Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Peaceful Evolution of Ted Kennedy

I truly admire people who are nimble enough of mind to allow their opinions to grow and change based on new evidence, insight, and sensitivity. I’m embarrassed to say that I had not been aware of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s gift in this area when it came to the issue of Northern Ireland.

Only in the wake of his death and the coverage of his career did I learn of the degree to which his views on this issue changed, from one of a die-hard Republican (i.e., anti-Unionist) to someone who played a key role in paving the way for peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. And he did this despite the fact that by evolving in this way, he would be upsetting any number of supporters, perhaps even seen as a traitor to a cause.

But in fact Kennedy found a much more elevated and worthy cause for which to fight: peace. He transcended his previous position, locked in an “us vs. them” or “either/or” mentality, to achieve a “both/and” of peace and exclusiveness.

For this, he received criticism, first for those who thought he was turning his back on Irish nationalism, then by conservatives in the U.K. when he received a knighthood. They attacked him precisely because he once held the beliefs he had left behind.

Both groups failed to recognize and credit the growth of Kennedy’s views, views that did not represent a compromise between two sides, but a transcending of conflict to a position that held out promise for all involved.

If you would like to read a brief overview of Kennedy’s involvement in Irish politics and the peace process, see this article at


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