I met him once. It was ten years ago and I was standing in the men’s room at Bice Restaurant in DC. We were in the midst of the seemingly endless negotiations to establish the Hyde-DC charter school and I guess I was hiding out for a few moments. (As men’s rooms go, this was pretty upscale. All in all, not a bad place to hide out.) Next thing I knew, my solitude was shattered as the door flung open and the man himself entered the room.
I thought to myself, “Geez…. Maybe I should say something.” (Meanwhile, he was doing his thing, oblivious to my presence. Although I didn’t know what to say, I figured it was a pretty safe bet that he hadn’t come in there to talk to me.) So, I blurted out the only thing that came into my mind: “Senator Kennedy, you and I have something in common.”
He responded, “Oh? What’s that?”
I replied, “Fessenden School.” (A junior boarding school in Massachusetts that we both attended.)
The senator broke into a wide grin and proceeded to talk about his days there and those of his son Patrick who also attended. He asked me where I lived and what I did. He praised our work at Hyde and encouraged our efforts to start a charter school in the District.
Simply put, he was one of the nicest guys I’d ever met. While we were talking, his attention was riveted on me. On one hand, it was ironic as my political beliefs have tended to differ with his more often than not. On the other, his genuine friendly nature gave me something to shoot for after we parted ways.
Watching his children and grandchildren eulogize him, I was struck by what his son and namesake said. Referring to his own childhood trauma of losing his leg at age 12, he recalled what he learned from his father: “Even the most profound losses are survivable.”
Suffice it to say that Senator Kennedy’s walk was aligned with his talk on that front.
Onward, Malcolm Gauld