The upcoming retirement of Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) ushers in a Kennedy-less era in Congress for the first time since 1963. That year, the congressman's father filled the congressional void left by JFK when he left the Senate for the White House, in 1961.
Of course, ever since 1963 to 1968, when American history seemed to take a series of unexpected and unpleasant turns, many of us have been wishing we could set the caravan of this democratic experience back on what once seemed an expansive and generous direction.
But maybe that's folly. Certainly, the current crop of Kennedys old enough to be in public life don't measure up to their fathers -- even the tawdry Edward M. -- or their mothers.
Maybe it's time to give up on the Kennedy-Johnson era dreams, just as perhaps it's time to set its nightmares to rest, without abandoning the bigger, broader notions on which they rested.
The central aspiration is to see the United States become a just society with compassion for its weakest members, with fairness for all its citizens and with the willingness to lead the world by generous example, rather than the force of arms.
We don't need to close the book. Just let's turn this one page.