Vox Populi: The O'Shaughnessy Files

By William O’Shaughnessy | Go to book overview

MARIO CUOMO SPEAKS OF
SENATOR TED KENNEDY

WILLIAM O’SHAUGHNESSY (W.O.): Governor, Ted Kennedy—the “Lion of the Senate”—has gone to another and, we’re sure, a better world. You’ve been interviewed by media from all over the world. Your office tells me you’ve received calls from just about everywhere inquiring about Kennedy. What about his legacy?

MARIO M. CUOMO (M.C.): You said an interesting thing, Bill; you said he’s gone to a better world. I suspect he’s gone to a world that he’s going to make better because that’s what he did while he was here. He was a true believer in giving service, in the sense of doing for the people around him, for the entire community, everything you can do.

That’s the way the Kennedys defined their life, after Joe Kennedy made a “little” money and empowered them with the ability to devote themselves entirely to public life. There was John, Bobby, Ted; and today there’s Patrick and Robert Jr., and the younger ones. And they all do it wonderfully well.

He was the last big member of the Kennedy brothers standing. He became the spiritual force and being of the family. And he also became a force in the Congress with both Republicans and Democrats. Of course, whatever people choose to say about him, and especially people who insist on the language of ideology—as in, this guy’s a conservative, this guy’s a liberal—he was somebody who believes in what Obama believes in. And what I believe in.

And many of us do think there might be a place for ideology, but it’s not first place. First place should go to common sense and “benign pragmatism.” Benign pragmatism means it works and it works for the good of the people. And that’s the way Ted Kennedy defined his own work. In a speech over twenty years ago at Yale, they asked me what I was, and I said I strive to be a “progressive pragmatist.” That’s what Kennedy succeeded in being. That’s what Obama is trying to be. And that’s what Kennedy did—with all sorts of wonderful accomplishments—in the process.

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