Senator Chris Dodd says goodbye with an Irish wake for old friends in the spirit of Ted Kennedy
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I was very privileged to be part of a small group including Vice President Joe Biden saying farewell to Senator Chris Dodd on Monday night at the Irish Embassy in Washington.
I have known Chris Dodd for many years, spent time with him on many Irish occasions and saw up close his key work at a critical moment on the Irish peace process.
That was when he personally persuaded President Bill Clinton, during a golf outing, to take a chance on Gerry Adams coming to America.
Thus it was with sincere sadness that I went along to say a political goodbye to Dodd, one of the great Irish coterie of leaders on Capitol Hill over the last quarter century.
For Senator Chris Dodd the decision to step away from the U.S. senate came in communion with his old friend Ted Kennedy even though Ted had left this world.
It happened on Christmas Eve last year, in Arlington cemetery where he had gone for the first time to see the grave of his oldest and dearest friend.
It was at his graveside with the Washington he loved so dearly visible in the distance that Chris Dodd finally felt at peace with a decision to forego politics and create a new phase in his life.
It was no easy decision as he told us at a small farewell dinner at the Irish Embassy on Monday night. Between him and his father there was over fifty years of service to the country. There to pay homage was Vice President Joe Biden, a long time colleague in the senate
In the past two years alone Dodd, as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, had been on the battlements fighting for health care reform, Wall Street reform and the financial stimulus package.
His voice will be sorely missed as Senator Pat Leahy made clear in emotional remarks about his old friend
Dodd spoke to a group that included Ambassador Michael Collins, Biden. Vicki Kennedy. Ted's widow, Senator Leahy and Jean Kennedy Smith and Congressmen Peter King and Richie Neal.
He spoke of the fierce determination that drove he and Kennedy in their final years in office to pass health care reform.
Vicki Kennedy testified eloquently to the bruderbond between the two men.
When Ted got sick, she remembered, he had told her Dodd could deliver the health care reform package then in its final phase in the senate.The day it was passed was the happiest she could remember.
Dodd's wife Jackie read from a note she found in Dodd's archives from Kennedy after they had returned from a trip to Ireland together in the early 1990s.
In it Ted Kennedy spoke about rediscovering Ireland through the eyes of his old friend and how much that meant to him.
He wrote about St.Brendan, who many believe discovered North America before Columbus and how as he penned this note, sailing on a stormy sea off the coast of his beloved Hyannis Port, he wondered what horrors Brendan must have endured on his voyage a thousand years earlier. He resolved that he and his friend Chris Dodd would celebrate St.Brendan's Day every year.
Ambassador Michael Collins remembered Ted Kennedy's 76th birthday party held at the Ambassador's residence, shortly before he became ill and the 22 foot kayak he had delivered for Vicki's upcoming birthday earlier in the day to the consternation of embassy staff.
Like any good Irish party there was lots of singing as well. Vickie Kennedy became emotional as the soprano belted out 'When Irish Eyes are Smiling" and "Danny Boy" two of her husband's favorites.Chris Dodd too, wiped away a tear.
It was an Irish wake in a way but the body present was hale and hearty and still has so much to contribute. Senator Chris Dodd will leave the senate a poorer place for his departure.
How many of its current denizens could the same be said of?
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