Ted Kennedy has a long political history of service within the Democratic Party. He was the youngest brother of the late American President John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. His son, Patrick J. Kennedy is also into active politics.
Sadly, in May 2008, after a seizure in Massachusetts, it was confirmed that Ted Kennedy had malignant brain tumor. He underwent a complex brain surgery at the Duke University Medical Center and stayed in the capital thereafter.
His Early Life
Ted Kennedy, who was born on February 22, 1932, in Massachusetts, was the youngest of the nine children born to Irish-American parents, Rose Fitzgerald and Joseph P. Kennedy. By the age of eleven, he attended ten different schools! He received his Communion in the Vatican city, from Pope Pius XII.
He grew up amidst consistent comparisons with his older brothers. In quick succession, between the ages eight and sixteen, he suffered the deaths of his sisters Rosemary and Kathleen and brother Joseph, in the World War II.
Kennedy graduated from Milton Academy Prep School in 1950. He played American football, tennis and hockey and was an active member of the drama and debate clubs, while in school. Kennedy joined the army in 1951 and requested for Intelligence Training, but did not make it to the course.
He trained for Military Police Corps at Camp Gordon and in 1952, was assigned to Paris city as an honor guard. His father used his political clout to ensure that Ted was not assigned tasks at the Korean War sites.
He was discharged off his service in the army in 1953, as a private first-class. Thereafter, he rejoined Harvard University in 1953. Although he made it to Harvard Crimson football program, he declined the offer from coach Lisle Blackbourn to play professionally. Kennedy graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in politics and history, in 1956.
He attended the University of Virginia School of Law and Hague Academy of International Law between 1956 and 1958. In 1959, he graduated in Law. He married Virginia Joan Bennett on November 29, 1958. They had three children: Kara Anne, Edward Jr. and Patrick. However, the marriage was annulled in 1982, on account of her alcoholism and his womanizing.
Entry into US Politics
Ted managed John Kennedy's campaign for the Presidential elections in 1960. Upon John's victory, Ted was expected to wait for two years before he could campaign for the Massachusetts office.
He proved his mettle by working as an assistant district attorney for Suffolk County at a remuneration of $1, cracking down on crime, touring overseas and interacting with a number of political organizations.
In the Massachusetts Senate special election, 1962, Kennedy proved himself as the "people's man". He won by a two-to-one margin, defeating George Cabot Lodge II of the Republican party. Although, Ted Kennedy avoided publicity to much an extent, he was loved by the people, just as much as his famous siblings, John and Robert.
After the death of his brothers, Ted Kennedy stood in for their thirteen children. He even negotiated the marriage between Aristotle Onassis and Jacqueline Kennedy, wife of John Kennedy. He backed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 and the creation of the National Teachers Corps. In 1969, Kennedy became the youngest Senate Majority Whip.
The Troubled Times of Ted Kennedy
Things went wrong in the life of Ted Kennedy when on the night of July 18, 1969, Kennedy drove from a Chappaquiddick Island party with a woman called Mary Jo Kopechne, and dived straight into the Poucha Pond. Though, Ted Kennedy swam to safety, Kopechne died.
Not calling the authorities, made matters worse for the politician. Kennedy pleaded guilty and served two months in jail. He admitted to the guilt of being part of an indefensible act. Kennedy won re-election to yet another Senate term in 1970. He took over as chairman of the Health Care subcommittee.
Kennedy decided against running for the 1972 U.S. presidential election. In 1973, his son Edward who was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma had a leg amputated, and later on, succumbed to it, while his other son, Patrick suffered severe asthma attacks. The pressure took a toll on Ted's first wife, Joan Kennedy, who gave in to alcoholism.
Kennedy became a popular contender in the U.S. presidential election of 1976, in the absence of a strong possible candidature. But he stepped down for 'family reasons'. Kennedy remained an important part of the senate and a successful politician.
The Chappaquiddick incident somehow always loomed large over his presidential running. Kennedy remained in office all through till 2006, becoming the second longest serving senator, after Robert Byrd.
He was the Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and he served on the Armed Services Committee and Congressional Joint Economic Committee. Kennedy lived in Massachusetts with his second wife, Victoria and her children, Curran and Caroline.
The Final Days of His Life
Despite the complex brain surgery in June 2008, Kennedy attended the first night of that year's Democratic National Convention in August, where he delivered an eloquent speech. In the speech, he mentioned that he would attend Obama's Presidential inauguration, which he did on January 20, 2009.
In March 2009, he was awarded honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II. His health issues kept him from being a part of the Senate Judiciary Committee. By spring of 2009, his condition had worsened and the tumor had spread. In July 2009, he was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
On August 25, 2009, Ted Kennedy breathed his last and his body was flown past many important landmarks named after the Kennedys and brought back to Washington D.C. He was buried in the Arlington National Cemetery and his funeral was attended by many important people across the country.
His death meant the loss of a great leader. What's most inspiring about this man is that during the last days of his life, when he was fighting cancer, death wasn't far, but he continued to say, "I've had a wonderful life."