March 31, 2010

Growing Up Kennedy


As a former Massachusetts resident, I have always found the Kennedys intriguing. And finding out the day after my craniotomy that the late Senator Edward "Teddy" Kennedy has also been diagnosed with a brain tumor, that fascination turned into a curious bond. I was deeply saddened by his passing.
I was still reading his memoir, True Compass when I watched The Ghost Writer. I wondered how much of the book was written by his acknowledged collaborator, Ron Powers. But I think the famed legislator's voice comes through very clearly in much of the book. The result is a very moving account of a not-so-perfect life but a well lived one.

He offers engrossing insights about the political process: campaigning, the workings of the Senate, recollections about the various American Presidents, and his stances on civil rights, immigration, Northern Ireland and his other passions. Most importantly: health care reform. I wish he would have been alive to see the health care reform bill become the law of the land. I was happy to see his family during the signing at the White House. (Sidenote: A patient of mine just returned from a weekend trip to Washington, D.C. They went to Arlington National Cemetery, and saw a group of crying women leave roses and some papers at the tomb of the Lion of the Senate. I would like to think it was the health care law, an appropriate tribute to the man who championed it.)

My favorite parts of the book however, were his personal stories. Life as the youngest Kennedy son, his idol worship of his father and illustrious brothers, a temporary expulsion from Harvard, keeping the faith throughout the assassinations and Chappaquidick, the date-rape case against his nephew, his son's cancer battle, his drinking. He reveals all these with good humor and poignant detail. He shows great charm when he talks about his courtship of his wife Victoria Reggie. Senator Kennedy clearly loved his family and took his role as patriarch very seriously. We get a glimpse into a family like no other, but in many ways, a family like everyone else's.

This autobiography paints a wonderful picture of a flawed man from a storied clan who could have chosen to lead a life of privilege. Instead, he dedicated his career to making a difference in the world. He was a man of faith who found his true compass, and followed it until the end. Rest in peace, Senator Teddy.

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