Of all the stories about Senator Edward Kennedy’s early life, the one that resonates with me involves his cheating on a Spanish exam during his sophomore year at Harvard. As a result of this incident, he was removed from the school and ended up enlisting in the military. Unlike his brothers, Edward would not be an officer. He served his country as an ordinary soldier. After two years of service, he returned to Harvard before heading on to law school and then a life of public service.
For all of his shortcomings — and they were many — no one can deny that Edward Kennedy was one of the most successful Senators in US history, and many believe that a large part of this success was a direct result of his being able to understand and work well with all kinds of people.
I can’t help but wonder if that experience – where he spent 24 months living and working with fellow soldiers from a great variety of backgrounds – was a key part of all of this. And I wonder, too, what might have happened if Harvard had simply ignored his offense, if they had simply said, “Well, it was just a mistake, a youthful indiscretion…” Because Harvard did the “hard right thing,” Ted Kennedy learned a painful lesson and was a better man for it.