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I’ll  keep this short, because really what can I say that hasn’t already been said by those more knowledgable and eloquent?

I think I’ll just stick with a silly little story from my own experience. When I was 17, I spent part of a summer working as a United States Sentate page for the One Hundredth Congress. That was the summer of Iran-Contra hearings, of Bork’s failed nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the announcement of National Dairy Goat Awareness Week. Hey, it can’t all be profound.

My job as a page was basically to deliver and to fetch. Deliver briefings and agendas to the Senators’ desks. Deliver mail to their offices. Fetch them pens and water and deliver them to the chamber.

Most pages hated the mail run. Those halls were endless, and your feet hurt at the end of the day. But I loved it. It got me out of the stuffy office and allowed me to stroll through the capital building, the senate office buildings, and even ride the super-secret capital subway.  By far my favorite office to go to was Senator Kennedy’s. The first time I walked in, I took one look at all the Kennedy family photos on the wall, realized I was staring at originals, and felt the weight of history. If I arrived at that office after an hour of clomping through the halls in hard-soled navy loafers (dress code), my feet hurt a little less once I was surrounded by those images.

The highlight of any day was floor duty. We pages would all sit on the steps that lead up to the podium and await requests for errands, water, notes, pens, etc. You had to be aware of just a few things while on floor duty:

  • You had to be able to recognize every Senator. The fact that many used the same official photo for 15+ years was no great help. It was like online dating before “online” even existed.
  • You had to know their water preferences. Distilled? With bubbles? Ice? Tall glass? Senator Byrd, for the record, only drank distilled water from a certain jug whose provenance was his home state of West Virginia.
  • You had to remember where to stand and sit. There was a protocol for waiting, for being on deck, and for being summoned. The last thing anyone needed was a clumsy or oblivious page getting in the way of important business.

In other words, the last thing they needed was me. The highlight—the absolute highlight—of my time in the the Senate was the day I was next up to help, and Senator Kennedy approached the chair. Here was an icon, a Kennedy for crying out loud, and I was going to meet him face-to-face for at least fifteen seconds.

Turns out my meeting lasted a bit longer. Flustered, I stood in the wrong place, then moved awkwardly to correct course, and ended up tripping him.  He went down most of the way, caught himself with a knee on a step and an arm on the banniser, and pulled himself back up.

I’m sure my pupils were fixed and dilated from fear. And you know what he said?

“Oh my goodness, you are shaking? Are you OK?”

Yes, yes, I assured him. I would recover from tripping him.

“What’s your name, young lady? Where are you from?”

I told him.

“Well thank you very much for serving. And you have a good rest of the summer.”

It sounds and was so small a thing. Except many in that very chamber with half the experience and twice the ego would have excoriated me. But not Senator Kennedy. Never him.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.

2 Responses to “Ted”

  1. Amanda says:

    Well, tit for tat. Now you made ME cry.

  2. goldsteinrita says:

    Me too!

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