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Ted Kennedy on Principles & Values

Democratic Sr Senator (MA)


2008 endorsement seen as passing the torch of Camelot

In the run-up to 2008, Kennedy had been courted avidly by Edwards, Obama, and Clinton. The day after the SC primary, Teddy offered his own endorsement.

"There was another time, when another young candidate was running for president and challenging America to cross a New Frontier," Kennedy thundered. "He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic president. Harry Truman said we needed 'someone with greater experience.' John Kennedy replied" 'The world is changing. The old ways will not do It's time for a new generation of leadership.' So it is with Barack Obama. He has lit a spark of hope amid the fierce urgency of now."

The overt passing of the Kennedy torch touched something in Obama. Gazing out of the crowd of euphoric college kids, overcome by what the media would describe as a "Camelot moment," he found himself choked up. The Kennedy effect on Obama's fortunes was hard to overstate. For superdelegates, Ted's stamp of approval was at once a potent symbol and a permission slip.

Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.217-222 , Jan 11, 2010

OpEd: Media covered up death of Mary Jo Kopechne

New York Times reporter James Reston was there to cover up a Kennedy family misadventure. If you've ever wondered how it is that, in a county with open press, Mary Jo Kopechne's death at Chappaquiddick could remain a mystery, here's your answer! Vacationing on Martha's Vineyard when Senator Teddy Kennedy drove Mary Jo Kopechne off the Chappaquiddick bridge, Reston dictated his story over the phone to the Times offices in New York. His 1st sentence was: "Tragedy has again struck the Kennedy family." He finally got around to mentioning the name of the dead girl in the 4th paragraph. Even the Times's editors recognized that the "tragedy" might have been a little greater for the Kopechne family than the Kennedy family and rewrote Reston's story. A different reporter was immediately dispatched to cover the incident. That evening Reston announced to the new reporter: "The story is over."
Source: Guilty, by Ann Coulter, p.119-120 , Nov 10, 2009

Mother's father Boston mayor; father's father state rep

At the time of my birth, 1932, Dad had accumulated most of his fortune in the still young Hollywood movie industry. In 1928, my father had greatly increased his wealth by buying & consolidating 2 small movie-related businesses into Radio-Keith-Orpheum-- RKO. He'd protected that fortune by phasing out of the market several months before the crash in Oct.1929.

My parents' marriage in October 1914 united the Boston Kennedy and the Boston Fitzgeralds. I was born Edward Moore Kennedy, after my father's longtime personal secretary, confidant, and close family friend. Eddie Moore had been an assistant to three Boston mayors, including John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, my mother's legendary father.

The Irish Catholics had established a small middle class, which overlapped with a strong and tightly knit political class. Honey Fitz was an example of the latter. My dad's own father, Patrick Joseph, lived in both. He was the soft-spoken owner of three saloons, and a leader of East Boston's Democratic Party.

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p. 37-38&46 , Sep 14, 2009

1939: lived in London as child of American Ambassador to UK

In February 1938, within days of my sixth birthday, Joseph Kennedy sailed fro London to take up his duties as President Roosevelt's newly appointed ambassador to the Court of St. James's. History shows that Roosevelt, whose campaign Dad had vigorously supported, had conferred the appointment despite my father's lack of diplomatic experience in hopes that Dad could negotiate an important British-American trade agreement, and that his famous bluntness would give the administration an unvarnished pipeline into Britain's responses toward Nazi Germany.

I marched up the gangplank of the USS Washington to join Dad in London. Kathleen, Rosemary, Bobby and I lived at the American ambassador's residence with our parents, while Eunice, Pat and Jean boarded at a nearby convent.Bobby and I met Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at Windsor Castle. We danced with each other. I doubt that any of us children made a huge impression on any other.

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p. 49-52 , Sep 14, 2009

1951: caught cheating & suspended from Harvard for one year

I threw myself into spring football drills, to the extent that my grades suffered, my Spanish grade especially. I worried that if I flunked or made a D on the final exam, I wouldn't be eligible to play football in the fall.

A friend jokingly suggested that I let another buddy, Bill Frate, take the exam for me. Bill told me that if I wanted him to do it, he was willing. To my lasting regret, I said, "Great." I didn't think it through. I made an immature, spontaneous, extremely poor and wrong decision.

Bill took the exam--under the eye of a proctor who happened to be his adviser, and who knew he'd already passed a Spanish test. Which had exempted him from having to take the course. Harvard sentenced each of us to a year's suspension. We were told we could come back if we'd done something useful with that time.

I felt terrible. I knew I'd screwed up. I wanted to prove myself and return to Harvard. Serving in the military made the most sense.

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p. 95-96 , Sep 14, 2009

Chappaquiddick was horrible accident, but I was responsible

On Chappaquiddick Island, there was a reunion of the six young women who'd served on Bobby's campaign staff. That night ended in a horrible tragedy that haunts me every day of my life. I had suffered sudden and violent loss far too many times, but this night I was responsible. It was an accident, but I was responsible. I purchased airtime to discuss the details, [and said more] at the inquest in 1970. And that, aside from many apologies, to the Kopechne family, & to my fellow citizens, has pretty much been the extent of my public comment.

I have been told that 20 books have been published that deal in while or in part with what has been known as "Chappaquiddick". I have not attempted to knock down each of these theories.

My thoughts through the hours that followed the accident were disrupted by shock, terror, and the concussion that I received on impact. In any event, I gave testimony about those events at the time, and that testimony is the best evidence of the chronology of that evening.

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.288-289 , Sep 14, 2009

Inspired by JFK's & RFK's legacy; but not their surrogate

My brothers established a soaring standard for public service, and that their standards to a great extent has defined my life and my aims. I have always measured against that standard. Jack and Bobby were my heroes.

But my concept of myself as presiden had little or nothing to do with Camelot. The era that shaped Jack & Bobby had passed. The present era was quite different in mood, in collective experience, and in the challenges the nation faced. Jack's and Bobby's great legacies inspired me, but cold reason told me that I could not run as their surrogate, nor could I govern according to their templates. My goals, my style would derive from my own judgments as to what I wanted to accomplish.

The most important reason I declined to make the race in 1968, aside from my debilitating grief, derived specifically from that refusal to be a surrogate. I knew that if I ran, I wouldn't be running as myself. I wasn't ready. In 1972, it still felt too soon, and my son's health took precedence.

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.343-344 , Sep 14, 2009

1980: Lost Iowa caucus due to Secret Service impositions

On Jan. 21, 1980, I looked at the numbers and said, "I'm going to win this thing." I didn't win it. We'd misread that surge of Democrats who favored me. They were a minority faction in a turnout of more than 100,000 people. And most of them declared for Carter.

I could not believe it at first. I had campaigned with everything I had. I'd visited Iowa's cities and towns again and again. What had gone wrong?

I finally got the answer from Harold Hughes, the former Iowa governor: "You'd arrive in one of these little towns, and there'd be a 100 people waiting for you. But you'd bring 20 Secret Service agents with you, and they would be pushing people around, telling them to sit over there. And then there would be 30 TV cameras. Now, when I campaigned in Iowa, I'd shake everybody's hand."

Hughes's folksy approach made sense to me. Unfortunately in my case, it was an impossibility. The Secret Service agents and the TV people were following me around, on the assumption that I was a marked man.

Source: True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy, p.374-375 , Sep 14, 2009

Endorsed Obama despite intense pressure from Bill Clinton

Kennedy admired Clinton but felt she was wrong for the times. A successful candidacy in 2008 had to be an outside-Washington effort. You couldn't be a Washington insider to run, and Clinton appeared to be positioning herself in just the wrong way. Kennedy believed the time was right for Obama and that Clinton was, as an associate put it, "the past."

The Kennedys and the Clintons were the royalty of the Democratic Party, their reigns stretching over half a century of national and party politics. Throughout the month of January 2008, as Obama and Hillary Clinton battled through the early states, Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton were engaged in a behind-the-scenes struggle over Kennedy's endorsement that reached a crescendo just as Obama was winning South Carolina.

The day after Iowa, Bill Clinton called Kennedy. The former president believed he had been good to the Kennedys when he was in office, recalling to aides what he had done over the years.

Source: The Battle for America 2008, by Balz & Johnson, p. 169-177 , Aug 4, 2009

Family tradition of service including constituent caretaking

Uncle Teddy, as he was known to dozens of his nieces and nephews and their progeny was always eager to help the younger Kennedys with their civic efforts. He saw these good deeds as part of the family's legacy, and himself as the essential caretaker of that legacy.

He had exhorted his own kids, and the many for whom he functioned as a second father, to carry on the tradition of service established by his famous brothers Jack and Bobby, as well as the ritual caretaking that went with it. Even if, in truth, Jack and Bobby had done relatively little hand-to-hand greeting of everyday constituents--and neither particularly enjoyed it--the gregarious Ted had spent 40 years hosting and attending charity events, shaking hundreds of thousands of hands.

Source: Last Lion, by Peter Canellos, p. 2 , Feb 17, 2009

1992: Marriage to Vicki provided stability

Ted's decision to remarry caught many people off guard. But Vicki Kennedy wasted little time making clear their partnership had been long in the making, and that she had no intention of playing the retiring backstage wife.

The public unveiling of their alliance had come over Labor Day weekend in 1992, when the couple invited more than a dozen interviewers to the family compound in Hyannis Port. Giggling and holding hands, the newlyweds sat for a series of glowing portraits that contrasted sharply with the ugly press he'd gotten. A slimmed-down Ted seemed more relaxed than he had in years, using the term "stability" to sum up the changes marriage had already wrought in his life. "I don't think there's any question that my relationship with Vicki has had a very profound, welcome, happy impact," he told one reporter. Asked if the union could prove politically advantageous to Ted, Vicki did not duck the question, conceding that it might. But, she added, "It's certainly not why we went into this."

Source: Last Lion, by Peter Canellos, p.292 , Feb 17, 2009

2008: Pass the torch to a new generation of Americans

Many conservative Republicans advocated an "enforcement only" approach to the problem--essentially taking dramatic steps to seal the border and to deport any illegal workers who could be caught.

Ted and Bush happened to agree that solving illegal immigration required multiple changes to existing laws. Both were open to taking stronger steps to seal the border with Mexico, but also felt that the best way to discourage illegal immigration would be to clear away some of the obstacles to legal immigration. As for the people already in the country illegally, they could be offered a temporary visa to serve as "guest workers," before returning home to apply to reenter the US legally.

For Kennedy, who regarded undocumented workers as an exploited minority, reforming the nation's immigration laws was akin to protecting people's civil rights.

Source: Last Lion, by Peter Canellos, p.399 , Feb 17, 2009

Work begins anew; hope rises again; and the dream lives on

We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. Iíve seen it. Iíve lived it. And we can do it again! There is a new wave of change all around us. And if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination. Not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation. This November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. With Obama, and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.
Source: Speech at 2008 Democratic National Convention , Aug 26, 2008

Upon losing 1980 caucus: "33% of Iowa couldn't be wrong"

Put thousands of reporters in a place with only a hundred thousand voters, and everything has to mean something.

Sometimes, what it means is disaster. The terrifying thing about Iowa, from the point of view of a candidate running for president, is that a stunningly small number of people control your destiny. "Thirty-three percent of the citizens of Iowa couldn't be wrong," Ted Kennedy famously said on the night he lost the Iowa caucus in 1980, which promptly pushed him to lose New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California, when it didn't matter any more. We were dead after Iowa. Seventeen percent of the people in Iowa that year killed us.

Source: The Case for Hillary Clinton, by Susan Estrich, p.150 , Oct 17, 2005

Voted NO on confirming Samuel Alito as Supreme Court Justice.

Vote on the Nomination -- a YES vote would to confirm Samuel A. Alito, Jr., of New Jersey, to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Reference: Alito Nomination; Bill PN 1059 ; vote number 2006-002 on Jan 31, 2006

Voted NO on confirming John Roberts for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Vote on the Nomination (Confirmation John G. Roberts, Jr., of Maryland, to be Chief Justice of the United States )
Reference: Supreme Court Nomination of John Roberts; Bill PN 801 ; vote number 2005-245 on Sep 27, 2005

Religious affiliation: Catholic.

Kennedy : religious affiliation:

The Adherents.com website is an independent project and is not supported by or affiliated with any organization (academic, religious, or otherwise).

Whatís an adherent?

The most common definition used in broad compilations of statistical data is somebody who claims to belong to or worship in a religion. This is the self-identification method of determining who is an adherent of what religion, and it is the method used in most national surveys and polls.

Such factors as religious service attendance, belief, practice, familiarity with doctrine, belief in certain creeds, etc., may be important to sociologists, religious leaders, and others. But these are measures of religiosity and are usually not used academically to define a personís membership in a particular religion. It is important to recognize there are various levels of adherence, or membership within religious traditions or religious bodies. Thereís no single definition, and sources of adherent statistics do not always make it clear what definition they are using.

Source: Adherents.com web site 00-ADH11 on Nov 7, 2000

Rated 100% by the AU, indicating support of church-state separation.

Kennedy scores 100% by the AU on church-state separation

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2006 AU scores as follows:

About the AU (from their website, www.au.org):

Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom. AU is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to preserving the constitutional principle of church-state separation as the only way to ensure religious freedom for all Americans.

Americans United is a national organization with members in all 50 states. We are headquartered in Washington, D.C., and led by the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director. AU has more than 75,000 members from all over the country. They include people from all walks of life and from various faith communities, as well as those who profess no particular faith. We are funded by donations from our members and others who support church-state separation. We do not seek, nor would we accept, government funding.

Source: AU website 06n-AU on Dec 31, 2006

Fund the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program.

Kennedy co-sponsored the 50 States Commemorative Coin Program Act

Corresponding House bill is H.R.2414. Became Public Law No: 105-124.
Source: Bill sponsored by 28 Senators and 1 Rep 97-S1228 on Sep 26, 1997

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Page last updated: Oct 09, 2013