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LARENAI SWANN’S WAYS! Kwame Holman discussed Ted Kennedy—and a beautifully poised third-grade child: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, AUGUST 29, 2009

Larenai Swann’s ways: Assessments of Ted Kennedy’s life and career will of course continue. Rarely mentioned: Thanks to Kennedy’s office—or so we were told—we were able to attend the second game of the 1967 World Series! Granted, our seats were way out in right field. But Jim Lonborg pitched a one-hitter that day, and we were there to observe it. We can thus vouch for this box score.

That said, we strongly recommend one part of the NewsHour’s Thursday night report (click here). This segment concerned Senator Kennedy’s involvement in a public school reading program.

For tape of Kwame Holman’s report, see below. As he started, Holman described the way this senator was being remembered “elsewhere in the capital:”

HOLMAN (8/27/09): In Washington, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled a rendering of Kennedy by the pop artist Andy Warhol.

Elsewhere in the capital, Kennedy was remembered not as the scion of a political dynasty, but as a gentle and unassuming tutor. Kennedy was for years one of a cadre of senators and congressional staff who worked with children as part of the national "Everybody Wins!" reading and mentoring program. Third-grader Larenai Swann read with Kennedy at Brent Elementary School.

Holman aired tape of an interview with Swann, an adorable, beautifully poised third-grade child. We strongly recommend that you feast your eyes on the good cheer of this lovely young scholar. You will see her describing the start of her friendship with Senator Kennedy. Don’t miss her burbling laughter:

LARENAI SWANN: I remember the first time he came and read with me.

INTERVIEWER: Was he funny?

SWANN: We played “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Whoever won would read the page. [chuckles]

But Senator Kennedy won, so— [chuckles]

And we took turns reading.

“It was not until she returned home that first day that she learned who her new, special tutor was,” Holman said:

SWANN: The first day I went home, my mom and my grandmother told me.

INTERVIEWER: And what did you think?

SWANN: I thought, “Wow.”

Holman played tape of Swann’s mother, Yumica Thompson, who had given her daughter some good sound advice:

THOMPSON: When I found out, I was like, "Oh, OK, that's pretty interesting." I told her that, you know, that that's pretty big, and just go in there, read your best, and do your best, which she did. She actually fell in love with him. He had a great personality, so I guess it put her at ease to read more.

But then, young Swann has a great personality too. Given what Holman’s tape revealed of this third-grader’s ways, we would have to guess that the gains ran in two directions.

“Just before his cancer diagnosis, Kennedy sent Larenai a birthday gift: a children's book written by the senator, with an inscription to her,” Holman reported. We were struck by what Swann said in this Q-and-A:

HOLMAN: Last year, when Kennedy took ill, he made a point of sending his young charge a letter, to tell her he could no longer assist her.

SWANN: It said that he really enjoyed reading with me and he was sick, so he couldn't come anymore.

INTERVIEWER: How did that make you feel?

SWANN: It made me feel sad that he was sick.

How do we humans manage to do it? How do we move from the generous reactions of eight-year-old children to the crabbed outlooks we often display once we get a bit older?

Larenai Swann is an adorable child, who seems to be blessed with a wise, loving mother. That said, problems were lurking in Holman’s report—problems which must have been fairly obvious to any progressive or liberal.

To wit: Is it possible that there are tea-baggers, or even bigots, in this child’s family? Someone who doesn’t believe in same-sex marriage, for example? (In the modern liberal world, such people are often derided as “bigots.”) Surely, Kennedy would have checked such things before he established his friendship with Swann. Yet Holman said nothing about such a screening. This suggests the possibility that Kennedy didn’t check before investing his time in this manner.

Alas! It’s the obvious problem with all such programs, including universal health care! If health care is available to everyone, after all, it will be available to tea-baggers too—and to tea-baggers’ children! Is this a good use of public funds? Good public policy? Any true progressive would ask.

Holman ducked an obvious question this night. On the other hand, he aired tape of a beautifully-poised third-grader. We’d say that Swann is a tribute to her mother and grand-mother—and to inner light.

To observe Larenai Swann’s ways, just click here. Holman’s report on this lovely child begins about 2:30 in. We recommend the photo of Kennedy and Swann, smiling out into the camera.

Monday: About some very strong score gains. (To read ahead, just click this.)

About that ball game: We can still see Julian Javier’s low line drive down the left field line—in the eighth inning, no less! We sat next to a decent young person who would later be widely reviled.