Senator Edward Kennedy lived in the shadow of Chappaquiddick, but his life deserves just as much celebration as it does censure. Like his brothers, he exemplified his clan’s customary mix of vice and virtue, he was irrepressible and impossible to predict.
Though a Rabelaisian figure — a great playboy and drinker — he was disciplined and hard-working in the Senate. Though he was born to one of the wealthiest families in America and became a great celebrity, he nonetheless championed the poor and referred to health-care reform as ‘the cause of my life’. Despite being a devout and practising Catholic, he endorsed same-sex marriage and a woman’s right to abortion.
Ted Kennedy was a staunch supporter of liberal, Democratic causes, but his great gift was for working with his Republican opponents to get legislation through Congress. He was the least famous of the three brothers, but in 2006 Time magazine named him as one of America’s ‘Ten Best Senators’, saying that he had ‘amassed a titanic record of legislation affecting the lives of virtually every man, woman and child in the country’. He was charismatic and contradictory. A true Kennedy.