By now it's no secret that I am a student of government and politics. I've spent many, many years studying voting behavior, politics, policy, international politics, conflict resolution, budgets....you name it, I've taken a class on it at some point. I have always been fascinated by politics and I have always loved the passion and the drama of the political scene ( did I mention I was a theater major too?)
But as much as I love these things about politics, I am hardly ever moved emotionally by the issues, actors or outcomes. I have always had an academic approach to politics; sure, I get fired up about issues, but (like a good student) my arguments and opinions always boil down to reason, to what "makes sense."
Two nights ago I watched the speeches at the Democratic National Convention. I have been thinking about this for a couple days now, but I finally have to admit that I have never been so moved about anything political as I was listening to Senator Ted Kennedy give his speech. (Yes, I was actually crying). This is a man who has seen it all. A man who's life and family had been ridden with tragedy. A man who has buried two of his brothers, both of his parents and become a father to all of his nieces and nephews. And while he was doing all this, never a day went by that he didn't spend serving someone: his constituents, his family, his country... This is a man who took it upon himself to carry on the legacy left before him ( a legacy which gave him some VERY big shoes to fill). As I was listening to him speak, and noticing how he was visibly not well, I became so overwhelmed with emotion and admiration for the work that Senator Kennedy has done. Work that began long before I was even born and the results of which will continue long after I am gone, I'm sure.
I think the most impressive part was when he vowed to be on the floor in January, ready to start a new term with a new President. The doctors have said that even just a few months will be a stretch for him, but every person in that room believed him. The statement was just further testament to the resolve of this man, his absolute unwillingness to give up until the job is done.
And it really reminded me that there are people who are in politics for the right reasons, even if it isn't always apparent (and yes, even amongst scandal). And then I felt lame for having removed emotion from politics for myself. Because while emotions hardly win arguments, they certainly keep them going. And if every important argument in this country (abortion, healthcare, social security) were ended by way of rationality, we wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as we've come. So today I salute Senator Kennedy. For his passion (and emotion), his service and his resolve to keeping fighting until the bittersweet end.