Former six-term state Rep. Richard “Stretch” Kennedy, R-Hopkinton, died last week at the age of 80. Stretch was an old-fashioned New Hampshire character. If he did not exist, a novelist would have had to create him. The tributes that flowed out of the mouths of allies and oponents alike last week ought to be a lesson to anyone who harbors political ambitions.
At a time when Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on what color the sky is, everyone agreed that Stretch was a friend. That word was used over and over last week, even by Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley, who served with Kennedy in the House. Democrats who call other Republicans “extremists” and “whackos” for supporting the exact same policies Stretch Kennedy supported were effusive in their praise of the gentle giant’s character.
That is the other word that kept coming up last week: character. Stretch Kennedy had it, and that was obvious to everyone.
Kennedy could be blunt and adversarial when defending his principles, but he was not mean. He fought for ideas, not against people. The bipartisan tributes to him are a testament to the power of his personal warmth. If more people engaged politics with as he did — with passion and good humor — the world would be a better place. R.I.P.