As I was stepping through my morning routine this morning, I heard the news about Senator Teddy Kennedy. The words registered as more of a string of thoughts the talking heads were spatting out rather than an actual fact of something that had happened. That fact suddenly became a reality to me later that morning as I was pulling into downtown, as I do every morning, passing through Dealy Plaza It’s a morning ritual for me to greet President Kennedy with a hearty “Good morning, President Kennedy!” as I pass by the grassy knoll on my way to the office; however this morning, as I began to say the words, my eyes flooded with tears and my daily ritual conversation suddenly escaped me.
“Camelot is over!” That thought hit me like a brick wall in that instant. The final image of a historic dream-sequence that I grew-up with was really over. Perhaps it sounds a bit overdramatic, but if you understood how I grew up, then you would understand the true solace today’s events left me in.
I come from an upper middle-class family who hold values and education in high regard. My childhood however, was more like that of a Hallmark movie. My Mother married a man to whom she felt her soul honestly drawn to. He, their relationship and his very affluent family seemed like one of those childhood “happily ever after” fairy tales that destiny had laid before her. The fairy tale quickly came to an end after my Father returned from Vietnam. This changed man put my family through something I can only explain as an honest, living hell. My Mother protected my sister and me both physically and mentally. It was this mental escape from our reality that became one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me.
I became and avid reader, lover of music and art, and absolutely enthralled by the remembrances of the elders of my family. I would look at photos and listen to stories of their lives at every opportunity I was given. My Grandmother loved books and would talk books and current events with me often. I always wanted to have something new and entertaining to talk with her about, but due to our situation, we couldn’t always buy new books or even the newspaper, so I learned the beauty of libraries. I considered an afternoon at the library to be grand treat! Within the walls of a library were opportunities to learn and escape my life’s current challenges. Perhaps this is why to this day, I consider libraries and bookstores to be my churches and instantly feel a wash of calmness when I walk inside one.
Somewhere during this time period, my Mother realized the depth of my soul and began fostering it with Greek history and myths, modern poetry and stories and of the reality of inequality that existed in my great country. She was able to convey this information to me in a way that allowed my child mind to digest it and my soul to rise to the challenges this information brought to my attention. She shared history with as it was lived and taught by many great people who came before me.
I began to recite the works of Henry David Thoreau as the gospel and the voice and words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. became the guide in my head. President Kennedy, and his brothers became the martyrs upon whom my dreams, and the dreams of millions of others, were placed. The American Camelot became the fairy tale that I told my children rather than the stories of Cinderella or Snow White.
It was these great men that taught me that equality is not a gift to be given as a token of “freeing someone”, but rather it is the born right of all. It was these men that taught me that it isn’t my responsibility, but rather my honor to volunteer to help those whom find themselves in a more precarious position than I might find myself in at that moment. It is these men that showed me that teaching our youth is not something done simply by what one says, but more so by how one chooses to live ones life.
These are feelings that suddenly rushed up into my eyes and sadden my heart in that instant as I passed by the grassy knoll this morning. For me, the last of these great men have now fallen and the torch has now officially passed to my generation to carry on and make better the world they fought so hard give me.