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Profile: Kennedy Has Long Been One of Democratic Party's Most Influencial Politicians


Democratic Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy was hospitalized on 17 May 2008 in the northeastern state of Massachusetts after suffering a seizure. His physicians say the 76-year-old senator has a malignant brain tumor. VOA's Jim Bertel has more on the career of this Democratic political icon.

Senator Edward Kennedy is the patriarch of America's most famous political family and after more than 40 years in the U.S. Senate, is still one of the most influential members of the Democratic Party. In January he threw his considerable star power behind Senator Barack Obama's campaign to be president of the United States.

"I know what America can achieve," Senator Kennedy said. "I've seen it. I've lived it. And with Barack Obama, we can do it again."

Obama has drawn comparisons to Kennedy's brother, President John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in 1963. Tragedy has been intertwined with the Kennedy family's political aspirations. His brother Robert Kennedy was gunned down while running for president in 1968.

Edward Kennedy was born in Boston in 1932. He won his Senate seat in 1962 and is now the second-longest serving member of the Senate.

He has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration and a leading critic of the war in Iraq. But he has also reached across party lines to promote his causes. Kennedy worked closely with President George Bush to pass a groundbreaking education bill.

"The folks at the Crawford Coffee Shop would be somewhat in shock when I told them I actually liked the fella. He's a fabulous United States senator," commented President Bush.

Despite his famous political pedigree, Senator Kennedy never achieved his dream of becoming president. His political career nearly ended in 1969 when he drove off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. His passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne died in the crash. Kennedy waited hours before reporting the accident to police, causing the most serious crack in Kennedy's public image. He later ran for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 1980, but lost to incumbent Jimmy Carter.

Since then, Kennedy has devoted himself to his work in the Senate. He became a tireless spokesman for liberal causes and, as such, a favorite target of Republicans. In 2006, Kennedy was selected by Time magazine as one of "America's 10 Best Senators." The magazine noted that he had "amassed a titanic record of legislation affecting the lives of virtually every man, woman and child in the country."


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