I became a Democrat in November of 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th president of the United States. I was 14 years old and just on the cusp of forming my own moral and political consciousness. President Kennedy's assassination, three years later, shattered whatever illusions I had about the nobility of politics in America. It cauterized my naivete as to the superiority of America's ideals and ushered in a brief but devastating era of the worst form of anarchy--ballot by bullet. It was that mind-numbing insanity that brought down another of my heroes, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in 1968. What idealism about America I had left at that point, bled to death in that same moment.
Today is the first day in my life as a socially sentient being that there is not a Kennedy brother walking the earth--no voice, unabashedly liberal, yet willing to speak with, to, and for those of a very different ideology. Yet, I cannot say that Ted Kennedy was my idol; a hero, yes, but not my ideal. Like every tragic hero whose story has ever been written, he was noble, yet flawed. He drank too much, womanized far too often, and indulged his enormous appetites more than I could fathom. Yet, his voice was raised, in defense of those less fortunate, more loudly and clearly than I could ever muster. He understood his wealth and how to enjoy it to the fullest. But he never forgot that "there, but for the grace of God, go I". For that, I will always admire the man and seek to emulate him.