Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy

(February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009)


I was born in South Africa during the brutal apartheid regime.  Being white I did not suffer the horrors that the black people suffered, but helplessly watching how millions of people were denied basic human rights took a toll on me.  But that is a subject for another blog.  Today I want to honor Senator Ted Kennedy for his spirit and courage as an anti-apartheid crusader. Ted Kennedy fought to end apartheid rule in South Africa, and he championed legislation to bring that about. The senator’s passionate opposition to apartheid was greatly instrumental in getting public opinion, and then the U.S. government, to support the release of Nelson Mandela and end apartheid.

 As a South African who witnessed the effects of apartheid I would say that Kennedy’s opposition to apartheid was one of the great moral crusades of our time.  Those who knew him say Ted Kennedy’s opposition of apartheid was an indication of what he stood for.  He found apartheid morally unacceptable and he fought to see it removed.  


Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985

In 1985 when he visited South Africa he said, “While I’m here in that spirit of open inquiry and cooperation, I must say to you quite frankly, that I also come with an abiding commitment to basic human values.  High among those values are a belief in the fundamental equality of all people. A belief in the right of all individuals, regardless of the colors of their skin, to social and political justice. And a deep opposition to the entire concept of apartheid.”

Later that year Kennedy introduced the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985 which imposed economic sanctions against the South African regime. In 1986 Congress overrode President Reagan’s veto and enacted the law which banned all new investments by Americans in South African businesses and the importation of key South African products such as steel, coal, ammunition and food. “The time for procrastination and delay is over. Now is the time to keep the faith with Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu and all those who believe in a free South Africa,” said Kennedy. Those US sanctions spelled the beginning of the end for apartheid.

Spirited Leaders

I have huge admiration for Kennedy’s inspired campaign against apartheid and his courage to do what he believed to be right.  I have been invited to speak  at TCU at a welcome back dinner for students and faculty of the BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program. I will be speaking about Spirited Leaders .  One of the messages I will be imparting is that Spirited Leaders are those who’s ‘We is stronger than their Me.’ Ted Kennedy epitomized this.  We have unfortunately recently seen too many leaders who’s ‘Me was stronger than their We,’ which has created the economic downturn we are now dealing with.  Another message I will share this evening is that Spirited Leaders demonstrate character.  Leadership character happens when the words and actions of leaders are in harmony with the spirit and essence of who they are.  Ted Kennedy was this kind of Spirited Leader.mandela_pic

Nelson Mandela’s Response to Senator Ted Kennedy’s Death

Nelson Mandela today is 92 and in failing health but he still remembers the key support he received from Ted Kennedy.  The Nelson Mandela foundation, said on his behalf, “He (Kennedy) made his voice heard in the struggle against apartheid at a time when the freedom struggle was not widely supported in the West. We remain grateful for his role.” 



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