Wednesday, August 26, 2009


"Many of us here have made it in this country in different ways . . . we have a special responsibility to give a little something back to America," said Joe Kennedy, II, surrounded by more than a dozen members of his family, including his uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.).

By Patrick Alcatraz

McALLEN, Texas - It was a cool mid-September day that year when my editor at The Boston Globe handed me a piece of paper with an address on it and asked me to go see what the fuss was about over at some hotel banquet room in downtown Boston. I took it, reached for my red scarf, and headed out while throwing my overcoat on and walking off toward the stairway that would take me out into the employee parking lot. I smiled when I reached the address and noticed that it was one of the city's better-known hotels. "What now?" I asked myself as I cruised for a parking space. The evening and night would turn much colder that day, but the assignment was one I still remember somewhat fondly: Joe Kennedy, II speaking to the press about his campaign for Congress.

In the crowd was a veritable who's who of Massachusetts Democratic Party politics. Joe had just won the party primary over a field that included a scion of the Franklin D. Roosevelt family and was soon to face Republican consultant Clark Abt in the main election. Young Joe would go on to win the seat, replacing the legendary Tip O'Neill in Washington, D.C. I was struck by Kennedy's energy. He spoke as if he'd already won the seat, and when his sister Kerry walked up to me to say that the family read The Globe religiously, it all struck me as one of those quintessential Massachusetts scenes where the Kennedy charm takes over the room.

It wasn't long before Joe also approached me and said he wanted to thank me for being there. It was a kind gesture I was sure he'd have directed at any Boston Globe reporter who'd have been dispatched to write the story. I grew to know that the Kennedys enjoyed a great relationship with The Globe and with other Boston-area news media. They were royalty, citizens of the Commonwealth known to be gracious and to exhibit class, so much so in this case that U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Teddy to the whole of Massachusetts, took the time to call Jack Driscoll, The Globe's editor, the next day to say a few nice words about my story. "He said to tell you he likes the sound of your name," my City Editor Kirk Scharfenburg told me whan I arrived later in the day. I laughed. My name was as foreign in New England as would be his in my native Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Still, it wasn't all that of the ordinary. New Englanders who read The Globe forever wrote-in to either compliment or criticize the writing staff.

But when my then-wife Narda and my two very young daughters would fan out on weekends, we would always look toward Cape Cod for a little vacation. I recall there was a neat bookstore in Hyannis, not far from the Kennedy compound, where we picked up a few titles and in general walked around enjoying the scenery and the friendliness of the people. I still say Martha's Vineyard is a jewel many Americans don't usually think about when looking for a different sort of vacation. It was always easy to find a smile there. Tourists streamed in aboard the ferry and the ice cream shops were forever busy. Photos we have of those days serve as reminders of the time we spent in New England.

Ted Kennedy died this morning.

I couldn't help but recall my days up there. And, of course, I wish to remember our stay in his part of the country. There was so much about that family all across Massachusetts (the JFK Museum sits on land near the Boston Globe Building) and it forever loomed as some sort of security blanket for the proud constituents who adored the Kennedys. They had their problems (Chappaquiddick in 1969 for Teddy, Marilyn for JFK and RFK), yet it also is true that the Kennedy boys (John, Robert & Teddy) inspired many Americans. They were mortals, but they seemed to care...and, well, that's been missing in too many of our national leaders lately. I can't see myself writing one kind word for disgraced Republicans George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.

Rest in peace, Teddy...

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