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O. Max Gardner III on Teddy Kennedy and Overcoming Our Greatest Mistakes in Life.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | August 28, 2009

Posted by Cliff Tuttle (c) 2009

A friend and colleague, who would probably not want to be identified by name, sent me a comment made by O. Max Gardner III, a nationally known bankruptcy lawyer from North Carolina with deep family roots in the Democratic Party. Gardner knew the Kennedy brothers for over 50 years, including while working in the JFK White House.

Gardner says that Ted Kennedy was, unlike his two brothers, a natural compromiser and deal maker. This, he believes, was the secret to his remarkable output of important legislation. Here are a portion of his remarks on Ted Kennedy’s fall and redemption:

“Forty summers ago, on a warm night, the car he was driving on Martha’s Vineyard skidded off the bridge into 8 feet of water at Chappaquiddick. The passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, who had worked in Bobby’s presidential campaign, drowned in the car. Kennedy later called his decision to swim to safety and abandon the scene “indefensible”. He could have used the same term to characterize his own description of the incident. It was a tragedy for the Kopechne family and should have ended Teddy’s career and certainly doomed any realistic hope he ever had to become President.
But, in my view the true measure of Ted Kennedy is that he found redemption from Chappaquiddick in his work in the Senate. He survived a tragedy of his own making that would have unmade any other politician. He understood how the Senate is supposed to work and he made it work. He made his deals and compromised positions and passed some of the most progressive legislation of the past 30 years.
We have all made our share of mistakes in this life. The longer we live the more we make. The true test of a man or woman is what they do with themselves after the mistakes. What do they do after they have been knocked down? How do they get up and what do they do when they are back on their feet? Ted Kennedy, with a gilded name in politics and the weight of one family tragedy after another, was able to overcome it all, to turn the boat around, and to run it hard with the wind in his face for the last 30 years. In this life, all of us are broken down more than once. A few of us are able to turn these breaks into positive events. Many more of us never get over them at all. Teddy Kennedy was one of those rare individuals who was able to overcome a litany of rotten fate, bad luck, bad judgment, and errors of character to remold himself into one of our greatest United States Senators.”



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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