Memories of Ted will live forever
It was his handshake I’ll never forget, solid and strong. The event was an Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR) rally in Washington D.C. in March 2006.
Although I was slightly intimidated by the enormity of the situation and those all around me, I was somewhat comforted by the presence of Senator Ted Kennedy and his vivacious handshake.
It may have been a fleeting moment but one that I will never forget.
“Hello,” said Kennedy, as he shook my hand and smiled.
“Hello Senator, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” I replied, or something along those cordial lines.
This snapshot moment took place in the conference room the hotel in Washington on March 7, 2006.
Prior to my reporting days I was a sign language interpreter, and it certainly was advantageous that March when ILIR needed someone to interpret at a rally for three deaf Irish undocumented immigrants who had traveled to Washington to hear from the politicians on the ground.
Kennedy was the leader of the pack that cold March afternoon, and he was wonderful.
Not only had I the privilege of meeting the senator face to face, I had the pleasure of sharing space on stage with him.
During my short-lived career as an interpreter in Ireland I had interpreted speeches for many dignitaries, including Kennedy’s niece, Maria Shriver, at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in Dublin in 2002, but never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d meet, let alone have the pleasure of interpreting the words, of Senator Kennedy. It was a day I’ll never forget.
Although that day I shared the stage with many high profile politicians including Senator John McCain and Senator and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it was the Lion that stood out to me.
As he made his way onto the stage he took the time to shake my hand, smile graciously and say hello. He had no idea who I was, but he must have known that a handshake from him meant the world to this Kerry woman.
As I proudly stood before 3,000 undocumented Irish and their supporters I let the words of Senator Kennedy flow from my hands.
“Yes, we can,” he roared while referring to the potential enactment of comprehensive immigration reform later that year.
“We will not give up until we get this passed,” he continued.
He gave hope and joy to the 3,000 undocumented sitting before him that day. He gave me the chills. He wasn’t just a politician that day, he was a humanitarian and a friend to the Irish. I was blown away.
A year later, I again had the pleasure of meeting the senator, this time wearing my reporter’s hat. Then Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern was visiting the capital for his annual St. Patrick’s Day visit. I was invited along as a member of the press to document the visit.
In one of the small rooms off the halls of Congress nearly 20 reporters gathered to witness a brief meeting between Ahern and Kennedy.
Three questions were allowed.
I was lucky enough to have my voice heard over the others. Mine was to the senator.