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Through tragedy and triumph, Ted Kennedy perseveres


July 21, 1999
Web posted at: 6:37 p.m. EDT (2237 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, July 21) -- Sometimes, the hardest part is surviving - living long enough to bury your brothers and their sons.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) was the youngest of four Kennedy brothers. In June of 1968, Bobby was killed, and Teddy was the only brother left.

Sen. Ted Kennedy eulogized his brother, Bobby, in 1968  

He was 36 years old that day -- the day the youngest became the patriarch and the mantle of public expectations fell heavily on his life.

In many ways, he has carried it well in the three decades that have followed that day.

The last of the Senate's liberal lions, Kennedy has championed civil rights, health care and minimum wage legislation, building a solid record on what his brothers only had time to dream about.

"I think Senator Kennedy will go down as one of the giants in the Senate. While he has had a rather tumultuous life with lots of ups and downs, his record in the Senate has been consistently impressive," said Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

But a Ted Kennedy presidency, once talked of with certainty, all but vanished a year after Bobby Kennedy died, when a young woman -- a passenger in a car Ted Kennedy was driving, was killed when the car went over a bridge on an island called Chappaquidick.

Sen. Kennedy vied for the Democratic presidential nomination at the 1980 Democratic National Convention  

In 1980, after an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination, Kennedy put the presidential mantle down for good and carried on the cause, making a memorable speech at the Democratic National Convention and saying, "For all of those whose care has been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die."

While in public, they call him "senator," in the family compound in Massachusetts, he was something else. The senator was a surrogate father to John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Kennedy, and after Bobby Kennedy's death, to that clan as well.

Aides talk of hearing the senator teach animal sounds to his young nieces and nephews. Early on, he used to take Bobby Kennedy's kids rafting. Later, he walked them down the aisle, and through the bad times -- often at the same time.

When Kathleen Kennedy Townsend was married, Ted Kennedy gave her away in the morning, and spend the afternoon in the hospital with his young son, who had his cancerous leg removed.

JFK, Jr., Ted
John F. Kennedy, Jr. introduced his Uncle Ted at the 1988 Democratic National Convention  

It was Ted Kennedy who went with his two sons Wednesday to the spot in the sea where he lost another piece of his heart.

"To see this happen this way, it's just been almost beyond the pale," Sen. Orrin Hatch, (R-Utah) a close friend of Ted Kennedy, said Wednesday. "I know he shoulders an awful lot of this burden. I've seen him do it and I just have an awful lot of respect for him."

"He just has a remarkable sense of purpose of life, even with its unfairness and even with its losses, and above all, just a remarkable faith in God and in human spirit," Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) said Wednesday.

The life of Ted Kennedy has been a mix of privilege and pain. He has enjoyed and suffered them both and managed amidst all the death to somehow survive life.


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Clinton, political community shocked by another Kennedy tragedy (7-19-99)

Ted Kennedy says family is 'filled with unspeakable grief' (7-19-99)

CNN In-Depth:
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In His Own Words

Pictorial Timeline

Full special report


CNN's Candy Crowley tracks Ted Kennedy's journey from baby brother to patriarch (7-22-99) video Windows Media: 28K | 80K


America's Prince: John F. Kennedy Jr., 1960-1999

The art of being JFK Jr.

Look homeward angel, once again

The boy we called John-John

The most eligible bachelor and his bride

Brought up to be a good man

And then there was one

Through fate, folly or the evil of others, the Kennedys have become the first family of pain


Wednesday, July 21, 1999

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