26 August 2009

On the death of Edward Kennedy: “the dream shall never die”

Speeches by all three of the Kennedy brothers are to be found in the top 100 American speeches listed on the website American Rhetoric.

For me, one of the most memorable ones by Edward Kennedy was delivered shortly after I had started studying political speeches in 1980: his address to the Democratic National Convention, now ranked at 76th in the top 100.

To mark his death, here are the final few sentences, which, somewhat unusually, end with a 4 part list that has been much quoted since:

And someday, long after this convention, long after the signs come down and the crowds stop cheering, and the bands stop playing, may it be said of our campaign that we kept the faith.

May it be said of our Party in 1980 that we found our faith again.

And may it be said of us, both in dark passages and in bright days, in the words of Tennyson that my brothers quoted and loved, and that have special meaning for me now:

I am a part of all that I have met

To [Tho] much is taken, much abides

That which we are, we are --

One equal temper of heroic hearts

Strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end.

For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

Why lists of three: mystery, magic or reason?
Lists of 3 and other rhetorical devices in Obama’s victory speech
Tom Peters: high on rhetoric but low on content?
When the young Paddy Ashdown surprised himself by the power of his own rhetoric
David Cameron’s attack on the budget used some well-crafted rhetoric
Rhetoric wins applause for questioners on BBC Question Time

In the 'Pros' listed the other day, I included the fact that announcing new blog posts on Twitter can increase the number of visitors to the blog.

It also turns out that there's a more indirect way of this happening via Twitter. Since the death of Edward Kennedy, a lot of people have been typing 'thedreamshallneverdie' into Twitter search - as a result of which, some have found and visited this page.


Chris Lawson said...

When, in January, disgraced Governor Blagojevich also quoted Tennyson at his impeachment, he was rightly ridiculed.

Whatever you may think of the Kennedy brothers, they knew their English literature, and when it was appropriate to quote it. Tennyson's ringing alliterations and his unusual four-part lists, made him a perfect spokesman for a heroic, imperialist age.

Blagojevich defiant, quotes Tennyson

By Carleton Bryant on Jan. 9, 2009

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich says he's not surprised by the state House voting to impeach him, saying that lawmakers have been out to get him for more years, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

During a press conference, he said they impeached him because he tried to provide affordable prescription drugs to residents.

He ended by quoting from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Ulysses": "We are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

Boy, one thing you can say about that Blagojevich — he got class, don't he?

I think he's a little confused about why the Illinois House impeached him, the first governor to be impeached in the state's history. It was about trying to sell his appointment for a vacated U.S. Senate seat, not prescription drugs. Maybe there's something wrong with his prescription. That would explain a lot.

I was surprised he closed with Tennyson. I would have imagined him ending with something more contemporary, such as:

"That's all, folks" — Porkie Pig

"I am what I am" — Popeye the Sailor

or even "Adios, amigos!" — Speedy Gonzales

Lee Heuer said...

Thank you for writing about this speech. It clarified the quote for me and now I see that the last paragraph, was written by Kennedy, himself.(the work goes on, the cause endures,etc. Tennyson, though, as usual was perfect in the context of that speech.