Kennedy reminds us that we can’t take democracy for granted.
Ted Kennedy: I’m basically a hopeful and optimistic person. In many respects, as long as Americans are going to be involved and engaged, I don’t think it [the US political system] will be broken.
I think when it is really kind of threatened is when Americans lose interest, lose involvement, lose engagement. And it does seem to me this particular year [i.e. 2007]– as we’re coming into the presidential year [i.e. 2008] – the energy, and the liveliness, and the enthusiasm – particularly on our side, the Democratic side and the Democratic candidates – is very alive, and very involved. The polls reflect it, but all you have to do is see the turnouts of people that are turning out and involved and engaged. And I think that’s the most positive indicator in terms of the strength of our democracy. I think that that’s something that we have to gauge.
I don’t want to extend this answer too long, but I remember very well when finally democracy came to South Africa, and there was a person that had been waiting in line, and a journalist inquired and said, “How long have you been waiting in line? And now you’re going to vote.” And he said, “I’ve been waiting in line for 78 hours.” Seventy-eight hours standing and waiting in line.
And then the journalist said, “Well how old are you?” And he says, “I’m 78 years old, and I’m going to stay in line until I can vote.”
We too frequently take the right to vote, and take our responsibilities – and I think it’s the responsibilities of leadership, of citizenship – we take them too much for granted. We’re in for the ride and not for the work, and that I think is something we have to be reminded of.
Recorded on: September 14, 2007