Friday, August 28, 2009

I owe him

Without Ted Kennedy, my parents would never have come to America.

This is probably the best and most unshakable tribute I can give him. He was one of the chief movers and shakers of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 that, contrary to his own rhetoric, did do quite a bit to reshape the ethnic makeup of immigrants to this country, my own two parents among them in the early 1970s. My mother came in as a medical worker (a nutritionist), my father as a student (and, I suppose, stayed on after school as spouse).

Was his career, or rather the post-1969 part of his career, worth a woman's life? I can't answer that question, but I also never voted in Massachusetts during an election for him. I also don't come of a region or generation that has much use for the Kennedy mystique -- that odd combination of machismo, public service, politics, and privilege -- and I recognize that he paid a pretty high price for his, burying one soldier brother and two assassinated brothers. Teddy did a fairly good job overall of living up to both the best and worst that was ever said about the Kennedys. But I know that because of him, I am here.

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