Ted Kennedy Dies at 77

225px-Ted_Kennedy,_official_photo_portrait_cropThe ‘Lion of the Senate” is dead. Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer on Tuesday and died at 77. With his death, the country lost one of the most tireless and passionate voices for the poor and powerless in our nation.

I had the pleasure of meeting Kennedy many times through the years, starting when I was a page and then again when I ran as the youngest delegate candidate for the Democratic National Convention in 1980. I also served as his campaign coordinator for the birth district of Ronald Reagan in Galesburg, Illinois.

He was someone of tremendous privilege who became a voice for the underprivileged. He lived through unimaginable tragedies in his personal life, but remained famously optimistic about the future. His family issued the following statement: “We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this last year, and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice.”

One of his most moving speeches came with one of his greatest tragedies: the murder of this brother Bobby:

For those of us on the 1980 campaign, the highlight was his 1980 convention speech:

His own words about his brother Bobby fit his own life all too well:

[He] need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

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43 thoughts on “Ted Kennedy Dies at 77”

  1. ________________________________

    M72 wrote

    “As I listened to the eulogy today, I couldn’t help thinking that this family is truly our national family.”
    ________________________________

    Definitely *not* a family I would in anyway whatsoever want to be associated. The Kennedy family is one of alcoholics, drug addicts, womanizers, cuckquean wives, and a man who skated on manslaughter. I watched the eulogies on line. Rep. Patrick Kennedy is an alcoholic/drug abuser and the only reason he is in office is the Kennedy name. Read his bio. When the other son stated that Ted told him nothing was impossible, he was right; with money, power, name, and corruption, it is *possible* to beat the legal system and get away with manslaughter, or worse.

    Mr. Obama praised the latest wife, Ms. Vickie Kennedy (deservedly so), but I heard no mention of praise for Joan Kennedy, who bore Ted Kennedy’s 3 children. Perhaps that is because she is a chronic alcoholic and mentally ill, but who stood by Ted through all of this junk for 24 years. Joan is a much better human that Ted ever was.

    Ted Kennedy was a scoundrel whom I detested and he certainly was *not* a great man. There will be those of you who will think the same way as I do now when George W. Bush is eulogized and beatified. To the public’s knowledge George was never directly responsible for taking an innocent human life as was Ted. Even George Bush, as much as I despise him, is not the lying coward that Ted Kennedy was.

  2. Being wheel-chair bound somehow excludes Joe Kennedy from being an evil scumbag?

    Quick, someone call Dick.

    Once again, some interesting illogic there, Catty P.

    So I got my timeline wrong. Sue me.

  3. As I listened to the eulogy today, I couldn’t help thinking that this family is truly our national family. Who can hear the names “Jack,” “Bobby,” “Rose,” Ethel,” “Joe,” “Jackie,” and now “Teddy,” strung together and not think immediately and exclusively of that famous Irish surname. Those of my age have lived their lives with these New Englanders with every marriage, divorce, birth, and death marked for us. We are both raptured and awed by this family, precisely because they represent so many of the virtues an vices we identify as uniquely American.

    So many images rush by: JFK Jr. saluting his father’s passing casket; a heartbroken voice cracking as it eulogizes a brother’s promise unfulfilled; a veiled widow captured forever in stark black and white at a President’s funeral; a young assistant chef, holding up a candidate’s bloodied head as he lay on the floor; football in the backyard; and now the Nation’s first African-American president elegant homage to the patriarch whose family’s supreme sacrifices made his ascension possible, when, to many, even the notion was unthinkable just a few years ago. These are the images from our national family album, and what an album it is. We would do well to dust it off more often and reflect.

  4. ‘I clearly placed blame on Ted Kennedy…’
    .
    Somehow, I did manage to pick up on that!

    ‘Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the last generation.’

    -Abraham Lincoln, Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862

  5. Patty C stated:

    “Once again you don’t know what you are talking about, BILe and FFLEO. But then what would you be doing, if not always (mis)placing blame?”
    _________________________________

    You misrepresented what I wrote. I clearly placed blame on Ted Kennedy and lumping me in with Buddha’ opinion is disingenuous. While I value Buddha’s opinion, *do not* attribute what he stated to me.

    What I quoted about the Chappaquiddick Incident is public record.

  6. Once again you don’t know what you are talking about, BILe and FFLEO. But then what would you be doing, if not always (mis)placing blame?

    Here’s a little factoid for you. Joe Sr. was hardly able to maneuver himself, much less his wheelchair, after a severe stroke
    – in 1961…

    http://www.nytimes.com/books/00/12/31/…/001231.31mallont.html

    ‘…After his own stroke in December 1961, Joseph Kennedy spent the eight years until his death inside an eerie deep freeze sometimes broken by rages, while his sons triumphed, fouled up and died by violence. In 1968, after Bobby’s assassination, the elder Kennedy sat mutely in the garden at Hyannis Port, next to Teddy and Rose, who spoke to the cameras about never regretting our compliance with God’s mysterious ways. Seeing a tape of that appearance, a reader of this volume thinks of all the times Joseph Kennedy’s fierce will doubted and railed and resisted, and of how, in the years of his invalidism, he frequently moaned the word ”No.” What on earth did this tough, intensely sympathetic old man sit there, silently, thinking?’

  7. GW:

    “this is the sort of thing that I usually ascribe to sentiment, but not today. today I know this this comes from the heart and only after serious reflection.
    thank you for this.”

    *************

    It was, and thank you. Every tragic hero ascends from the lowest valley to reach the summit. TK was no different. That he wore his shame publicly, yet still strove to better the lives of others when a lesser man would have quietly chosen to garner fortune or fame should reflect favorably on him–not the reverse.

  8. FFLeo:

    “A good and decent man does not display cowardice by running away to leave a woman to drown/suffocate in a vehicle, then lie about the incident and ask your cousin and your friend to lie by attempting to place the blame on the innocent, deceased woman.”

    ***************

    I share your outrage at the apparent cowardice and evasion of responsibility of this act which left a young woman dead, and her parents mourning her loss. I also understand that we are not the same person that we were 40 years hence when we possessed neither the maturity nor counsel that experience bestows. I make no apologies for his actions, but neither do I deprecate his achievements since that time which were as altruistic, as his earlier deeds were despicable.

    Thomas S. Szasz, another giant from the same era, said it more eloquently than I could have imagined,“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”

  9. FFLEO,

    All things being equal, I think you’re punishing the wrong Kennedy for that cover up. Think Dad. Joe Kennedy was evil and would stop at nothing to put his progeny in power. Let’s not forget though it was also a different time and drunk driving was looked upon in a totally different way. But I agree that it shouldn’t be glossed over. It was crap and he got away with it because of his family wealth. It should have precluded him having a career in politics, yet it didn’t. He had the position and managed to do some good with it that wasn’t just totally self-serving. As far a pols of any stripe goes, as mespo said, if you look at the total book and not the individual entries Kennedy still comes out ahead of most.

    But it is clear he was no angel and a girl died because of his stupidity.

    That doesn’t mean he wasn’t good at his job nor that he didn’t endeavor to make up for that failing. His not being officially punished was wrong. But based on the good he did after, I’m thinking he took care of that himself. There’s a huge difference between “good and decent” and “perfect” across the scale of a total life. While not mutually exclusive, one can be one quality/set of qualities without being the other.

  10. _________________________________

    Prof. T. wrote:

    His own words about his brother Bobbby (sic) fit his own life all too well:

    …to be remembered simply as a good and decent man…
    _________________________________

    Prof. Turley and I have an altogether different idea about the meaning of a *good and decent man*

    A good and decent man does not display cowardice by running away to leave a woman to drown/suffocate in a vehicle, then lie about the incident and ask your cousin and your friend to lie by attempting to place the blame on the innocent, deceased woman.

    It was just 1 year 1 month and 12 days after Bobby Kennedy died, that his brother Ted did this criminal act. What a fine way to honor your fallen brother by criminal actions that resulted in another death to be associated with the Kennedy name and legacy.

    This is something that people ‘parrot’ all of the time about the Kennedy’s, that they or “He lived through unimaginable tragedies in his personal life…”

    Multitudes of less well-stationed people in life have suffered greater tragedies than the Kennedy’s have; although I guess because they are not ‘royalty’ they do not count. Some have lost whole families at once. Such elitist classism is disgusting by suggesting that the Kennedy’s lives are worth more or are of a more tragic nature that those ‘beneath’ them.

    Ted was solely responsible for the worst unimaginable tragedy in his life when the coward let Ms. Kopecknik suffer a terrorizing death. Additional evidence suggested that she suffocated and did not drown. I can only imagine her agony of being trapped in a pitch-dark vehicle with murky water all around and trying to gasp breaths in the last air pocket available while hoping that Ted would help her.

    My disgust for Mr. Kennedy started when I learned some of the facts in 1969 while I was in college. Since then, the Internet has opened up a lot of information that was not readily available 40 years ago. I suggest that you read what the search and rescue diver who removed Ms. Kopecknic’s body stated and many other accounts of Mr. Kennedy’ lies and cowardice.

    The man should have been jailed and ostracized instead of beatified. However, for some reason I cannot fathom, people overlook crimes by the rich and famous, regardless of how loathsome their deeds; that is, if they happen to be in the same political party or ideological perspective or happen to get the opportunity to say they were associated with a Kennedy and knew the man or are simply intoxicated with the Kennedy mystique.

    I would like attorneys to look at the facts and explain to me—in all honesty—that Kennedy was punished enough, and/or sentenced appropriately, for his crime. The junk that the judge stated about Kennedy would suffer more than anything the court could offer is pure unadulterated nonsense. Let’s tell that to the next person guilty of manslaughter who was given a lesser charge and a suspended sentence; Son, we are going to set you free because we know that you are going to suffer every night and at every drinking party from now onward knowing that you were responsible for causing another human’s death by your negligence. We are sorry for you—the victim is dead—so please do not do it again. Now, continue with politics as usual and the Democrats will love you and the Republicans will despise you (or vice versa). After all is said and done, it is not about paying for your crime that counts, it is how well you can lie with the backing of money, power, and connections, and then convincing others how great you are. Lion of the Senate, indeed!

    Although I am a Republican, you all know that I despise Bush/Cheney for the death and destruction they have caused by their *indirect* actions. Ted Kennedy’s *direct* actions were responsible for the death of a young, innocent human being and most people simply overlooked the crime; to which he allowed them—and without shame; that is what was so obnoxious about Senator Edward Moore ‘Ted’ Kennedy.

  11. While I never met Ted Kennedy when I met others of the Kennedy family, the special prosecutor in the case, Superior Court judge Walter Steele, who passed away recently was an occasional dinner guest at my home in Boston. A friend of my, now, ex-husband, Walter always enjoyed a good home-cooked meal while in town
    -wherever he could get one.

    We talked about a lot of things in those days but never once did we discuss Chappaquidick. Knowing what kind of man he was, and judge he had became, I, personally, didn’t doubt that the final resolution of the case was a compassionate one although I was aware others did not share my oinion.

    Previously, I already understood that the man suffered not only from a concussion but was most likely in shock after the accident. He did come forward and accept responsibility for leaving the scene, yet still had to live with the tragic death of Mary Jo, a fiend, and the political fallout for the rest of his life.

    Enough already…

    http://www.mvgazette.com/article.php?13313

    Walter E. Steele, 78, Was Judge, Prosecutor in Dike Bridge Case

    “The Hon. Walter E. Steele, the bespectacled former superior court judge who was a well-known figure on the Vineyard, died Jan. 21 at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford. He was 78.

    Judge Steele, who presided over the Edgartown District Court and later the Dukes County Superior Court, earned fame in 1969 as the special prosecutor who brought charges against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy for leaving the scene of the infamous accident at the Dike Bridge.

    He was born in Roxbury, the son of a civil engineer, and grew up in Jamaica Plain. He served in the United States Navy for three years as a Seabee, and was discharged in 1946. He graduated from Suffolk University Law School in 1954, and from 1955 to 1957 he worked as a research assistant to the Suffolk County district attorney. In 1957 he was appointed assistant district attorney. In 1969 he was appointed special prosecutor for Dukes County, one month before the accident on Chappaquiddick. He remained a special prosecutor and practiced criminal law until he was appointed associate justice of the District Court by Gov. Francis W. Sargent in 1974. In 1989 he was named to the superior court. He stepped down from the bench in 1990 at the mandatory retirement age of 70, but not willingly. “They fired me,” he was fond of telling people…”

  12. Buddha writes The price of wisdom is often paid in the currency of bad experience. One man learns from his mistakes and carries on, making recompense with good deeds. Another man does not learn from his mistakes and instead compounds them by a lifetime of failing the public while trying to prove to himself he’s not a failure. That’s the whole Ted Kennedy/George Bush story rolled up into two lines (easier for George to understand given his proclivity for children’s stories and cocaine). You right wingers so soon forget as to denigrate an ACTUAL public servant while you support asshats like Bush.

    no one, not a single republican has ever held laura bush’s feet to the fire for her vehicular manslaughter adventure.
    in fact during the bush years reporters were threatened with expulsion from the WH press room for reporting this as well as Laura’s time living at the Willard’s or was it Hay-Adams with her protection after Condi Rice called George “my husband” on Meet The Press.

  13. mespo writes: I have always believed that the measure of any of us is how well we use our capacity to transform who we are, in our flawed humanity, into what we, with courage, sacrifice, and virtue, might one day become. By that standard, I believe we have seen, in the death of Ted Kennedy, the passing of the personification of that paradigm:

    this is the sort of thing that I usually ascribe to sentiment, but not today. today I know this this comes from the heart and only after serious reflection.
    thank you for this.

  14. I am astounded that intelligent people, especially those in the legal profession, can lionize Ted Kennedy. His criminal negligence that resulted in the death of a young woman and then the suspended sentence he received was one of the greatest injustices of all time.
    _________________________________

    Quote

    The Chappaquiddick Incident

    Court proceedings

    On July 25, seven days after the incident, Kennedy entered a plea of guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. Kennedy’s attorneys suggested that any jail sentence should be suspended, and the prosecutors agreed to this, citing Kennedy’s age, character and prior reputation.[19] Judge James Boyle sentenced Kennedy to two months’ incarceration, the statutory minimum for the offense, which he suspended. In announcing the sentence, Boyle referred to Kennedy’s “unblemished record” and said that he “has already been, and will continue to be punished far beyond anything this court can impose”.[20]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chappaquiddick_incident
    __________________________________

    Quote

    Frustrated Grand Jurors Say It Was No Accident Ted Kennedy Got Off Easy

    Leland would still like to hear the answers to those questions. The Vineyard Haven pharmacist, now 49, was the Dukes County grand jury foreman who requested in March 1970 that the jury be convened to investigate Kopechne’s death. “We weren’t out to get Kennedy,” he says. “We just wanted to get to the truth.” But, Leland says, the grand jurors were never allowed to investigate. The grand jury sought to subpoena all the key witnesses, including Gargan, Markham and the women who had attended the party. The then-District Attorney Dinis “told us that we couldn’t subpoena them because they’d already testified at the inquest,” Leland recalls. (In fact, a grand jury is legally empowered to subpoena anyone it wants.) Denied access to witnesses, the grand jury asked to at least see the transcript of their testimony at the inquest. But this request was denied by the judge supervising the grand jury session. “I was dejected,” Leland recalls. “We had tried to do our job, to get at the truth, but we couldn’t.” With virtually no evidence to go on, the jury took no action. “I felt I had been set up by the D.A. so that they could claim there was a grand jury investigation,” says Leland. “We had been used.”

    http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20120819,00.html
    _________________________________

    Make no mistake about my postion, I will be just as critcal of Bush/Cheney when they are lionized by Republicans. They both have caused great harm to this Nation and to people in other countries.

  15. Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn this morning of the death of our dear friend, Senator Ted Kennedy.

    For nearly five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance the civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted from his efforts.

    His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives — in seniors who know new dignity; in families that know new opportunity; in children who know education’s promise; and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just, including me.

    In the United States Senate, I can think of no one who engendered greater respect or affection from members of both sides of the aisle. His seriousness of purpose was perpetually matched by humility, warmth and good cheer. He battled passionately on the Senate floor for the causes that he held dear, and yet still maintained warm friendships across party lines. And that’s one reason he became not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy.

    I personally valued his wise counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherished his confidence and momentous support in my race for the Presidency. And even as he waged a valiant struggle with a mortal illness, I’ve benefited as President from his encouragement and wisdom.

    His fight gave us the opportunity we were denied when his brothers John and Robert were taken from us: the blessing of time to say thank you and goodbye. The outpouring of love, gratitude and fond memories to which we’ve all borne witness is a testament to the way this singular figure in American history touched so many lives.

    For America, he was a defender of a dream. For his family, he was a guardian. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today — to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children Ted Jr., Patrick and Kara, his grandchildren and his extended family.

    Today, our country mourns. We say goodbye to a friend and a true leader who challenged us all to live out our noblest values. And we give thanks for his memory, which inspires us still.

    Sincerely,

    President Barack Obama

  16. Rockola,

    The price of wisdom is often paid in the currency of bad experience. One man learns from his mistakes and carries on, making recompense with good deeds. Another man does not learn from his mistakes and instead compounds them by a lifetime of failing the public while trying to prove to himself he’s not a failure. That’s the whole Ted Kennedy/George Bush story rolled up into two lines (easier for George to understand given his proclivity for children’s stories and cocaine). You right wingers so soon forget as to denigrate an ACTUAL public servant while you support asshats like Bush.

  17. Rockola:

    “I’m a bit astonished that none of my fellow liberals here
    seem to remember or care about that at all.”

    ****************

    Like every assessment of value, a death is a time to look at the entire balance sheet and not every line item.

  18. He certainly is entitled to credit for all the good he did, despite his terrible personal failings and terrible legislation (e.g., airline dereg, No Child Left Untested). However, he also deserves everlasting opprobrium (sp?) for what he did to (and didn’t for) Carter which greatly helped elect Ronald Reagan, and I’m a bit astonished that none of my fellow liberals here
    seem to remember or care about that at all.

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