My dad is one of my three heroes. He did some simple things for me as a kid that I didn’t think was so important at the time; some things I don’t even know if he remembers doing.
When John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon in 1960, I was 8 years old. After the inauguration and his “Ask not what your country can do for you” speech, Dad cut out pictures from Life magazine of Kennedy’s new cabinet. He taped the pictures up in my room and said I ought to know who these men are. I remember some of the names like McNamara, Rusk, Goldberg and Freeman. Dad encouraged us to watch local and network news. He said we ought to know what’s going on in the world. He was right.
So, it shouldn’t sound odd that one summer morning, he told my older brother Jim and me that he didn’t need us around that farm that morning. Instead, he told Jim, who had just gotten his driver’s license, to drive us to the Vigo County Courthouse up in Terre Haute for a political rally that would be held at noon. Eldon C. Tipton, a Democrat, was running against long time 7th District Congressman John Myers. It was 1964 and President Kennedy had died 9 months earlier in Dallas. His youngest brother Teddy was coming to Terre Haute to campaign for his fellow Democrat Tipton and he’d speak from a balcony on the west side of the courthouse. I doubt I’d ever seen or been near someone that famous back then, so I was excited. Jim and I parked a few blocks away on Ohio Street and walked across busy Highway 41 to the courthouse a good hour before the rally was to begin.
I remember it was mild and overcast as we waited. A small band played songs and the mayor made a speech about how Eldon Tipton was going to Washington to work for the common folk from the 7th District. After a while, Eldon Tipton and Ted Kennedy stepped out on the balcony. They looked important and confidant. Ted Kennedy looked like he’d just stepped out of one of those expensive clothes catalogs I’d seen out of Indianapolis. I’ll never forget the first thing Kennedy said. He raised both arms to quiet the crowd, and almost yelling, he slowly said, “When Eldon Tipton is elected to Congress the first thing he’s going to do is bring the sunshine back to Terre Haute.” As God as my witness, and I don’t use that phrase often, the sun broke through those grey Indiana clouds like God himself had flipped the switch to make it happen. The crowed went absolutely crazy. Kennedy and Tipton threw their arms around each other and laughed and I don’t remember one more word that was said. I was old enough to know it was pure politician’s luck, but young enough to wish it wasn’t.
A few years back when my first son was very young, we were saying our bedtime prayers. Jack always named the people he wanted to pray for and one night he said, “Dad, can we pray for Wal-Mart?” I assured him that it would be just fine for us to pray for Wal-Mart and we did. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Wal-Mart is doing quite well. Well, we’re adding Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts to our prayer list. We’ll hope that our prayers will make a difference and give him comfort and peace and maybe even part a cloud or two.
See you tonight at 4:30, 5, 6 and 10.