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- This article is about the U.S. senator, for information about the hall of fame ice hockey player see Ted Kennedy (hockey player).
Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, (born February 22, 1932, in Boston, Massachusetts) is the senior Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts. Kennedy is an icon to his party and is known as one of America's leading liberal politicians.
Family and youth
Kennedy is the youngest of nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. He attended Milton Academy and entered Harvard College in 1950. He was suspended from Harvard in May 1951 after he arranged for another student to take a final examination in a Spanish class in his place. He then entered the U.S. Army for two years; he was assigned to the SHAPE headquarters in Paris. Kennedy eventually re-entered Harvard, graduating in June 1956. In 1958, he attended the Hague Academy of International Law. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1959. While he was in law school, he managed his brother John's 1958 Senate re-election campaign.
His home is in Hyannis Port, Mass., where he lives with his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy , and her children, Curran and Caroline . He has three grown children from his first marriage with Virginia Joan Bennett: Kara, Edward Jr., and Patrick, and four grandchildren. After his brothers John and Robert were assassinated (in 1963 and 1968, respectively), he took on the role of surrogate father for 13 more children.
Ted Kennedy was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts in 1962 to fill the seat left vacant by his oldest brother, John F. Kennedy, upon the latter's election as president of the United States, and has successfully run for re-election in 1964, 1970, 1976, 1982, 1988, 1994, and 2000.
In the current Senate (as of 2005), Kennedy is second only to Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) as its longest-serving member. According to The Almanac of American Politics, he has served longer than all but four other senators in U.S. history. According to NPR, Kennedy plans to run again in 2006. If he wins and serves out his full six-year term, he will have served in the U.S. Senate for fifty years, the longest service of any Senator to date. Kennedy's plans beyond 2012 are unknown. It is indeed a possibility that Kennedy would run again that year; Kennedy, at 80, will be younger than many senators of the past and present, such as Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd.
Kennedy is the senior Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. He also serves on the Judiciary Committee, where he is the senior Democrat on the Immigration Subcommittee , and the Armed Services Committee, where he is the senior Democrat on the Seapower Subcommittee. He is also a member of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee , a founder of the Congressional Friends of Ireland , and a trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C..
Kennedy's career in the Senate attracted national attention at its inception, as it has several times since. During his 1962 campaign, he was accused by his opponents of riding on his family's name and fortune, and (having no previous experience in elected office) of not being sufficiently qualified to hold so high an office. Soon after entering office, he witnessed the assassination of his brother John, an event that focused much attention on him.
In 1964, Kennedy was in a plane crash in which the pilot and one of Kennedy's aides were killed. He was pulled from the wreckage by fellow senator Birch E. Bayh II (D-Ind.) and spent weeks in the hospital recovering from a severe back injury, a punctured lung, broken ribs, and internal bleeding.
In 1968, his last surviving brother, Robert, was assassinated during his bid to be nominated as Democratic candidate for the presidency. Kennedy delivered a very emotional eulogy at Robert's funeral. After the shock from this event wore off, Ted was looked upon as a likely future presidential candidate. For about a year, the Democratic establishment began to focus attention on him as the carrier of the torch for the Kennedys and the party.
After a party on Chappaquiddick Island on July 18, 1969, Kennedy drove his 1967 Oldsmobile Delta 88 off Dike Bridge (also spelled Dyke Bridge), a wooden bridge that is angled obliquely to an unlit road onto which he had made a wrong turn. The car plunged into tide-swept Poucha Pond and landed upside down under the water. His passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, died despite several attempts by Kennedy to swim down to save her. Kennedy returned to the house where the party had been held and two other men then assisted him in trying to reach Kopechne. Kennedy discussed the accident with several people, including Kopechne's parents, in the hours before he acknowledged to police that he had been involved. A group of fishermen discovered Kennedy's car the morning after the incident occurred, and Kopechne's body was discovered by divers shortly after. When investigators determined that the car was Kennedy's, he was questioned by police.
The incident quickly blossomed into a scandal. Kennedy was criticized for failing to come to Kopechne's aid, for failing to summon help, for contacting not the police but his lawyer first, and for waiting until the following morning to report the accident to authorities. Due to a lack of evidence other than Kennedy's own word, allegations persist that he was drunk, that he did not try to save Kopechne, and that he intentionally turned onto the road crossing the bridge going to the beach in order to have sex with her.
Kennedy pled guilty to a charge of leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. He received a sentence of two months in jail, which was suspended. An Edgartown grand jury later reopened the investigation but did not return an indictment.
The accident has haunted his reputation and hampered his political career through the decades since it transpired, fulfilling the judge's pronouncement that suspending the sentence would not reduce his punishment.
There is question as to whether justice was served in this case. Rumors still circulate of a conspiracy by Kennedy and his family to alter his driving record to obviate charges of negligent homicide, and to influence the Edgartown grand jury. Some people question his description of his escape from the car, because of his back troubles remaining from his 1964 airplane accident.
Cleo O'Donnell, wife of a former Kennedy campaign aide, had this to say about Kennedy: "Teddy Kennedy was the weak kitten in the litter, never able to measure up to his brothers. The accident at Chappaquiddick displayed his chronic immaturity. One problem Teddy has always had was keeping it in his pants - even when other people are around."
The Joyce Carol Oates novel Black Water is a fictionalized account of the events at Chappaquiddick. Set in the early 1990's, it chronicles the story of a twenty-six-year-old woman named Kelly Kellher who meets a character called "The Senator" at a Fourth of July party, leading to her inevitable and tragic demise.
The bad publicity surrounding the Chappaquidick incident resulted in Kennedy's putting off any presidential aspirations. However, a decade later, Kennedy decided to throw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination in the 1980 presidential election, launching an insurgent campaign against Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter. Kennedy was unafraid of criticizing the president, though he vowed to support Carter if he were re-nominated. Despite much early support, his bid was ultimately unsuccessful, largely due to controversy surrounding the incident at Chappaquiddick. He also lost substantial support early in his campaign when he was unable to give a direct answer as to why he wanted to be president in a CBS News Special Reports interview conducted by correspondent Roger Mudd. The interview had a negative impact despite the fact it had been conducted prior to when Kennedy had made up his mind to run for president. Kennedy won some primaries in his contest with President Carter, even after it appeared that Carter would probably win renomination. Eventually he bowed out of the race, but delivered a rousing speech before the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York City that many consider to be one of his finest moments.
No Child Left Behind
Senator Kennedy was a major player in the bipartisan team that wrote the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which according to both Kennedy and President Bush was a compromise, and according to both their parties conceded too much to the other side.
He then worked to get it passed in a Republican-controlled Congress.
Four weeks later, he called the President and the GOP delegation to account for failing to budget enough funding for programs mandated by the act.
Views on abortion
Like some of today's pro-choice politicians, such as Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, and Dennis Kucinich, Kennedy used to hold a pro-life view. In a letter to a constituent, dated August 3, 1971 Kennedy wrote:
- "While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which must be recognized -- the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grown old.
- "I share the confidence of those who feel that America is working to care for its unwanted as well as wanted children, protecting particularly those who cannot protect themselves. I also share the opinions of those who do not accept abortion as a response to our society's problems -- an inadequate welfare system, unsatisfactory job training programs, and insufficient financial support for all its citizens.
- "When history looks back to this era it should recognize this generation as one which cared about human beings enough to halt the practice of war, to provide a decent living for every family and to fulfill its responsibility to its children from the very moment of conception."
This letter was written at a time when abortion was a particularly hot topic, being fought in state legislatures throughout the United States. Seventeen months later, the U.S. Supreme Court would rule in Roe v. Wade that the "right of privacy... is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy." Shortly after that, Kennedy reversed his position on abortion, to the point where he soon became one of the major targets of Roman Catholic groups opposing pro-choice Catholics in U.S. politics.
Democratic Party icon
Since his presidential bid, Kennedy has become the dean of the liberal wing of the Democratic party. He is very proud of the fact that the right wing of American politics continue to warn their supporters about his new policies. He is one of the most recognizable and influential members of the party. In 2004, Kennedy supported the failed presidential bid of his fellow Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, speaking for Kerry multiple times and lent his chief of staff, Mary Beth Cahill, to the Kerry campaign.
Ted Kennedy was a strong supporter of the 1965 Hart-Celler Act which dramatically changed US immigration policy.  "The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs." (U.S. Senate, Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization of the Committee on the Judiciary, Washington, D.C., Feb. 10, 1965. pp. 1-3.). Kennedy is now the ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Immigration, and remains a strong advocate of high levels of immigration. 
Grounded by terror watch list
During a congressional hearing on homeland security in August 2004, Kennedy revealed that he had been stopped from boarding airlines on multiple occasions because his name or a similar name had appeared on a terror watch list. Homeland Security officials later apologized and corrected the mistake.
- Congressional biography
- Campaign homepage
- Senate homepage
- Project Vote Smart - Political Profile
- Committee for a Democratic Majority
- Both sides fault lack of funding for No Child Left Behind
- Ted Kennedy's Driving Record - List of Traffic Offenses
- Robert Kennedy's eulogy read by Ted Kennedy
- Webcast of Kennedy at a Jan. 21, 2003 National Press Club event, via NPR. Provides corroboration for 2006 run.)
- Terror List Snag Nearly Grounded Ted Kennedy (USA Today article)
- Chappaquiddick: A Profile in Cowardice
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