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In May of 2008 Edward M. Kennedy was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, to which he joked, "My demise did not fit into my plans." In collaboration with Ron Powers he began to write his memoir True Compass stating that "Sailing, for me, has always been a metaphor for life."
The content of the 17 CD audio book is rich in sentiment. While journeying through the wealth he was born in to, the tragedies he endured and the work he loved so deeply, one grows fond of Kennedy. Still the memoir reads more like an autobiography. "Many people's talents added immeasurably to the work" and he often mentioned he had papers he gathered with notes on them from long ago, that were included in this memoir. So for those who might think that a veil of disclosure may be lifted before our eyes, it is not.
What Edward M. Kennedy does reveal however is his philosophy on life, what he attributes his endurance to (faith, love, family and work) and several mistakes he made along the way that he deeply regrets. Those mistakes were: cheating on an exam in Harvard, driving Mary Jo Kopechne into the water at Chappaquiddick, his first marriage ending in divorce and encouraging his nephew to go out for a few drinks one night.
While I found his political positions important and well-documented throughout the book, his mention of his 2nd wife Victoria was thoroughly enjoyable and heart-warming. But his most revealing thoughts seemed to be of his oldest brother, Joe, who had been "sent off to England, (WWII) and from there to the British coastal skies, headed for Europe, and then on to eternity." And Robert, and how that loss both challenged and shaped him: "In the months and years after Bobby's death, I tried to stay ahead of the darkness. I drove my car at high speeds; I drove myself in the Senate, I drove my staff; I sometimes drove my capacity for liquor to the limit ... I generally managed to keep my public duties and my private anguish separated. Whatever excuses I invented to anesthetize myself, I could almost always put them aside in my role as senator. Almost, but not always."
You will learn that Jack ran for president in 1960 and Ted was his campaign manager. Teddy fought and won by a margin a Senate campaign for Massachusetts. In Nov. 1963, JFK was assassinated. Six months later, in June 1964, Teddy was nearly killed in a plane crash, had broken his back and required several months of grueling rehabilitation. Then Bobby was assassinated in 1968 and Teddy became the stand-in father to his brother's children. "I became," he writes, "the family uncle." regarding the Nov. 22, 1963 shooting in Dallas, he was convinced the Warren Commission got it right when they said one person acted alone and said he was "satisfied then, and satisfied now."
More revealing than his insights into his past was his philosophy on life. And much of what he attributed that to was his years in Hyannis Port, the love, support of family (most especially his father) and the desire to compete which was a stronghold in their family dynamics. As he stated so clearly, "...it sometimes has occurred to me that my entire life has been a constant state of catching up."
With respect to delving into the private lives of public officials Edward Kennedy said he had no problem with it. "But do I think it tells the while story of character? No I truly do not," he wrote.
You will also learn that in the 1980 run for presidency Ted was motivated in part by differences with Jimmy Carter i.e.: universal health care stating that Carter had an "inherently different view of America from mine."
On August 25, 2008, Ted Kennedy attended the National Democratic Convention to render support to Pres. Barack Obama. "I fulfilled my personal dream that would never die. Nothing, nothing was going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight."
In closing he said, "I have fallen short in my life, but my faith has always brought me home," he said. In closing I would say that I am glad he met Vickie when he did I hope he rests in a safe harbor now.
© 2010 Kaolin
Kaolin is the author of a forthcoming book from Crandall, Dostie and Douglass Books, Inc. titled Let's Talk About Race. You can read more of Kaolin's reviews and about her work on her website www.ltar.biz .