In my job, I got to know Ted Kennedy as a senator and a person. I witnessed firsthand just how hard he fought for Massachusetts and for the people he represented. But Sen. Kennedy also spoke for all of those with no voice in the halls of power in Washington.
As a young college student at Xavier University, I had a decision to make. I was beginning an internship in Washington, D.C., and I had to choose the Congressional office in which to intern. Because I wanted to work for the best, the choice was clear.
I would work in Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office on Capitol Hill. And what an experience it was. I learned about government and what it could do to help people and, as a result of that experience, I knew what I wanted to do.
After graduation, I had the honor and the privilege of working in Sen. Kennedy’s office as a full-time staff member. My job for the senator entailed many duties large and small. When I started, I answered constituent phone calls, arranged tours of our nation’s Capitol for Massachusetts residents, and performed driving and advance duties for the senator and his family. As time went on, I worked on many of the public policy initiatives in which his office was involved.
In my job, I got to know Ted Kennedy as a senator and a person. I witnessed firsthand just how hard he fought for Massachusetts and for the people he represented. But Sen. Kennedy also spoke for all of those with no voice in the halls of power in Washington. He stood up for working people against the powerful. He stood for justice and fairness. And, he constantly reminded America that we are all in the same boat — and that lowering the sails was never an option.
When you saw how much he cared about people and changing people’s lives, you couldn’t help but be inspired. It really cemented for me that I also wanted to run for public office someday.
I also got to see Sen. Kennedy the father, the husband, the uncle, the Red Sox fan, the regular guy. He took a genuine interest in the people around him and he always went out of his way to make friends, supporters and staff feel special.
These personal stories are typical of his thoughtfulness. My wife and I invited Sen. Kennedy to our wedding. While he was unable to attend, he sent us a wedding gift — a framed original print of a painting he painted for his wife, Vicki. On the painting he inscribed, “To Rob and Michelle, with warmest wishes for a long and very happy life together, Ted Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy.”
When my first child was born, we received a heartwarming personal note and a monogrammed blanket for her to sleep with. These simple acts of kindness speak volumes about who the man was. This important national and international figure was never too busy to care or show how much he cared.
Sen. Kennedy once said, “The dream shall never die.” Even today as we contemplate the days ahead without him, the dream lives on. It lives on in the fight for health care for all. It lives on in the battles over justice for the disadvantaged, and it lives on in the lives of those he fought so hard for in Washington.
From President Obama to the Boston City Council, thousands have been inspired to public service because of Ted Kennedy’s work. His legacy is yet to be defined and ultimately will include the service of all of those who admired him, who learned at his knee, and who followed his path to public service.
Rob Consalvo is the Boston City Councilor for District 5.