Ted Kennedy, Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, passed away today. All of Massachusetts is in mourning.
Listening to the stories about Senator Kennedy, I'm moved to think about the politician's role as "representatives" of we the voters. They ultimately have to answer to us (for the most part). We get to vote them in or out (for the most part), so politicians have to strike a balance between representing their own ideals, and the goals and wishes of their constituents.
When I think about the work of our legislators, I think about how the great ideals of these United States have to be worked on and hashed out between representatives who are really proxies for us, the people. Everyone wants their piece and, by every report, Kennedy understood the meaning behind every phrase of every bill he ever looked at. He's been in the Senate for so long (third longest legislator) and has worked on so much legislation ("no one's even close", said one pundit today) that, by every report, he's seen as a model lawmaker.
But ultimately, the politician's life is a life of gestures. Every hand a politician shakes is the hand of a voter. Kennedy was a master at these graceful touches. Between opposing politicians and between those down-trodden and less fortunate, he was generous with his time.
Kennedy lived as our representative for almost fifty years. He has lived a distinctly American life, marked with distinct tragedies that no one else could bear. Through small gestures and large laws, he has reached out and connected with every one of us voters.
Americans will not see a politician and lawmaker like Ted Kennedy for quite some time.