Looking Back at the Life of Edward Kennedy


    This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

    This week, Americans said goodbye to the last son of one of the nation's most politically influential families. Senator Edward Kennedy died Tuesday of brain cancer. He was seventy-seven.

    A visitor writes his sympathies in a book to honor Senator Kennedy at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston
    A visitor writes his sympathies in a book to honor Senator Kennedy at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston
    Senator Kennedy -- often known as Ted or Teddy -- was the youngest of four sons born to Rose and Joseph Kennedy. He followed his brothers John and Robert into politics. John became president. Robert became his attorney general, and later a senator. Both were assassinated in the nineteen sixties.

    Edward first won his Senate seat from Massachusetts in nineteen sixty-two. Six years later, he showed his gifts as a speaker after a gunman shot Robert.

    EDWARD KENNEDY: "My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it."

    Robert wanted to become president. So did Edward. But his political career nearly ended in nineteen sixty-nine.

    He drove a car off a low bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. His passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, died. The senator left and waited hours to go to the police. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene and received a suspended sentence.

    Senator Edward Kennedy
    Senator Edward Kennedy
    Still, he went on to become the third longest serving senator ever. He ran for president in nineteen eighty. The Democrats nominated Jimmy Carter for a second term.

    Other Kennedys today are active in politics and public service. Edward's son Patrick is in Congress. But for now no one holds national attention the way the senator did. It was not always good attention.

    As the New York Times put it, he "struggled for much of his life with his weight, with alcohol and with persistent tales of womanizing." But President Obama remembered him as "not only one of the greatest senators of our time, but one of the most accomplished Americans ever to serve our democracy."

    Edward Kennedy was known as "the liberal lion of the Senate." He said his "best vote" was his vote against the Iraq war. But he was also willing to compromise with Republicans.

    He fought for civil rights for the disabled and for workers' rights. He helped negotiate the Northern Ireland peace agreement in nineteen ninety-eight.

    And ten years later, in two thousand eight, he was one of the first top Democrats to support a young senator seeking the party's nomination for president.

    EDWARD KENNEDY: "My friends, I ask you to join in this historic journey to have the courage to choose change. It is time again for a new generation of leadership. It is time now for Barack Obama!"

    Mourners in Boston gather to pay their final respects
    Mourners in Boston gather to pay their final respects
    Social issues were at the heart of Edward Kennedy's work. But he never got to reach one of his goals: health coverage for all Americans. His weakening health kept him away from the Senate in his final months. But he continued to work from home to help support President Obama's top legislative aim, a health reform plan.

    Edward Moore Kennedy will be buried Saturday near his brothers John and Robert at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. They also had five sisters. Eunice died on August eleventh. The last survivor now is Jean Kennedy Smith.  

    And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Steve Ember.