My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”—Ted Kennedy eulogy of his brother Robert
If a torch gets passed to a new generation that is surely happening now. In that thing we can all sense but not name, a new era is here, has been fast approaching, and all we can do is sit in awe of the work in front of us, daunted. But this need not be the case. We can learn from those that came before, those that faced different but similar Herculean tasks; to bring peace to all, to heal illnesses that seem formidable, to bring love where there is pain, and do the work. And it is possible. As they succeeded wildly, doing the unimaginable from curing polio to freeing slaves, so too can we. As they endeavored whole-heartedly, risking all, so too must we. That, so clearly, is the only answer. It is the fight of our lives. It is the torch.
In the short time of his senate career we went from a country of Jim Crowe to a President of African-American descent. From the majority of women not going to college, to more than half in graduate programs and in the workforce.
It is not the time of a few heroes that lead us all like fifty years ago, like history. There are no JFK’s or Bobby’s anymore, no Gandhi’s or Churchill’s or Mother Theresa’s. There are individuals, each one of us, asked to be the great leader in our own life, for the good of all. No one else can do it. In these times we are being shaken to wake up the heroes inside each of us. We must each do it for ourselves and for the world at large. That is this time.
And so I found myself considering when was the last time I dreamed things that never were and said why not? Because if I don’t, who will? While we don’t have them to do the work for us anymore, we can draw strength from their struggles and words and do the work of our time, now. That will be their legacy. How well we do it is ours.