Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy, (born February 22, 1932, in Brookline, Massachusetts) is a Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts. He 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. He got 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 assasinated (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 2004), 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 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, a wooden bridge that is angled obliquely to an unlit road onto which he'd 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. The car had been discovered in the morning by fishermen, divers discovered the girl and determined the car belonged to Kennedy, and the police had then questioned Kennedy.
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 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.
The saying, "Ted Kennedy's car has killed more people than my gun," is used by gun-control opponents to mock Kennedy for his support for gun-control legislation.
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 reportedly lost substantial support when he was unable to give a direct answer as to why he wanted to be president in a 60 Minutes interview. Eventually, Kennedy bowed out of the race, delivering a rousing speech before the Democratic National Convention that many consider to be his finest moment.
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-dominated 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 Richard 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.
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 he supported the failed presidential bid of his fellow Massachusetts Senator, John Kerry, speaking for Kerry multiple times.
Ted Kennedy was a strong supporter of the 1965 Hart-Celler Act which dramatically changed US immigration policy.  (http://www.cis.org/articles/1995/back395.html) "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 Commitee on Immigration, and remains a strong advocate of high levels of immigration.  (http://grades.betterimmigration.com/testgrades.php3?District=MA&VIPID=358)
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.