Notre Dame’s Fr. Hesburgh and Prof. Storin reflect on Sen. Kennedy

The death of Senator Ted Kennedy late Tuesday night means the end of an era for the millions of people who grew up during the time of Camelot.

For a Michiana priest who knew him, Kennedy’s death meant a morning mass in his name. For a former reporter, it was the death of an unnamed source that launched his career as a national correspondent.

Maureen McFadden sat down today for a conversation with both of those men.

“I’ve never before revealed that Ted Kennedy was my source for my story about Bobby going to run. But when a man dies, the restrictions on revealing a source died with him,” says Matt Storin, a professor of journalism and ethics at the University of Notre Dame and a former Boston Globe reporter.

From his office in Decio Hall at Notre Dame, Storin remembered the story that launched his career with the Boston Globe.

“It was 1968, the Friday before the New Hampshire primary in which Gene McCarthy was trying to defeat Lyndon Johnson for the Democratic nomination.”

Storin, a reporter for a regional newspaper, pulled Ted Kennedy off the Senate floor and asked him whether Bobby would run.

“He came out and I said, ‘I hear that your brother is thinking of actually running for president,’ and he confirmed it,” says Storin. “He didn’t want to be quoted by name, but he gave me the details and said, ‘yes, he’s been thinking about it for quite a while,’ and he gave me some reasoning as to why he wanted to do it, which was primarily his passions about Vietnam.”

Storin took the story to press that day, but the national press did not pick up on it until after the New Hampshire primary where McCarthy nearly defeated Johnson.

Storin never got the laurels, but he did get a job at the Boston Globe and the first interview from Kennedy after his accident at Chappaquiddick.

“The most notable of which was his saying that while he regretted the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, the woman who died in the crash, he said, ‘I can live with myself,’” says Storin.

Across Notre Dame’s campus is a man who has known both presidents and popes, and he says Kennedy went on to do good for the American people.

“It was a startling chapter in the history of American life, but I think there are happy memories at the end that all of them served well when they served,” says Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., the President Emeritus at Notre Dame.

“I always admired him, as I said, after a rocky start he really performed well and his office was enormously efficient, probably the best in the Senate.”

Whether you like Senator Kennedy or not, Father Hesburgh says he fought hard for the things he believed in, like health care reform.

“I think his death will leave a big hole in Congress,” says Hesburgh.

Storin says he will remember Kennedy for his politics and personality.

“He certainly was the most unabashed, unapologetic liberal in the United States Senate,” says Storin. “I think his warmth and his huge, outsized Irish personality is what I will miss.”

And while both men see an end to Camelot, Hesburgh says Congress has a chance for Senator Kennedy’s legacy to live on through health care for all Americans.

“They’ll see what he was pushing for was terribly important, and, in a sense, that was the last valiant move of his life,” says Hesburgh.

Father Hesburgh dedicated his morning mass to Senator Kennedy and says he asked the Lord to be good to him in eternity.

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