Romance With Kennedy Family Draws To Close

The American romance with the Kennedy family centered on Edward Kennedy and his brothers Robert and John. AP hide caption

Interactive Timeline: Photos From Kennedy's Life
itoggle caption AP

I make no pretense to objectivity about Ted Kennedy, whose death brings an era to a close.

In his foreword to my 1970 book, Don't Get Sick in America,, he wrote, "We must begin to move now to establish a comprehensive national health insurance program."

A generation later, this past July, he wrote an essay for Newsweek with the cover headline, "We're Almost There."

His journey was incomplete, like the journeys of brothers Jack, Bobby and Joe Jr., though Ted's was longer.

Ted Kennedy's journey can be said to have started with a visit to Berlin in February 1962 to celebrate his 30th birthday with his brother Bobby. Because this was the first date that he would be eligible to run for the Senate, several reporters, including myself, met him at the Tempelhof Airport to ask about his plans. He laughingly said he was not about to be making an announcement from Berlin, but made it clear he would make an announcement soon. And he did.

I was one of the journalists who followed him throughout his career. In 2002, we were inducted together into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He used the occasion to oppose a war in Iraq — his major preoccupation after health care.

Kennedy's death can be said to mark the end of this generation of Kennedys in public life. Others of the dynasty — Joe, John, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia and Bobby — did not survive.

And now, America's 60-year romance with the closest thing it has known to a royal family is drawing to a close.

John Kennedy's daughter, Caroline, made an unsuccessful bid for appointment to a Senate seat. Robert's daughter, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, served as lieutenant governor of Maryland. Bobby Jr. heads an alliance of environmental groups. Kerry Kennedy, Robert's seventh child, has founded a human rights organization. And Ted's son, Patrick Kennedy, is a House representative for Rhode Island.

But one cannot say that the baton has been passed.

"I think it's over," says Ben Bradlee, Washington Post editor and Kennedy intimate.

Ted Kennedy remains the enduring symbol of a dynasty of service to America.

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