This weekend, many people across the nation, me included, are pausing to reflect on the life and career of late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. At the same time, we also recall the tragedy that began four years ago when Hurricane Katrina came ashore in Louisiana. The coincidence of the two events occurring the same weekend has added a degree of poignancy to the already sombre proceedings.
Ted Kennedy knew personal suffering on a level few others can even imagine. That he persevered and overcame not only these tragic circumstances but also the enormous expectations thrust upon him by his family’s legacy is in no small measure a monument to the love he shared with the family and friends he surrounded himself with throughout his life. His passion for life was evident in the love he shared with so many not only on a personal level but also through his legislative efforts on behalf of those less fortunate.
The unprecedented death and destruction visited upon the less fortunate of New Orleans four years ago shook the conscience of a nation. In the time since, it has been the most vulnerable more so than the more well-off who have displayed the most amazing perseverance as they have labored in love to rebuild their battered and broken community. Their commitment to one another and that special place in the crescent of the Mississippi River on the shores of Lake Ponchartrain should inspire us all to make our own communities stronger.
In the stories of both Hurricane Katrina and Ted Kennedy, we can find much to criticize and disagree about. Despite their profound faults, the fates they suffered were well beyond anything either of them deserved. That they were bent, not bowed, much less buried by their setbacks, illustrates the value of faith despite uncertainty, hope overcoming adversity, love exceeding all understanding, and peace resulting from equity and enduring commitment to social justice.
Senator Kennedy worked throughout his career to make us a better country. New Orleans’ experience with Hurricane Katrina reminds us why this commitment remains so important here in America even today.