U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, the elder statesman of America's most
famous political family, is dead at the age of 77 (born 2/22/32) after
a battle with brain cancer. He was the youngest brother of slain
President John Kennedy. The life of the Massachusetts' Democrat was
marked by both achievement and controversy.
was a champion of liberal causes, and over the course of his Senate
career sponsored legislation that fundamentally altered worker rights,
education funding, foreign policy and immigration law. His niece -
President Kennedy's daughter, Caroline Kennedy - says her uncle was
an inspiration to her family.
"For more than four decades
in the Senate, Teddy has led the fight on the most important issues of
our time: civil rights, social justice, and economic opportunity," she
Senator Kennedy was a vocal critic of Bush
administration policies in Iraq, its stand on interrogation techniques
used on suspected terrorists and its prosecution of the war on
terror. In an interview with CBS in 2007, Kennedy underscored his
opposition to the war in Iraq.
"I voted against the war, it was
the best vote that I cast in the United States Senate. This was the
wrong war at the wrong time," he said.
But Kennedy was also
known to cross party lines to forge legislative deals with
Republicans. In 2008, Kennedy saw an agent of change in Senator Barack
Obama and became one of the first prominent Democrats to endorse
Obama's bid for the party's nomination for president.
friends, I ask you to join in this historic journey to have the
courage to choose change," he said. "It is time again for a new
generation of leadership. It is time now for Barack Obama!"
was elected to the Senate in 1962, the year before the assassination
of President Kennedy. The senator offered a eulogy:
brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was
in life. He should be remembered simply as a good and decent man who
saw wrong and tried to right it," he said.
Robert Kennedy was assassinated while campaigning for president.
Suddenly, the youngest Kennedy brother became the family's political
patriarch. At first it appeared that he might have a clear path to
the White House. But those hopes ended in 1969 when the senator drove
off a bridge and the young woman with him, Mary Jo Kopechne, was
His behavior during the so-called Chappaquiddick
incident - he waited hours before reporting his accident to police -
provided the first of many cracks in the Kennedys' public image.
Instead of running for president, the senator was asking voters in
Massachusetts whether he should resign from the Senate.
me, this will be a difficult decision to make. So I ask you tonight,
the people of Massachusetts, to think this through with me. In facing
this decision I seek your advice and opinion," he said.
Kennedy received thousands of telegrams telling him not to quit. He
sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1980 but lost to
incumbent Jimmy Carter.
Other struggles lay ahead. Three of
Mr. Kennedy's nephews died young and tragically. Another, William
Kennedy Smith, was tried and acquitted on rape charges, with the
senator called to testify. He had his own reputation for drinking and
affairs but that side of his life seemed to stabilize after his second
marriage in 1992.
In 2008, Kennedy was diagnosed with a
terminal brain tumor, which kept him from returning to the Senate.
However, last year, he made a surprise appearance at the Democratic
national convention to endorse Barak Obama's bid for the presidency.
Kennedy became one of the longest-serving, most influential senators in
modern U.S. history. And in so doing, carried on his brothers'
legacy, and built his own.