One of the best eulogies for Sen. Ted Kennedy was actually one given a year before he died, by Sarah Vowell in the New York Times:
ON Monday night at the Democratic National Convention, Caroline Kennedy introduced a tribute to her uncle, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, by pointing out, “If your child is getting an early boost in life through Head Start or attending a better school or can go to college because a Pell Grant has made it more affordable, Teddy is your senator, too.”To my surprise, I started to cry. Started to cry like I was watching the last 10 minutes of “Brokeback Mountain” instead of C-SPAN. This was whimpering brought on by simple, spontaneous gratitude.
I paid my way through Montana State University with student loans, a minimum-wage job making sandwiches at a joint called the Pickle Barrel, and — here come the waterworks — Pell Grants. Thanks to Pell Grants, I had to work only 30 hours a week up to my elbows in ham instead of 40.
Ten extra hours a week might sound negligible, but do you know what a determined, junior-Hillary type of hick with a full course load and onion-scented hands can do with the gift of 10 whole hours per week? Not flunk geology, that’s what. Take German every day at 8 a.m. — for fun! Wander into the office of the school paper on a whim and find a calling. I’m convinced that those 10 extra hours a week are the reason I graduated magna cum laude, which I think is Latin for “worst girlfriend in town.”
Twenty years after my first financial aid package came through, I have paid off my college and graduate school loans and I have paid back the federal government in income taxes what it doled out to me in Pell Grants so many, many, many, many times over it’s a wonder I’m not a Republican.
[...] I am a registered Democrat. That first night’s convention speech by Senator Kennedy about his life’s work reminded me what being a Democrat means. I have spent the last eight years so disgusted with the incompetent yahoos of the executive branch that I had forgotten that I believe in one of the core principles of the Democratic Party — that government can be a useful, meaningful and worthwhile force for good in this republic instead of just an embarrassing, torturing, Book of Revelation starter kit.
The emphasis is mine, and it pretty much sums up what I believe to be the major ideological difference between the two parties today: Democrats fundamentally believe in government, while Republicans don’t. And based on the historical evidence, that’s why I’m a Democrat.
It’s a great piece. Read the whole thing.