There is a small cafeteria right off the floor of the US Senate where only Senators and their guests are allowed to eat. In 1974 former U.S. Senator Tom Eagleton took me there on my first day of new staff orientation. Sitting mostly by themselves, ignoring each other while reading newspapers or simply enjoying “down time” sat U.S. Senators Jacob Javitz, Ed Brooke, Frank Church, Ed Muskie, Birch Bayh, Hubert Humphrey, Gaylord Nelson, Barry Goldwater, Alan Cranston, Walter Mondale, Robert Byrd, Bob Dole and Ted Kennedy.
Sen. Kennedy was sitting at the table next to ours minding his own business. Suddenly, he jumped out of his chair to greet five young boys who had just entered the restaurant. The Senator was smiling, shaking hands and beckoning for a Senate photographer. Soon the photographer arrived and each Senator took a picture with and received an autograph from these young boys. I did not immediately recognize these young boys until Senator Kennedy introduced us to the Jackson Five.
As we mourn the passing of Senator Kennedy, I will remember this silly incident where Senator Kennedy became the “adoring fan” of a group of young entertainers. Most of his life Senator Kennedy was the person who the public asked for photos with and sign autographs. I was fortunate to see a quick glimpse of a different side of this likeable and powerful public servant.
Rest in Peace Senator Kennedy! We will miss your leadership. One can only hope that Congress will soon agree on the health reform provisions that you so diligently fought for throughout your distinguished career, and hopefully when that day comes, it will cause you to smile in heaven!