the mind of aging liberal baby boomers in MA but for all practical purposes it is dead.

  • Arch Conservative

    Are you from NH nadine? Are you going to enjoy watching my friends and I bounce Carol Shea-Porter out on her good-for-nothing condescending ass next November?

  • Arch Conservative

    Yeah but the difference between Nadine and I is that I know it el.

  • Jordan Richardson

    And yet you persist…

  • Arch Conservative

    Keeps me from climbing up a clock tower with a loaded rifle Jordan.

    Why don’t you just silently appreciate it and move along.

  • Jordan Richardson

    At least your honest, Arch.

  • Damn, from the title I thought this was an article about cannibalism or organ transplants.


  • I thought this was an article about cannibalism or organ transplants.

    FEH!! Would you eat a chicken infested with cancer? Why should you want long pig in the same condition?

  • Nadine, your article is a lovely tribute to an important man, a person who should be better known and appreciated by younger generations. It’s not essential that everybody love/mourn Ted Kennedy or the Kennedys in general, but I find it appalling that so many younger people feel the need to be hateful and disrespectful in expressing their opposing views. Just another example of our society’s increasing lack of civility — a big issue in the news right now, thanks to Joe Wilson, Kanye West, and tennis players who get so charged up they forget it’s a game. Yes, Camelot is dead — and, apparently, common decency and respect for others with different views died with it. God help us!

  • Baronius

    This thread is the wrong place to demonstrate disapproval of Ted Kennedy.

  • Arch Conservative

    Well Jeanne I didn’t say anything while the liberal fruitcakes had their first million articles and pieces on the greatness of Senator Swimmer but I’m getting a little sick of it and as the author herself stated, this is a free country where we’re all entitled to our opinions.

  • We’re all entitled to our opinions, Arch Conservative; my issue was with your being hateful about it — but I gather from all your remarks here that hateful is your stock in trade.

  • “I gather from all your remarks here that hateful is your stock in trade.”

    Move to the head of the class, Jeanne

  • I should move to the head of the hateful class, El Bicho? I think not. I’m not hateful, I’m critical — and I believe in calling a spade a spade. If the commenters here who so obviously disapproved of Sen. Kennedy had a true gift for self-expression, they could have composed forceful replies that no one could refute; even Mr. Kennedy’s nearest and dearest (as well as the man himself) acknowledged that he was a deeply flawed man. But at least he knew it and made a concerted effort to redeem himself by being a present, supportive patriarch of his family, and a sincere, hard-working member of the Senate; even his colleagues on the other side of the aisle acknowledge that. Frankly, I think the issue here is manners, not politics. The author told a story about a public man who was her personal friend. If you or others found the story, or her, or him, off-putting, you could have either said nothing, or, offered a well-worded rebuttal. But to use a phrase like “Senator Swimmer,” or, as other commenter did, to make references to cannibalism and cancer-ridden body parts? That’s beyond the pale. However, El Bicho, if you’d like to move me to the head of the class of those who fight that special combo of dumbness, meanness and below-the-belt attacks that conservatives have such a practiced gift for, I’d be only too happy to do so.

  • Jeane,

    I believe in calling a spade a spade, also.

    In 1969, Edward Kennedy very likely committed what could either be called negligent homicide or manslaughter, depending on how you define what he did, and how the jurisdiction’s statutes are written. He used his name to hush up details of Mary Jo Kopechne’s death and paid her family a fortune to shut their mouths. He never resigned from the Senate.

    Edward Kennedy should have been on trial, he should have been thrown out of the Senate with all the ceremony of throwing a drunken bum out of a shopping center, he should have served time if he was convicted. But none of these things happened. He was granted a second chance. All of us deserve a second chance, a chance to redeem ourselves, and Edward Kennedy got that chance by not having go on trial or serve time in the slammer. Had his name actually been “Swimmer” or “Schumer” or “Abzug”, no chance of redemption would have even been offered. Not in this world.

    Edward Kennedy never did the HONORABLE thing. He never resigned from the Senate. He just hung on and hung on, while voters desperate for a reminder of the Camelot they had lost, kept re-electing him.

    Kennedy, a rich man who didn’t have to work for a living, could have lobbied for all the good causes he did from outside of the Senate. And he would have been listened to – his name would have been enough to guarantee that. A man with the cojones to walk away from high office after having disgraced it gets listened to – particularly because it is obvious that he is not acting in self interest, but in the public interest. And then young men like “Arch Conservative” would truly sound hateful in condemning him.

    But that’s not what happened. Nadine’s article sounds hollow in light of the man’s behavior when tested – and we who remain – who do not commit manslaughter or negligent homicide, or delay calling the police until we can cover up the story, or pay off the family of the victim to shut them up, are allowed to judge him also. But more important, the Judge On High, Who can’t be bought off with bullshit, also Judges. He Judges with mercy when the occasion calls for it. This is now His problem, not yours or mine.

    For in the end, He is the True Judge.

  • Ruvy, I don’t agree with you, but well, and decently, and reasonably said. Thank you for raising the tone of this discussion.

  • Sorry, Jeanne, I presumed you knew what the phrase “move to the head of the class” meant

  • Jeanne – I think El Bicho was commending you when writing “move to the head of the class”, which I believe is what is being clarified in last comment. I too applaud the free market place of ideas, with hopes that honestly-held opinions are expressed not in potty-mouth fashion. – Nadine

  • El Bicho — I know the expression, but no, I didn’t understand it in context. Excuse me, and thank you.

  • Arch Conservative

    You don’t agree with Ruvy Jeanne. That’s typical. Joe Wilson shouts “you lie” at a president who was in fact lying and he’s the devil in the flesh.

    Ted Kennedy kills a woman with his vehicle while driving drunk and he’s a held up a a hero to the liberal left for 40 years.

    I’m not being hateful at all Jeanne. I’m just amazed at the way people like you and Nadine think.

    Everything Ruvy said about Kennedy is true. Kennedy’s actions in 1969 did cost a young woman her life. He had more than ample opportunity to leave the scene and seek out help. It has been noted numerous times that if there was a two hour window after the auto went into the water where Mary Jo Kopechne’s life could have been saved if help had arrived. But instead of getting help Kennedy went home to sleep it off and consult with his political handlers about how best to deal with the situation to minimize the damage to Kennedy’s career and image. Kennedy held a news conference and gave the Kopechne family money but was never actually held responsible for the incident in any meaningful way that any other person would have been.

    Those are facts Jeanne. Disagreeing with facts make’s one look foolish.

    I always hear the argument that Kennedy was remorseful and made up for this tragedy with an alleged lifetime of good deeds in public service and I always ask if that were your child drowned to death at Chappaquidick would Kennedy’s career in the Senate absolve him in your eyes? Would it justify the fact that while your child was dying Ted Kennedy went home and slept? Would you be mourning him as a great man and a great American hero?

    Don’t call me hateful because I don’t gloss over the hard truths about your Liberal Lion of the Senate Jeanne. The fact is that many many people see the life of Ted Kennedy as I do and not as you do. It’s not being hateful as you claim. It’s being honest.

    Kennedy was a grown man when Chappaquidick happened and his actions say a lot about his character.