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Robert A. Mills

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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

CAMELOT IS CLOSED
9/14/2009 8:31:11 AM    [ Flag as Spam or Inappropriate ]

When I was a kid back in Ohio and Virginia, I wanted to be a Kennedy when I grew up. Not Teddy, of course (we were the same age,) but I was enamored of Joe, Jr., John, and Bobby—Bobby, I think, more than the others.

Their father, Joseph, Sr., even looked a little like my own dad—the glasses, thin, straight hair, the sharkskin, double-breasted suits. The main difference, however, was my father, impeccable dresser that he was, never earned more than $25 a week as a shoe salesman at JC Penney during the Great Depression. We lived in poorly heated, 2-room, cold water flat over a meat market for a long winter in downtown Kenton, Ohio..

But I knew of the Kennedys of Massachusetts, and I fantasized I was a younger brother. Of course, we were Protestants who knew only that Roman Catholics were misinformed aliens from another planent, and we followed the religious purity of our paternal grandmother who taught us the sanctity of midwestern Fundamentalism as being the only bedrock of Christianity. Politics was the domain of Grandma’s husband who taught us that we were to adore FDR and avoid Republicans as fervently as we abhorred Roman Catholics.

Notwithstanding the necessity for secrecy, I often entertained the notion I was, in my heart of hearts, a Kennedy.

Years later, when John became our 35th President, I was ecstatic. By then I was well on my way to becoming a broadcasting icon in Western New York—the epitome of an inflated Big Fish in a very Small Pond—and a vivid memory is of the September day a yet-to-be-elected JFK came to town and rallied at the hotel across the street from our radio and TV studios.

As I stood in the 7th floor window watching the young candidate’s limo arrive, our executive producer came up behind me and shouted, “What are you doing, you idiot? You’re supposed to be on the air in the studio!”

Assigned to radio at that hour, I told him there was a long-playing record on; I wanted to see the President.

“You’re going to see the president of this company,” he screamed, “who’s gonna fire your ass outta here if you don’t get back in that studio!”

It strikes me as ironic that Ted Kennedy died just two days before the forty-sixth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial. When John—then King and then Bobby—was assassinated, I thought the America I knew and loved had come to the end of the road. In desperation, I attached myself to Teddy Kennedy and banked all my chips on him. Even the horror of Chappaquiddick did not dissuade me. I was not there, and all of know of it is what the press reported and Teddy admitted. Beyond that, I cannot sit in judgment.

What I do know is that I thought the youngest Kennedy brother was indestructible. It seemed an impossibility that anything so mundane as a brain tumor could do him in. His record alone as our greatest U.S. Senator would keep him forever in good stead. He and I would grow old and older together.

But it was not to be so.

Joe, Jr., John, Bobby, and now Teddy are gone. An era not only has ended, a saga is complete. The Kennedy regime is finished, Camelot is closed, our unofficial royal entity is no more. All that is left is the legacy of greatness, a greatness that fomented, grew, engaged, prospered, served—and died.

In the throes of our national grief, I recall the words of the American novelist William Faulkner when he went to Stockholm in 1950 to accept the Nobel Prize for Literature: “ . . . the basest of all things is to be afraid . . . leaving no room . . . for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the universal truths lacking which any [life] is ephemeral and doomed [without] love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.. . . . The [politician’s] voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”

Although the brackets are mine, I am rock positive that we, as Americans, will not just endure. We shall prevail.

I know . . . because Big Teddy told us so.

Copyright © 2009 by Robert A. Mills


Comments (2)

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