Edward Moore Kennedy, better known as “Ted,” was the youngest of 9 children of the prominent, wealthy and politically connected Kennedy clan of Massachusetts. Joseph P. Kennedy, former ambassador to Great Britain and self-made multi-millionaire businessman, ran a “tight ship” and instilled a strong sense of public service and ambition in his kids, especially his four sons, Joseph, John, Robert and Edward.
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With the death of the eldest son, Joseph, Jr., in a plane crash during World War II, it fell upon the three surviving sons to realize Joseph, Sr.’s ambitions for a Kennedy presidency, which came to fruition in November 1960, with John’s election as the 35th president of the United States. John F. Kennedy’s term was short lived, however, having been assassinated in his third year of his presidency. Third son, Robert, a U.S. Senator from New York, was similarly shot and killed in 1968 on the night of his primary election victory for president in California.
After Robert’s assassination in 1968, all eyes were on Ted to assume and carry on the quest for another Kennedy presidency. However, Ted’s personal reputation as a philanderer and womanizer somewhat tarnished the Kennedy name, and his chances of ever becoming president of the United States were deemed significantly diminished when he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident when his female passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned in that 1969 accident.
Despite the “playboy” image that hounded Ted Kennedy, and the many tragedies that befell him, Ted Kennedy has, upon his demise on August 25, 2009 from brain cancer, clearly left a positive image of himself and an admirable legacy for his children and the other Kennedy kinsmen.
First elected senator from Massachusetts in 1962 (filling his brother John’s vacated seat), Ted Kennedy thereafter served for 46 years and was the second most senior member of the Senate and third longest serving senator in U.S. history. His oratorical skills were legend and he came to be known as “The Lion of the Senate” because of his lengthy tenure and influence.
In addition to authoring over 300 bills that were enacted into law, he cosponsored 550 other bills that became law.
A proud liberal, Ted Kennedy led the charge for social justice and economic issues, passing legislation covering cancer research, health insurance, AIDs care, civil rights, education, immigration, apartheid, disability discrimination and mental health care, among others. His efforts to bring about universal health care over the years continued until his death.
Senator Ted Kennedy, indeed, has left an indelible mark in American political history and as noted by the Boston Globe, “By the early 21st century, the achievements of the younger brother would be enough to rival those of many presidents.”
The nation mourns the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy, and his efforts to make the country a kinder and better place for all Americans overshadow the missteps and free wheeling image that had characterized his personal life.
Yes, the “Lion of the Senate” roars no more, but his brilliant and lengthy senatorial record has earned for “Ted” Kennedy his prominent place in American history.