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Oral History

Edward M. Kennedy Oral History (11/29/2006), Senator

Copyright 2016 the Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.

Kennedy

Light’s on.

Young

I think it’s going.

Mrs. Kennedy

Yes, it’s going.

Young

And then I punched that. This is the little backup. I thought it was on.

Kennedy

It looks like it’s on.

Young

Well, this is a charging light, it threw me off. There we go, ready to record.

Kennedy

Look, you brought your camera today.

Young

Beatriz has the camera. She said to me coming over here, she said, “Isn’t he getting tired of taking all these pictures?”

Kennedy

Isn’t that a funny question.

Young

Anyway, on a lighter note, congratulations on your reelection.

Kennedy

Thank you.

Young

Maybe the pendulum is swinging again.

Kennedy

I’m going to give it the college try, as they say.

Young

So you’re going to be a very busy man.

Kennedy

Busy, but hopefully doing some good things, positive things.

Young

There’s one other light thing I wanted to ask you. In the last interview, you referred to the meetings, the dialogue with the Cardinals.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

The Cardinals, wasn’t it?  The Democratic Senators and the Cardinals, and you say we’re trying to get this thing institutionalized but we’ll have to wait until after—see what happens after the election.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

So my first question is, is it going to get institutionalized?  (laughter)

Kennedy

Well, I had said that the—when we just got back after the election, Harry Reid and Dick Durbin were down visiting with the President and the President said, “It would be good if we get something done in the lame duck.”  And Durbin asked him, “What are you thinking of?”  He said, “Immigration.”  So I had this little meeting with John McCain and [Arlen] Specter, and John McCain rushed in, energetic as he always is, and he says he’s just been at a Republican caucus and he said, “They don’t know that they’ve lost, the Republicans.”  And I said, “Well, I’ve been at a Democratic caucus, we don’t know we’ve won.”  So in this period, the lame duck, we have to try and see at the start of the year, how it gets going, but I think there’s—we were talking yesterday with Senator Reid and we’re going to have to get back to a working Senate and a working House.

Young

I saw a little note in the paper about Harry Reid’s comment, you know, we’ve got to—

Kennedy

We’ve got to really get to doing the people’s business. We’ve gone over the agenda with him, and we’re hopeful that we’ll get a good start.

Young

Good.

Kennedy

Get a good start.

Young

And you think you’ll start up immigration again?

Kennedy

I think that will probably be in the spring. We’re looking now at this, trying to get the minimum wage right away, because they’d put it on the calendar, and if they want to filibuster that, it sort of puts people in the place where they should be. I think if we start off on the ethics issues, that could go on for two or three weeks and the purpose of the Republicans will be to slow the Congress down from coming in and dealing with the business, and they’ll be able to do all kinds of mischief in those areas and keep us wrapped up for a long period of time.

Young

Yes.

Kennedy

So we do minimum wage and then the stem cell research, and education, then in the spring we’ll do immigration. A lot will depend on whether President Bush really wants to do it. It’s a great opportunity for him to do it and it will be very important to get done. The elements are all there to do it. So it will be interesting to see.

Young

How’s he going to take all this?  Do you think he’ll be pragmatic about it?

Kennedy

Well, we already saw, in the day after the election, the press conference he had—we watched up in Boston—at 1:00. It was the most ambivalent press conference, because he was combative and kind of arrogant in one sense and sort of conceding in the other sense, but there was no sense of alteration or change or sort of willingness to embrace the new paradigm. When we watched that, it sort of looked like we were in for a period of continued confusion, when they’re really not sure where they want to go. We’ve sort of seen that in the recent weeks. And of course, just to say a final point on this, you see this dramatic contrast on Iraq, where they were just talking about the military aspects for the last, really three years, and during the course of the campaign and now suddenly it’s all diplomatic. They used the hard military aspects of it and the politics of fear for the election and delayed all of the efforts to try the diplomatic approach. I think we probably have lost what opportunity there was there, to try and have a diplomatic solution.

Young

Yes.

Kennedy

I mean, I think it’s—my own sense at this time is that it’s fairly well lost. We’ll have to wait and see. Obviously, a diplomatic effort should be put together if there are enough elements out there to do it, but I think it’s been so clumsily handled. Secondly, I think they don’t have the backup team of competent operatives to really—to pull in the Democrats and say look, we really want to get—let’s give it a try, give us an opportunity to try and do a diplomatic kind of thing and indicate that to other countries and really put some leverage on it. The United States has still got tremendous power and influence.

Young

Is it the Baker-Hamilton [Iraq Study Group] thing?

Kennedy

Well, I think it will ebb some, but I think they don’t have the capability of really implementing a lot of these initiatives, the skill to try to do it. I just don’t think they’ve got the people in place to follow through on it and do the backup kind of things that are necessary. I mean, Condi Rice has that capability. [Richard] Cheney certainly doesn’t, and it certainly looks like the others don’t, but [Robert] Gates is coming up now. I’m not sure that’s going to work. It’s a massive disaster from the first.

Young

It is really, a historic disaster. Well, getting on to the business that brings us together today.

Kennedy

Right.

Young

Excuse me, go ahead.

Kennedy

No that’s—we’re ready to go.

Young

Ready to go. This is in a way a continuation and extension of our first session about your personal life—I should say your first one because it’s your story, not mine. One of the things that you mentioned, among the many things that faith meant to you, was it is a source of strength or renewal in times that could be very depressing, in times of loss and so forth. I think it would be very important for you to talk about your journey in that faith, in your life, from your childhood on, and how religion has played into your own thinking and your own handling and coping with and overcoming the shocks and the grief, the periods of grief that have occurred in your life. Maybe this goes way back to early days, or your very early childhood, I don’t know, so maybe we could just run through some of that. Those instances in your life when it’s—

Kennedy

Well, I think as we talked about, the faith and the family and religion were all sort of wrapped up together as influences in my early life and all through my life, up to the very current time, as recently as this past Thanksgiving with family and children and grandchildren—a continuum. So I think the religious experience starts obviously with the very formalistic and ritualistic experience as a young child, learning the catechism, so I could go out and play with my friends. I was an altar boy in the very beginnings, when I was six, seven, eight years old. My older brothers used to talk about my brother Joe [Kennedy] being the altar boy down at St. Edward’s, a marvelous church in Palm Beach, and him being so small he couldn’t lift the book up onto the altar. We had to learn the Latin and my mother made sure we learned the Latin prayers: Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. Quia tu es Deus fortitudo mea: qua me repulisti… I can still remember a good deal of all of that. It was enormously important, the formality of religion. That was something that my parents believed in and exhibited. I never remember my father missing going to 9:00 Sunday Mass, and everyone was on time. My mother was a daily attendant and it’s something that even when we were home, we sort of welcomed the opportunity to go with her.

So, you go from that point, from the formalistic aspects of it, to maturing aspects of your faith. You learn the basic symbols first and then it becomes a living kind of force and a factor, a source of inspiration to you and source of consolation to you in difficult and trying times. It’s not an easy pathway. I mean there were certainly times in my life, times of very considerable loss in my life when I became much more distant from my faith. It seemed to me that it was not a lot of consolation and there was a good deal of personal bitterness, anger and hostility. But it has been a positive force in the other periods of my life. Certainly in the latter part of my life and existence—the time of my mother’s last years and her loss, Vicki coming into my life, the different kind of atmosphere and climate of life that I was now living—the power of this faith sort of resurrected itself and became even a much greater force in my life. I mean the basic and fundamental teachings, the Beatitudes, the words of Matthew about the thirsty and the hungry and the stranger and visiting the prisoner—all of those were motivating factors, and that the Resurrection was the source of inspiration and the sense of hope. These fundamental teachings resonated throughout my life and existence. They have been powerful forces. I think the sense of optimism and hope that I’ve had is deeply rooted there. I think it was deeply rooted in t my family upbringing as well. The teachings of my faith and of my family were sort of symbiotic.

My brother Jack [Kennedy] was a strong believer and Bobby [Kennedy] was too. Religion was very important to them. They were sort of my heroes, and my sisters, who I was close to, they were very—religion meant a good deal to them and they went through a lot of the same sort of experiences in terms of the personal losses in the family, when religion is challenged at its most.

Young

When your brother Jack was murdered, did what you feel and felt these losses, some bitterness, some anger, some fear and trembling, or some shaking of your faith, as an early reaction to it?  Is that what your brother Robert or you felt in the period of Jack’s death?  I mean, it was almost visible with Robert, in the pictures.

Kennedy

Yes, that’s right. I think it certainly was shaken and questioned at that time, but I think the deepest was after Bobby’s loss. I mean that was…

Young

Yes.

Kennedy

That was the big one that made you wonder about how that could happen. Children, all the children, they were going to grow up without a father.

Young

Could you just say a little bit more about that?

Kennedy

Well, I think it’s sort of—you know, the voyage goes back a much longer period of time. I mean, I think being able to try and deal with the kinds of life’s sorrows and losses, goes back to earlier times. I think at this moment, the time of greatest questions, I think I’d put it at the time of Bobby’s loss. But it goes back about how we—I individually and I think as part of a family and how I observe the members of my family, how they dealt with the kind of loss at earlier periods of time, in my home growing up as a child. There was the time I went to England with my father at six years old I suppose, and then I was sent back because of the bombing. I remember my concern about my father’s well being as a young boy at that time. I was sent off to boarding school at that time, because my mother thought I ought to be next to my brother [Robert]. I was in the wrong grade, so you couldn’t have friends. There was a sense of separation.

Young

Was that Portsmouth?

Kennedy

Portsmouth Priory in Rhode Island. Suddenly, this wonderful, nurturing family is kind of divided. Suddenly. We’d had a very wonderful time together, where my brother Joe taught me to sail and my brothers taught me to ride a bicycle, and I was always around with all of my brothers and sisters. Then suddenly at this time, at this very young age here, there was real separation and a sense of confusion. And wondering. You wondered were you going to ever see these people again or where—a rather lonely existence at that time, for understandable reasons, but it was very difficult.

Young

At your age, that was—

Kennedy

I was seven. That was when I was seven. And then at nine years old, I went off to boarding school at Riverdale Country, and I got whooping cough and almost died. My mother brought me up to Cape Cod and I spent time with her. But it was just sort of the two of us. Not this wonderful family that we had had, that had been supportive and they’d always been around and been a source of joy and inspiration. The underpinnings, I think both of the family and support and faith weren’t there. It was almost getting like you’re in a tender that is getting loose. You’re losing your mooring, as a child.

Young

In a sense you were alone when you were separated from your parents. And there were periods of that in your life, weren’t there?  When your father was away, your mother was away.

Kennedy

He was away. My father was still in London, my mother was over back and forth visiting him. We had a number of sisters that were in school, and the brothers were in the service. Eventually, I went on to—the first dramatic kind of a shock was the summer of 1944, when my brother Joe was lost. I remember him being up at Cape Cod prior to the time that he left. So, that was rather a dramatic time, I remember, particularly for my parents, the priest coming up. There was a wonderful priest that actually had been—that my brother Joe liked a lot, and he was also a friend of my father’s. I remember that August day and I remember the later part of the day, my parents going off and everybody sort of dealing with their problem and their grief sort of separately. That was something I noted about my parents, though it was difficult for me to understand how they would spend so much time, you know they would listen to music and be outside.

Young

Your father was so much of—

Kennedy

He was very involved obviously.

Young

Yes, but he was grieving alone.

Kennedy

A good deal of the time.

Young

When you say the family separated and they dealt with the grief in their own ways, but my gosh, you were just a young boy.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

And this—there are shocks, there are changes occurring in this world. You’re seeing—you’re separated from your father, and then there’s Joe’s death.

Kennedy

And this was rather dramatic.

Young

I think that’s tough on a kid.

Kennedy

My father then rebuilt, sort of, the altar down at Francis Xavier Church. You look down there and the lanterns they have, the Navy stars on it, he rebuilt. This was very important to him and my mother too, I mean it was sort of the faith in this thing. But it was a very difficult time and we noted a year or so afterwards, he still had a difficult time. He’d be meeting us for dinnertime and he’d just get up and walk out.

Young

Still grieving?

Kennedy

He was still grieving. So that was always something that was very—kind of an upsetting period in time, and I didn’t really understand or realize the whole significance of it really. And then I was back in school in the spring of 1948. I remember being in my little room and someone coming knocking at my door, and my sister Kathleen [Kennedy] had been lost. I remember getting dressed and going downstairs and waiting, and someone coming in a car to take me down to the Cape. I was by myself down there and the family gradually gathered. So that was another difficult period of time.

I think before that, just before that, there was a rather traumatic time, which was a rather—I didn’t really understand completely at the time, although I knew there was great tension. That’s when my sister was going to get married to a Protestant. There was a lot of tension between my parents. I can remember discussions, although I wasn’t really much of a part of them. I remember the great kind of tensions that existed at that time, between my parents and my sister.

Young

Marrying outside of the church.

Kennedy

Outside the church, to a person that had been part of a family that had been persecuting Catholics and chasing Irish around Ireland and the rest. So this was very significant and traumatic. I didn’t understand the whole implications of it but I knew there was a lot of tension in the family.

Young

And a lot of powerful feeling, deep feeling about it.

Kennedy

And then my father was supportive and my mother, at the very end, but it was something that sort of stuck in my mind all the way through, about the divisions of the church. You can flash back to another time that we talked about, you know my brother Bobby at Harvard [questioning the Catholic chaplain who said] there was no salvation outside of the church, and talking to Cardinal Cushing about it. Germs of this [dissension] started really at that time, when I was just very young. So this was a difficult time. I couldn’t quite understand why we had been a large family and we were experiencing this loss.

But I went on, got through school, through Milton and got into Harvard, and then made a very stupid mistake there, when I had asked this person to take my Spanish exam and I got caught. I talked to my brothers, Bobby and Jack, before I talked to my father about it. Of course, their first advice was, you’d better call your dad, which was absolutely right. Then after he was you know, legitimately and rightfully, correctly outraged and upset, he then was supportive, in trying to look to the future. That was a period where I had a lot of disappointment; disappointing him, disappointing my brothers, disappointing my family. It was a difficult time.

Young

Was that the first time that happened?

Kennedy

The first time really, I felt real chagrin.

Young

When you were away at school, before you got to Harvard, did you wish you were at home instead of there?

Kennedy

Oh, yes, yes.

Young

They call it homesick.

Kennedy

I wasn’t really. I think probably at the school, the Milton Academy, where I went, I finally sort of settled in and enjoyed that. I was there for four years. I began to learn, how to learn, and began to develop relationships, friends. I began to do sports and have a sort of regular life. The other schools, I was back and forth to a number of other schools, and you spent your time just sort of finding how you get to your classroom, where your bed was, or what was expected of you and trying to make some friends.

Young

And no family.

Kennedy

And never really spending—

Young

No family around.

Kennedy

Very rarely because we—there was a gas…. You didn’t get off on weekends, you stayed there, there was gas rationing, that continued to the end of the war, some years after. We were in those schools and a good part of the year. When I was at Fessenden, my brother Bobby would come over, he was in Milton. I’d see him on occasion but not frequently. We’d have vacation or so, but I’d go down and see my father, my parents now were back and I’d see them maybe down south over the holiday period, but it was a pretty lonely, bleak kind of a period. So you know, we’d been on through the military and back.

Young

Was the military your first experience in the other world, the world outside the family and the school?

Kennedy

I think so.

Young

And was that an eye opener for you?

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

Seeing kinds of people you hadn’t seen before, in a setting you hadn’t—although the barracks may have been somewhat like the dormitory.

Kennedy

It was a very vigorous program. I’m always impressed by the degree of training, it was very good training personally. It was physically very exhausting but very good, I mean it taught you everything that you had to know about firing weapons, commands and all the rest. You did it very vigorously, but you had—I mean, I had a couple of very tough, bad [personal] fights in the military, but survived.

Young

But you weren’t a loner. You didn’t have time to be lonely, because you were enveloped.

Kennedy

No, and I wanted to—by that time, you wanted to get through and do well. I didn’t want to make any more mistakes. You wanted to do what you were supposed to do and do it pretty well. I was 19 years old, I wasn’t—you could go through most anything at that particular time.

So now we’re back when my brother ran for the Senate, when I was in the… Going back to the time that he was elected, going back to 1946, there was a flurry of activity. I was in school and we got off sometimes, to go in and do the campaign, and that sort of thing was kind of fun. Everyone was excited when he was elected to Congress, and much more excited in 1952, when he got elected to the Senate.

Young

In ’46, I’m sorry I don’t have the timing right, but you were at school where?

Kennedy

I was at—in 1946, I was still at Fessenden.

Young

So you were still seeing your grandpa.

Kennedy

Still probably seeing grandpa, yes. I saw a lot of my grandfather at those periods of time, yes.

Young

So the first time there was an election in the immediate family, the politics in the immediate family was ’46.

Kennedy

’46.

Young

I see. What did you make of all this?

Kennedy

And my grandfather was around. Well, it was all—I found that grandpa was spending more time with my brother Jack than he was with me, which was a first. Up to that time, I was doing pretty well. But it was exciting, the idea that someone in your family is going to get elected to Congress was a mind boggling thought. I remember the family being very much involved and it being a very exciting period of time. I remember how he was going to do against a fellow named [Michael J.] Neville, I think was his principal competitor at that time, and election night. He won handily at that time, but it was a big deal. I remember being very excited about it, not that it had much of an impact, you know going off to school and class and the rest of it. And then I had—that wonderful story I think I’ve told, about coming down to Washington and walking around the buildings here, when he was first elected. He took me to the House of Representatives, also in the Senate, and he brought me on the floor. You can bring people on the floor when it’s not in session. I remember walking on the floor of the House and the Senate, and then he took me over to the Supreme Court, and he had this wonderful little bit of advice, is that now that you’ve seen the buildings, you ought to take an interest in what happens in the buildings.

Young

What happens inside.

Kennedy

And he said, “That’s what makes a trip like this important.”  I remember those words and they kind of resonated with me. Still pretty good advice. Let’s move on I suppose, to the kinds of—the times here. During this period, I was conscious of my sister Rosemary’s [Kennedy] being retarded, and I remember her, growing up with her and her being in London at the time, and then her being back here. I never saw her a lot, but she came down to the house.

Young

She stayed in London while you—with your father.

Kennedy

She stayed in London for a while.

Young

Yes.

Kennedy

And then came back here. She was a presence. I never saw her too much but she was always sort of a presence when I went home at Christmas or so, and my mother and father would have her. It seemed very natural, she seemed very natural to all of us. She was sort of challenged, but she seemed very natural in terms of all the—everybody else was sort of cool about it. I was the youngest and I was cool about it too.

Young

But you were close, you felt close to her, did you?

Kennedy

Yes, yes.

Young

Wasn’t she—

Kennedy

I suppose being the youngest one, I was the one that was left out—sitting at the little table before I grew up, not at the family table where the others would talk to each other. As the youngest, I always found that Rosemary was someone that I could always talk to and go out and play ball with or something like that.

So, now we’re into the—we’re out of Harvard and going to Virginia Law School. This is where I met Joan [Bennett Kennedy], who was young and beautiful and went to college where my sisters went. We had a good relationship and we did what young people do at that time, and we got married and we went to law school and had a good life down in law school. And then, went through—I’m just going along, rather than talking about the time at law school—there are a lot of sidetracks that I can talk about. But let’s get on to the ’60 campaign, after graduating.

Young

That was right after you were newly married, and Kara [Kennedy] was born in 1960, two years afterwards.

Kennedy

She was born in February of 1960, during the New Hampshire primary, which was—and I had been up in New Hampshire.

Young

How did you manage that?

Kennedy

In New Hampshire, came back to Bronxville, where she was actually born, but it was during the New Hampshire primary, which was obviously an exciting time. Teddy [Kennedy jr.] was born a year after, in 1961, September.

So, we had the elections, an exhilarating time. I went back up to Massachusetts, and this is when I really became much, much closer to my father. I went to my brother [Jack] and said I was interested in elected office and he said, “Don’t waste your time any further.”  Earlier he’d given me other advice—going to Africa for five weeks and things like that. But he said, “Go back up to Massachusetts. Every day you’re up there, you’ll meet people and you’ll find out—we’ll find out how people react to you and whether you’re able to inspire them to your ideas and your viewpoints. I’d go right back up and start going to work up there.” I went up and talked to my father about it, then went to Boston and signed on as [Suffolk County] Assistant District Attorney.

Young

Yes.

Kennedy

We started working up there.

Young

You said this is a period when you’re very close to your father.

Kennedy

To my father, because my brothers now were gone, they’d gone. Jack was the President and Bobby was down and had been appointed Attorney General, and I was up there. When he [father] came back up there, particularly that summer of 1961, I spent a lot of time with him. He’d go out on his boat and I’d go out with him, and it was really a very enormously interesting, exciting for me, because he had been so involved with my older brother Joe, Jack, Bobby, and now was sort of focused—

Young

And now it was your turn.

Kennedy

Sort of focused on me.

Young

Is that it?  You were finally getting the attention.

Kennedy

“Who’s left around here?  It’s Teddy over here, oh well, now we’re….”

Young

But wasn’t there a time earlier, when he came back from England, where you were with him?  Was that a close time?

Kennedy

You know, during all the vacations, I was always the one that was around, because I was always in school. He, in the summertime, would take me horseback riding.

Young

Yes, you talked about that.

Kennedy

When I was growing up, in the summers, even before this period of time, when I was off from school. We’d ride for an hour and a half, two hours. He’d take me—he’d sometimes, if the tide was right, he’d drop me at this marvelous clam flat and let me go down and dig clams for him, and pick me up on the way back, and I was thinking I was going out—

Young

Was this after you finished cutting the bushes and the limbs along the trail?

Kennedy

Yes, after cutting the places where he could ride. So in any event, he and I became very close, very easy, because even though he was a very strong and wonderful figure, I mean he was inspiring and authoritarian figure. But he had a great sense of humor and he was fun to be with, particularly if you were getting some focus and attention. He was a very significant presence. He had written all of us when we were in school all the time. He wrote these wonderful letters. I had letters when I was eight years old, when he was writing to me about you know, I hope you’ll devote your life to trying to reconcile problems. When I see the problem of what war does to people, I hope you’ll focus and try and do something to avoid the suffering people are experiencing; a wonderful letter that he wrote to me when I was probably seven or eight years old. So that had gone along, you know all during this period of time. There was a lot of letters and communications, and he’d let us know what was happening. He had this wonderful expression…. 

You know, I was just looking and going around Massachusetts now and speaking, in 1961, and we were getting a pretty good reaction. I had traveled to different places. I went to Latin America and Africa, and I’d go around speaking to different Chambers of Commerce about those things. I was chairman of the Cancer Crusade and I’d go out and talk about cancer. 

But he [my father] had this wonderful expression that he’d mention to all of the boys and the girls too, and that was, Home holds no fear for me. That is, you ought to go out and do the best you can. If it doesn’t work, you can always come home. There’s always a place here. We embrace you and love you and will be a source of strength and inspiration so you can go on out and try again. So you would take on the tough challenges, take on the difficult battles and do what you believe is right, because you can always come back here. This is always going to be a place that’s going to be supportive, and we will always support you.

Young

Were you hearing in part, not only that home holds no fear, there’s a safe place to come back to.

Kennedy

A safe place.

Young

For recovery or renewal. But were you also hearing a message about, expect some rough times?

Kennedy

Rough times?

Young

Some rough times out there. He’s not bringing any of you up to be like himself, in the sense of his being a businessman, a financier or something like that.

Kennedy

No. Two points. One is that we didn’t really understand—at least I didn’t at the time—the nature of the challenges both personally and emotionally, as well as professionally, that you would be facing. No, but you knew that he would be very much in your corner. 

So we went on through the fall of ’61 and at that time, I had gotten around a little bit [in the state], and was getting a good reception. That’s what my brother Jack was hearing—he’d talked to a lot of his pals in different places—that we were getting good receptions. Then, the concept of running in ’62 was beginning to emerge. Of course my father was very much in my corner. My brother Jack’s political people were questioning the wisdom of this, and Bobby’s political—he was fine, Bobby was really sort of fine with it. He thought if it was going to—

Young

Was he ever thinking about running for the Senate, and then when Jack—

Kennedy

I think after my brother was elected, I think he wanted to do something sort of separate.

Young

And your father wanted him to be there with him too.

Kennedy

My father wanted—generally wanted him to be there too. I don’t think it took a lot of persuasion to get him there. Obviously, if he had been running for the Senate, I’m not sure quite where we’d all have fitted in. But I wasn’t thinking about that at the time. My father was sort of my strongest advocate and he was great fun. I remember my brothers calling him when they were facing challenges, and he always had some good advice for them. And here I was, talking to him on the same kind of plane. So it was a very exhilarating time. And then the end of that year, he had a stroke, December of that year, and that was a major kind of blow.

Young

You were in the primary fight?

Kennedy

This would have been in December of ’61, so it was just prior to the time that I announced, everything was kind of in place. By this time they were fine, my brother Jack and Bobby were fine on it. They took sort of their own soundings and found out that we were doing pretty well up there, and they were fine on it. But he, my father, was very much involved. I got closer and closer to him over this whole period of time, then suddenly this person who had been my kind of right hand and principal figure was struck down. He was down in Florida, I remember going down there with Jack and Bobby, at the time he first had his first stroke, and the terribly difficult time he had. And he had a very difficult time from then on through to the end in 1969. So that was a very….

Young

Who did you turn to?  Did you have anybody to turn to?

Kennedy

Well, it was very hard, because at that time, you didn’t know how bad all of this was. I went down frequently to visit him. They thought he was going to get better, you know this thing was going to be temporary, it was all going to get better, but it just never, it just never did. Parents are sort of obviously, the irreplaceable people, and your wife and children. This was a very powerful blow to me. My mother was still strong and she was very—she was energetic. It was very important to keep her spirits up and going.

Young

Her spirits up, but what about yours?

Kennedy

She was great.

Young

How did you keep your spirits up?

Kennedy

Well, this was a difficult kind of a time. We were just in the midst of the beginning of everything—our family, the race, this. It was just a very challenging time. There was no going back or really changing direction. We didn’t heed—because my father, he wanted me to do well. This is still important to him. I knew it was. He’d want to hear about what was going on, that was a source of inspiration, because he was still alive and I always thought could understand. So I still felt he was in our corner and felt he was more frustrated than I was, and it was important to keep moving and going on.

Young

So he was with you in spirit.

Kennedy

In spirit, I felt.

Young

But he was a different person. That must have been a pretty hard thing to take.

Kennedy

So, I won’t spend time really going through the election. We had the success in the campaign, but 1962 was also a time when I was really very moved or concerned [about a problem in my own family.] At the beginning of the campaign, I noticed that my wife drank. It hadn’t—all the time that we’d been at law school, I never noticed, it never really affected her. I remember the first time. We were supposed to go to the State [Democratic] Committee meeting, and I asked her if she was ready, and walked in the room and saw that she was unsteady. I thought that’s strange, because it was sort of the first time that she hadn’t been able to make it to an event. This was the start of ’62, and that kind of thing sort of picked up during the period of ’62. That was a difficult thing to cope with and deal with. I’m not sure that I dealt with it very well in terms of how do you get through it, get through it until the election. This was becoming increasingly a problem that was gnawing at me. And then we had—

Young

It was soon after Teddy was born.

Kennedy

It would be just about after that.

Young

He was born in ’61.

Kennedy

Just about after that. So we get through the ’62 campaign and we’re down here in Washington. It’s an exciting, interesting time to arrive down here. But there was still concern about these other issues. 

And then we have 1963. I had been presiding in the Senate on the 22nd of November, and at 11:30, our time, and this fellow Stan [J. Stanley] Kimmitt or someone came over and said your brother has been shot, and I’ll get you relief from presiding over the Senate. I remember leaving the Senate and going over to the—they used to have two big boxes; one had the AP and the other had the UPI news ticker, you could watch the ticker. I was seeing the words coming through and thinking I better try and get a hold of my brother Bobby, to find out. I remember getting back over to my office. It was still really uncertain you know, there was disbelief that this thing was going to be real, you know, terribly serious. But it was ominous. I hadn’t really thought that it could be more than something that would not be fatal. I remember getting to my office and talking to Bobby. He told me that it was very serious and you ought to go on home.

At that time, I went home to Georgetown and you couldn’t—there weren’t any communications, all the communications were down. You couldn’t call anybody or get a hold of anybody, that kind of thing. And then I remember talking to Bobby some time in the afternoon and he said, you know, he was not going to—it was a hopeless situation. So, I went up and talked to my father….

Young

I’ve got some tears too.

Kennedy

So we got on a plane and went out and told my father, which was a difficult thing. So we got through that period.

Young

After the funeral and all of that, how was it?

Kennedy

Well, this was enormous personal devastation. He was always close to all the members of the family and I always felt close to each of my brothers in different ways. So, you know, it’s an extraordinary personal loss of the most powerful and searing kind. But I don’t think I prayed a lot at that time. I think we were very conscious about the importance of Jackie’s well being and John and Caroline. I knew that Bobby was enormously upset and I was close to him, and it was just very important that—there were important things to do. It made a difference in doing them too, for the members of the family at that time. It was an enormously difficult time, [but we were] inspired by people’s reaction and their feelings for Jack.

Young

But the personal grief is yours.

Kennedy

Yes, it was hard to deal with.

Young

People were grieving in their own way, alone, is that?

Kennedy

A lot of that.

Young

As it was earlier?

Kennedy

They were all—yes. They’re not good at—you know, they’re rather quiet and very—it’s an exuberant family when it’s together and it’s enthusiastic and hopeful and joyous and fun, but it doesn’t—I’m not sure that we handle all the grief and the sadness exceedingly well. This is a much more—you know, we were getting caught up with it now, with increasing sort of frequency, but it was very devastating. And you would think, Is is this a reaction against my father and my mother?  It’s a very….

Young

That summer, Joan was spending on the Cape, at Hyannis Port, I think.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

And you were in Washington.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

So, were you seeing a lot of your brothers?

Kennedy

I saw a lot of them.

Young

Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Kennedy

He acquired a great—he was always inquisitive about everything, Jack. He was always inquisitive. He asked me about being in the Army, asked me about the different people and their backgrounds and where they came from, about the training programs and what was going on, about the weapons and everything. He was always asking questions and inquisitive. He was inquisitive about what was going on in the Senate. Of course the Senators assumed that I was going down there to the White House and talking about them every night, which I didn’t. But if he wasn’t tied up, he’d ask me to come down for a swim. He’d come down about 6:30. I’d go down and take a swim with him and he’d have some daiquiris and we’d go up the elevator to his own place on the second floor. More often than not, he had creamed chicken and rice, that’s what he liked, and peas. That’s what he had for dinner and the plates were served, and you sit down. He was interested in what was going on and then by dessert time, he had found out and he was interested in going in and reading. 

He was great fun, interested in the personalities. I’d tell him stories about what’s going on in the steam room, how Jennings Randolph was about to pass out because he’d been in the steam room so long, and when I came in he sat in there and talked to me about a Postmastership down in Charleston, West Virginia. I thought Jennings was going to die if we stayed in there any longer. [Jack liked to hear about] the people that I had—you know, my first impressions of the different people, the personalities. He was interested in political characters and sort of the rhythm and the—

Young

Well you were too, weren’t you?

Kennedy

Yes, yes.

Young

You shared that.

Kennedy

And then once in a while, we’d sit out on the porch and I’d smoke a cigar. Once in a while we would go out on the boat [Presidential yacht Sequoia]. Cabinet Members used to take their different committee members and they’d get more business done out on those boat trips in just a couple of hours…. It was a great way to relax. The times we went out on the boat, he’d always have some other people that he was trying to sort of do business with. I saw a good deal of him. We’d fly with him up to the Cape, and we’d have a chat on the plane.

Young

He was interested in the characters and interested about finding out what’s going on in the Senate. Did you have conversations about his own work, the characters that he was meeting, or did he not talk about this?

Kennedy

It was more—well, he talked about his trip to see [Nikita Sergeyevich] Krushchev. This was up at the Cape when he was just leaving from there to see him in Vienna. He talked to my father about all of that, about the briefings he was getting and that sort of thing. On the weekends, one of the things he’d ask us all about was gifts for visiting heads of state. He’d say we’re having so and so, now the State Department thinks we ought to give them these different gifts. What do you all think?  He’d be interested in what your reactions to the gifts were, get everybody involved in it, and ask my sisters about the different kind of things to do if their wives are coming…. Jackie obviously had great taste, but he was always interested in these kinds of additional dimensions. 

I think now we go to—

Young

Could I just ask another question?

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

This was perhaps the first time you had encountered the violence, or the hatred was it, that’s “out there,” as they say, and that caused this terrible murder of your brother. [dog barks)  That’s OK.

Kennedy

That was Sunny.

Young

I could easily imagine your thinking this is part of—is this part of America, or is it an aberration?  There was all sorts of talk at the time about a conspiracy.

Kennedy

That whole thing, it was—the loss was overpowering and overarching. Bobby asked me to go and visit with Justice [Earl] Warren, and I went over and listened to him, talked with him for a couple of hours, and then after I did that, made some notes about some things, questions I had. Warren came over and talked with Bobby and me together, but you know it was the loss that was overpowering. We never really got wrapped up about other people or other—

Young

I didn’t mean that. I meant, it was—did it make you wonder about your country, that these things could happen here?

Kennedy

I had seen the kind of bigotry and the hatred myself. I had seen it when I went down south for Martin Luther King, you know the nails in the road and the bitterness and hatred, and I’d seen some in the ’60 campaign, and read about it. This was obviously the—I was really much more consumed by the emotions and the feelings of it. To put it in some kind of perspective, I didn’t associate this—I mean, I didn’t know the motives and background and all of this. I never really—

Young

It was the loss itself.

Kennedy

The loss itself was overwhelming, and that was the paramount overwhelming, overarching kind of issue for us.

Young

Did you have anybody that you particularly turned to at that time?

Kennedy

Well, in ’63, we were very—it was really very much a family kind of time. I spent time up with my father, I spent two or three days up there, with my mother. I had that part and then came back down with my sisters. And then there were all the events surrounding the thing which were so powerful.

Young

You were looking out for your mother, being supportive of your mother, of your father, and I guess my question is, who was being supportive of Ted Kennedy?

Kennedy

Yes. Well, there was a lot of concern, you know you were close to my sisters and all.

A lot of things happened subsequently, but I think the next traumatic moment was my plane crash in 1964, which was in June, going to the Democratic Convention in Springfield, Massachusetts. We landed at the—or tried to land at Barnes Airport, and we crashed just short of the runway, in an apple orchard, probably to the north of the airport. I was with Marvella [Bayh] and Senator [Birch] Bayh, who was going to be the keynote speaker, and myself. I was with an aide named Ed Moss, who actually worked for the telephone company—he was flying back up to the convention with me, he was a good personal friend—and the pilot, there was only one pilot. The Aero Commander has the two seats that face forward and then the four seats right—and then there’s two seats facing the rear, in back of the pilot and copilot, and I guess there’s three seats that go across. So there were the four of us in the back part of it and the pilot [up front.] He had waited some period of time [at the airport in Washington], because we had the civil rights bill, an important civil rights bill that got passed in late, late afternoon, and then we took off and left.

Young

That was your brother’s bill.

Kennedy

In ’63.

Young

Well, it was passed under [Lyndon] Johnson but it was his too.

Kennedy

It was the ’64 Act, public accommodations. I remember—I am a pilot, or I was when I was in law school—saying that we’re getting close to Springfield, and Birch started writing some notes and I took my papers out and started writing some notes. Ed Moss said, it would probably give you people more room if I sat up in the copilot seat. So he got up just before we landed and went to the copilot seat. I think that probably cost him his life. I turned just as he said, we’re just landing now, we’ll be landing in three or four minutes. 

I had my seatbelt loose, so I could turn to watch the approach, and I remember looking down at what I thought was going to be the approach, and suddenly seeing rocks and a field almost directly in front of us, and trees sort of beyond that. It looked like we were coming right on down in sort of a rocky bluff, that kind of thing. He put the gas on and we rode—the plane sort of came up and rode 166 feet along the tops of these trees, across the tops of these trees, the landing gear was down. Then the left wing hit a big, tall tree and it spun the plane off to the left, which was fortunate, because these were all tall pine trees. If we crashed, I’m sure we all would have been killed, but this one tipped it over to the left and put it into an apple orchard. The plane went down and it went 166 feet—not long, it was 30 yards or so, but that was enough to slow it down and it just opened up the front of it like this, right at the face, in the apple trees. I can remember being hit in the head, hanging between what was the pilot and Moss. I remember mosquitoes coming in and absolute silence, nothing going on, absolute silence. 

Then I heard Birch Bayh and Marvella, she was chattering. Bayh said, “Are you all right up there, are you all right up there?”  I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t answer but I was conscious of it. So they got out of the plane and then he went a little ways away, sort of helping her, and strained his back, and she was very nervous. And then he said, “The plane might catch on fire.”  Then he went back to find if anybody was alive. He said the plane’s going to catch on fire, so I better go down the hill and get some help.

Young

Yes, but he went back to the plane.

Kennedy

He came back to the plane, and I think when I heard that the plane might catch on fire, I thought I’d better start moving. So I said to Birch, “I’m still alive.” I was really paralyzed sort of from the waist down, but I turned myself around and got my arm out around him, and he dragged me out.

Young

Through the window?

Kennedy

Through the window.

Young

Thank God.

Kennedy

Most of it was gone, I mean I still have cuts on my knees and all the rest, from where—some of the plastic was still there. Then I said, “I’ll just let go—” he couldn’t bend over— “when we’re far enough away.” He said, “We’re far enough away” and I just let go and dropped to the ground. And then he went back to look and tried to get Moss out but he couldn’t get him out. So then he went down to the road, Marvella went down to the road, and eight cars went by. Finally, they got a nice driver that stopped after 20 minutes or so. Now, the airport had radar, had seen it coming down and finally the ambulance comes out. It comes up some distance and people come with a stretcher and they ask me if I’m all right. I said yes, “Why don’t you look at the other people in the plane.” And then I hear them talking and they get Moss out and they run back out. But I thought then that I was going to die. It was sort of pain but it was more numb, but you could just sort of feel everything going out of you, I mean you could just feel it, just sort of conscious that my head was on the grass. It wasn’t enormously painful, but I felt that the tide was just going out. 

And then about ten or fifteen minutes later they came back up and picked me up and brought me down to the ambulance. Now, it’s really beginning to hurt—my back—so I asked them for sodium pentathol, which really had worked the one time I’d had it for a dislocated shoulder. But they said they couldn’t give me sodium pentathol because I had massive bleeding.

Young

Internal bleeding?

Kennedy

Internal bleeding. So you know just then, I passed out, I passed out. I had one collapsed lung and they got that worked out. I stayed at the hospital there for two or three weeks, and then went into Boston. But I remember being with the doctors, when first I got to the New England Baptist Hospital. The first day they came in and said, you’re never going to walk again, which was a sobering thought.

Young

Well, had you thought you wouldn’t walk again?

Kennedy

I had thought I would, I thought I would. I worked my toes and thought I had a bad back and legs, but I’ll still be able to walk.

Young

It was worse than you thought?

Kennedy

It was worse than I thought. Well particularly, they said that if they operated I’d be there for six months. My back was broken in six places, and several ribs broken. What saved my back is the vertebrae kind of exploded, they all broke into a lot of pieces, so that they didn’t sever my spinal column. But they said that we’d do what they call bridging between the vertebrae, and even though they’re displaced, with the bridging they could be weight-bearing. And you could either have an operation and they can try to put the pieces back or you can try it without the operation and see if it will come back. But if it doesn’t, then you have to have the operation after that, and you’re going to be in there for six more months.

Young

What did you decide?

Kennedy

Well, I decided not to have it, and the person that was the most decisive was my father. He had gone through the back operation with my brother Jack, which almost killed him, in the 50s. That’s when he went down to Florida, you know he did the book down there, the Profiles book, but he had a terrible, terrible experience and it almost killed him. My father was very strong. When I dislocated my shoulder and I had three or four of the doctors in for a meeting, my father listened to each one’s advice and one of them said he wouldn’t operate on it. My father said, “Well, Teddy, he’s got as good degrees as any of the others, and if you were asking me, I’d follow his advice.” And he got up and walked out and left me there with these doctors. I said to them that I’d follow it. [After the airplane crash] my father came up [and he made his advice about an operation] very clear: no, no, no, no, no, no. Though he couldn’t speak, you could understand when he was decisive and definitive.

Young

And did he come to the hospital?

Kennedy

He came to visit me, yes, he’d come up and visit me—I’ve got great pictures of the first day I stood, I stood with him. That was five months later, but he’d drive up mostly with Ann Gargan.

Young

And this was at New England Baptist?

Kennedy

New England Baptist Hospital. Let me go back just a minute. After I got into the hospital, Ed Moss lived for seven hours. For me, it was always something on my mind about, you know, if he hadn’t moved and gone up to the copilot’s seat…. If he had stayed in the back there, if he hadn’t said, “Let me give you more room back there” and we had said, “No, no, you sit here” or whatever, he probably would have survived. I maintained very close contact with Mrs. Moss and their three children. We were very close to all of those children. I spoke at each of their graduations from schools, and they came to work in my office and I got involved when Mrs. Moss died, probably eight, nine years ago now. The girls are still alive, married, have children, live in Massachusetts. They still come to rallies and events and that sort of thing, and the children are all doing pretty well. And of course the pilot’s family felt terrible. His wife came on in to see me. I felt bad enough about her husband, and she felt so bad that it looked like it was a pilot error. The FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] was going to do a big report. The head of the FAA was—I’ll remember his name, the father of Queen Noor.

Young

Halaby?

Kennedy

Halaby.

Young

Najeeb Halaby.

Kennedy

He was the first person that came in to see me. I said, what the hell am I doing talking to Jeeb Halaby, even though I can hardly breathe. He’s asking me what happened. But I remember her coming in and inquiring about me, and I said that we didn’t need the report out about whether it was pilot error or whether to have an investigation that could destroy how he’d be remembered. And she was a terribly nice woman, I felt terrible about he. But the Moss children were very special and Mrs. Moss was lovely, gracious, and of course, I felt terrible about her. Now, you’ve got sort of these flashbacks in terms of the loss again, of 1963, and we’ve got 1964 coming up.

Young

How long did you—

Kennedy

Want to take a quick break here?

Young

Yes, OK.

Kennedy

For a little bit. Do you think you can turn that off?

Young

Yes. Let me make sure I’m doing it. Yes, it’s off.

Kennedy

So, 1964, we can spend time going through what we did in the hospital and the visitors—President Johnson and others came to visit me. But let me move along a bit, through the campaign of ’64. Joan had been a real help at that time. Although the illness had become more severe, she was good in the course of the campaign. In 1964, my brother Bob got elected to the Senate, and in December of that year, I got out of the hospital and went down to Florida, for rehabilitation. I walked into the Senate in January 1964 for the swearing in of both my brother Bobby and myself. We got sworn in together. He got on the Labor Committee, which I was on, so we had a chance to work together on the Labor Committee. I also had good friends there, John Tunney and John Culver, but it was really a special time with Bobby in the Senate. It was both interesting and it was fun, and we were getting things done. At that time, we spent a good deal of time together at Christmastime or with our sisters going away on trips, and in the summertime.

Now we have the buildup to his ’68 campaign and the challenges that he faced. But we can talk about that at another time, that’s political. I think this was a very hopeful period for me. Patrick [Kennedy] was born in 1967 and I remember this as being a positive period, a more hopeful period. We were sort of trying to get 1963 further behind. Things were coming together, our lives. I think I talked with you earlier about the course of my faith during this period of time. It was still present, expansive to some degree, and grew. But we hadn’t gotten to the time of the loss in 1968. I was up campaigning for Bobby in northern California when I heard the news, and then went down….

Young

You were in San Francisco.

Kennedy

San Francisco.

Young

You were with John Siegenthaler.

Kennedy

Siegenthaler.

Young

And Dave Burke.

Kennedy

Burke.

Young

What were you doing in San Francisco?

Kennedy

At that time, I was out speaking in different places. I had been in Indiana for three weeks or so, kind of getting the campaign going as I did in other states and when I first went out to California as well. But at the end of the campaigns, it’s always much more effective for me to be out in public speaking to different groups. The last week, five days, I’d go out and speak. I’d been speaking around San Francisco when I’d gotten the news and of course it’s—that evening time, when everyone was quite euphoric that the campaign was going so well and looked good. I mean, it was still going to be a slog in terms of the nomination, but this was a big, big win. I think particularly after what happened in Oregon, we had gotten—it hadn’t gone well, so this really was a big, big boost. 

I had sort of set my mind, when flying down to Los Angeles, I remember—he’d been wounded but he’s still alive at this time, and it was very serious. You know, you didn’t want to believe the worst. I didn’t want to believe the worst and wouldn’t believe the worst. Then you’re confronted with the reality of his presence and my presence in the [hospital] room. Then it’s the reality and you know, you have a difficult time letting him go. That was a very tough time, difficult time. I spoke at the funeral up in New York. We can come back to that, and going out to Arlington as well. 

Looking at it in this broader perspective, which you asked about at the initial conversation, that’s when I really—I think I probably kind of checked out. That was going to be it for me. Shortly after that, I spent the time—my father was still alive, but I spent a good deal of time, about three months, in a boat up in Maine, the coast of Maine. I’d come back periodically to see him, but I turned around and went back out there for the summer. My mother was still alive. At other times I always felt that I owed it to them to come back and see them. But at that time, I felt that whatever justice there was, whatever the meaning of life in terms of spirituality and reliance and source of strength that would come from my faith—I found it was pretty empty, pretty empty. I mean… the losses, his loss…. All these children growing up without the kind of extraordinary human beings that both of my brothers were. All the things they’d been involved in. 

Dr. [Martin Luther] King had been a loss, been kind of a punch, a body blow, but you never translated that into thinking how anything [like this] could happen again [in your own family]. It just underlined the importance of what Bobby was all about—ending the war, getting the country back into a new direction, doing the things that you believe in philosophically and spiritually, and in every other kind of way, all of those things. The bottom just dropped out and I just sort of checked out. It was a spectacular area up there, wonderful, the Maine coast, just breathtakingly lovely, beautiful, and you could—I stayed there for at least…

Young

Were you a lot by yourself at this time?

Kennedy

Yes, a lot of time by myself.

Young

Wondering. It was very hard to let go, wasn’t it?

Kennedy

Yes, and it was very hard to get going again. It seemed to me that you had to get, to get—you know, an opportunity to try and maybe do something in terms of the things that Bobby had been interested in, we all worked on. I thought probably [Hubert H.] Humphrey could get back on into it.

Young

That’s why you’re going to get back into it? You spent a lot of time out on the water.

Kennedy

Yes, all during—from whatever time in June, until I think almost early August. We have the convention in August ’68.

Young

They were always after you.

Kennedy

Yes. I called from a phone booth up there in one of those towns [in Maine]. But we can talk about that later. What was always sort of—what I was beginning to think in my mind is, Here, I was sort of close to my father and suddenly he was lost. I had a great summer with my brother Jack, this personal relationship, and suddenly he was lost. And then Bobby arrived in the Senate and even though you’re moved and troubled by what was happening in the society, in terms of the war and all the rest of it, suddenly he’s, in personal terms, lost.

Young

They go out of your life and what are you left with?  I understand.

Kennedy

So we now are in the—back into it through the late fall. We lost the campaign and now we start 1969. In 1969, it seemed to me that there were a number of things that Bobby was interested in and I thought I ought to try and sort of pick up on, and one of them was Indian education. He had done a lot on housing, which was still unfinished, but Indian education was, I thought, manageable. I said this was something I could do.

Young

He’d been on the committee.

Kennedy

He had chaired the committee. He had hearings about Indian schools. [He was taken up in] the great tragedy of the Indians, and he traveled out to these places where it seemed that the poorest of the poor and the dispossessed lived. It’s an area he hadn’t completed, but a lot of the hearings had been done and we could complete this, which we did eventually. So we went up to Alaska and we traveled around [to Indian and Eskimo schools]. But we had the—I had that trip back where alcohol was consumed and it became a national story. So I’m back but sort of wasn’t back. I never really thought that I was back. I never quite thought that it was—obviously, I had made a mistake. 

We come to the time in the summer of ’69 when I was up at the Cape to sail in the Edgartown races, which I had done in previous years. At that time, the group called the “boiler room” got together there. They had all worked in Bobby’s campaign in ’68, the year before. They had worked not only in the campaign but they also worked at the funeral, the same group of people, mostly from Massachusetts but not exclusively. They went over to this—over to the place up there [on Chappaquiddick Island], which they rented over the weekend. I made mistakes, but one of them was going by there and going to their event. But I had sort of thought, Well, if Bobby had been around here, he would have gone.

Young

You had to, yes.

Kennedy

You know, I can’t go through the—the series of events, they’ve been out there and I’ve spoken about them in public, when I had a much clearer memory—

Young

You don’t have to go through that.

Kennedy

—than I have now. I think the power of the accident and the tragedy in this, is that this, unlike the other times, when people that were very much a part of my life were sort of taken from me, you had a person that was taken from her family life, and which I had a responsibility for. This was a person that I had no—hadn’t any relationship with previously, and hadn’t really—may have met but that didn’t know—but who now becomes a part of my life and will be until my death because of this incident where she lost her life. I knew the extraordinary loss that those that were close in my family were to me, so I could understand, really, something of the loss that she was to her parents and her family, and…the loss of a life that she could have lived. The loss of my brothers and what they meant to my family and me—I could see this now replicated, duplicated, in the loss of her life, and what it would mean to her family. This was something that has always remained with me, from that time. 

I had tried, over the period of time, with their family, you know to mend the broken hearts of her parents. It always seemed that my presence brought more pain to them, which was both saddening to my point of view but sort of realistic, you know, something that I could sort of understand. So I made up my mind that the best I could do was my prayers for her, my prayers for that family, and my recognition that this was an individual who could have had a joyous and wonderful life, and that I bear the responsibility. It was a tragic, tragic accident, but I certainly have understood that my actions were the principal cause, to blame for this.

Young

Yes.

Kennedy

The thing that was very apparent to me, looking back at that time, was sort of the disbelief of the whole event. I had a great deal of difficulty, as I remember back now, in believing that these series of events really happened, at the time when they were happening. I mean, it was like you were sort of living in a nightmare. You’d wake up and this would not have happened. It was really sort of too much for me to take in and absorb and try and think through. I kept thinking, this isn’t [real]—I’m going to wake up and we’re going to be headed down to the dock for the next day’s race. There was a whole series of different actions that obviously, you’d handle differently, but this [sense of unreality] was something that stayed with me for a real considerable period of time. I don’t know when it sort of finally ended and what ended it. I should have had a different kind of frame of mind…from the time of the accident on, instead of a state of almost disbelief that this was all going on, even happening. But that doesn’t, certainly, excuse any of my actions or activities…in the immediate aftermath of the accident, and I don’t offer it as any kind of excuse. I am trying to understand my own thought process and my own actions. This was something that was a factor in my own actions.

Young

Well, that’s all very human. I’ve looked at what you were doing in that year between Bobby’s death and the race event and the party. I’m trying to track some of your activities and my impression is, once you got back into the Senate—[Adam] Clymer writes that you tried to go back to the Senate soon and you just couldn’t face it, you had to have some more time away. But then I think it was by September, you’re back in the harness. It seems to me that you were just driving yourself very hard. You were doing so much, so active, and a lot of it looks to me like it was Bobby’s causes. You mentioned Indian education. You went to Memphis for the Martin Luther King tribute. You went out to the place where he died, in California, for a [Cesar] Chavez event. You went to the Indian reservations, you went to Alaska. It’s just a very intense period of throwing yourself back and picking up the fallen standard. And then the way it ended—the tragedy at Chappaquiddick, when you were standing in for Bobby at that event—I don’t see how any human being could have taken that. The fact that you were in a period of disbelief—how could this happen, it was a nightmare, I’ll wake up—when it comes on top of everything else I think is very understandable. And also, as you mentioned it’s the first time, in this accident, that you had caused harm to another, and you’re by nature so supportive of others, so feeling of others. I’m talking too much, it’s your story.

Kennedy

No, well that’s—

Young

That’s what I’m seeing.

Kennedy

My feelings about her loss and having the responsibility wassomething that always has stayed with me, does stay with me. 

I think also—this is less important—about going back into the Senate. Here, you’re going back, wondering how you’re going to be received, bearing the shame of that incident, and wondering whether you could ever be effective again. Here you are living to try and make a difference in other people’s lives, carry forward the unfulfilled missions of your brothers and other family members. And that’s part of your motivation. Now you’ve lost the ability to have an impact, carry on a tradition. Would the people of the state continue to support you in this?  I’d been around long enough to know that in the initial kinds of reactions, they always support somebody. But then when things settle on in, will they stay with you?  So you know, everything that you’ve tried to do…your whole reason for—your public life, your pathway of life depends on [the trust and support of] others. So this was something that was—you were thinking about when you’re coming on back in. And then of course I came back to the Senate and got beaten in the leadership fight, which is the message that was going to be sent.

Young

And you were wondering if this might mean the end of your career.

Kennedy

Yes, sure.

Young

Or your purpose in your career.

Kennedy

Purpose, I think it’s the—

Young

Because you couldn’t fulfill the purpose any more?

Kennedy

You had lost some of the opportunity. People aren’t going to pay attention to your viewpoint, people aren’t going to care very much what you think. You lose so much of your political leadership, people’s confidence, people’s trust, people’s belief. You know?

Young

Right.

Kennedy

You speak for them, are you on their side?  Are they going to be able to trust that you’ll be on their side?  Will they believe in your integrity in the political process, which has been your power in terms of your public life? So that was in my mind coming back.

Young

And also the destructive part, the character destruction that follows.

Kennedy

Yes, that’s right.

Young

So you get stereotyped as—

Kennedy

Absolutely. Being a public figure, you’re getting the assaults on this, people are exploiting all of this to your disadvantage. You’re conscious of what this means to the Kopechne family and what it means to your family. I mean, I think you may be able to sort of get through this yourself, in terms of being able to carve out what you want to do, and face the music in that way. But it’s obviously impacting and affecting other people. Those are body blows that come up sort of underneath the rib cage, I mean those can get at you. It’s one thing as a politician, to deal with what people are going to say about your position on a particular issue, which you can deal with. But these kinds of body blows are particularly cruel and difficult and painful. And that was going to continue—and has continued on through in this last election.

Young

It never goes away but it ceases to be determinative.

Kennedy

No, it never goes away, but it makes you mindful of other parts—And then, just as we were coming through this period, my father dies.

Young

Yes, in November.

Kennedy

In November. And even though he had been ill and sick, he still had…He was devastated with the loss of Bobby and the rest, and basically sort of gave up living. That was a great loss. 

There had been a sort of upswing in ’64, when Bobby was coming into the Senate and I was coming back, a hopeful kind of time. Then all of this happened, which sort of closes out that decade. We had little Teddy—you know, finding out about his cancer—in the start of the next decade, in ’73. That had sort of a joyous outcome, but it was a very difficult time and….

Young

Something good remains.

Kennedy

We were—this is sort of where we are….

Young

Can we go back?

Kennedy

Sure.

Young

Could you talk about—or do you want to talk about after the accident. There was a much publicized gathering of the friends and advisors at the house in Hyannis Port, and there are sort of different interpretations of where you were in this process of making a public statement and so forth. I mean, I’m talking about Clymer and the others who have written about this.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

I’m assuming that that was a period of time in which you were maybe still having the nightmare, and still in the period of denial, and you weren’t in charge of planning the public response to this. Would that be a correct reading?

Kennedy

Well, I had that one—you know, to speak to the people of Massachusetts.

Young

Yes.

Kennedy

I think people, you know friends came there, there was sort of a gathering [and there was an] aspect of a plan.

Young

Yes, sure.

Kennedy

Something happens and everybody sort of comes. That was certainly true. People from my brothers’ campaigns, everybody came. I think they felt that they ought to come to reassure me and to try and give some…. There was always the speculation of some grand design down there. I never heard it if there was one. There were people that cared deeply about me, cared about our family, cared about—were very close to Bobby and my brother Jack.

Young

Steve Smith came didn’t he?

Kennedy

And Steve came, he was very—

Young

Dave Burke was there, I think.

Kennedy

Dave Burke was there.

Young

Among others, Bob McNamara.

Kennedy

Dave had been my administrative assistant and Steve, my brother in-law. We’re getting ahead of ourselves now.

Young

There was one other thing.

Kennedy

Yes?

Young

You didn’t know how you’d be received in the Senate. So if you could go back to your reentry into the Senate. What happened first, before the Whip fight.

Kennedy

What first happened, I think I had talked—I don’t have the exact memory of it, but I believe [Senator Michael] Mansfield had called me and I think some of the other Senators had called me before I went back, and I remember Mansfield being very kind and gracious when I returned. We had some good friends there at the time. I felt that one of the things about the Senate is that at times when people are under the most intense pressure, there’s a pretty good sense of collegiality, at least in terms of receiving you back. You don’t know quite what’s on their minds, but at least in appearance they were decent about having you come on back. That didn’t answer the questions about whether you were going to be effective, whether people were going to follow you, whether they were going to let you lead on different issues, whether you could really be a force or a factor, but at least in superficial aspects, there was—

Young

Well at least it let you know you’re still a member and you’re still one of them. Clymer quotes Mansfield as saying, “Welcome back, this is where you belong, Teddy.”

Kennedy

Yes, I think that’s right.

Young

Those are very warm words.

Kennedy

Yes. I think people and members of the Senate also had—this is 1969—an awful lot of them had gone through the ’63 and ’68. I think there was some empathy and some sympathy probably—

Young

Well, there is bound to have been.

Kennedy

—from people that had been either involved or cared or who were friends during that period of time. So I think that was obviously a force or a factor in getting back.

Young

Were you still thinking in your mind, after you went back to the Senate, let’s see how this works out, how effective I can be, what I can do, and reserving judgment on whether you would stick with it? Or you were already determined to stick with it and make something of it?

Kennedy

Well in my mind, I thought that it was going to be—in my mind, I thought that I had to work to earn the confidence and trust of people back, I knew that. But I thought I could, because this had been—all of them said it had been an accident. I mean, it was a terrible one and I was at the wheel, and I had made some mistakes which I admitted at the time, so it was a devastating event. But I thought that it wasn’t—I mean, I accepted all that. I thought that there still was the possibility to regain confidence and regain trust and regain support. I believed that, but I wasn’t absolutely sure. I knew that the only way you’re going to do it is a lot of, lot of hard work, a lot of slogging away and a lot of working with colleagues and deference to them, you know, re-earning your stripes, so to speak, in there. So that’s what I did.

Young

It couldn’t have been otherwise for you, it seems to me.

Kennedy

No.

Young

You had to do it.

Kennedy

I think that was compelling. I never thought of turning away from it, but I was very conscious that there was a lot of work to do.

Young

When you look back on this, would you think this was a turning point for you?  Were you different after that and after it was sort of over and you’re back to work in the Senate, than you were before that or before Bobby’s…?

Kennedy

I think so. You know, when I first arrived in the Senate, I knew I was very lucky to be there and I knew there was a lot to learn, and I know that I was going to—I was afforded the luxury of spending a lot of time. I just sort of worked as—I mean, I got started on the poll tax… but it was—I think the life experience. Then you suddenly realize where you are and what you can do and what is possible to get done and you try to do it right. I think I sort of reached that point then. I certainly wanted—was prepared to be an important Senator. I had sort of a glimmer of thought about the possible future. I mean, I wasn’t thinking this at the time I first came back, but I knew I wanted to work hard and do something of importance and consequence. That’s sort of where I was, and that’s what we tried to do.

Young

Did you have a sense at this time of the dangers of being a public figure?

Kennedy

Well, I think so, I think so.

Young

I guess your family certainly was.

Kennedy

I certainly did. At some events subsequently you wear a bullet proof vest and other kinds of things like that. I mean, I knew there were dangers out there, but there were some that…I was very involved in the ’68 Gun Act. I knew that was going to tee-off people, but I didn’t really care. I didn’t really care. I felt that you had to have some prudence in this case, you had some responsibility. But on the other hand, you don’t want your life’s work to be conditioned on that kind of constraint either.

Young

I am thinking about the various ways people deal with tragedy. I remember my wife telling me about something that I think anthropologists have called grief work. I think this may have been a term that Margaret Mead used. Survivors respond to the death of someone important to them by doing work instead of dwelling on their loss. The work can be pretty crazy and exhausting. But this is a way some people grieve, instead of withdrawing to mourn or turning inward. I was thinking of how you threw yourself back into Senate work, working even harder, after the tragedies. It brought this idea of grief work to mind. I thought I would just throw that out.

Kennedy

No, I think there’s a lot to it.

Young

When you lost Bobby, you picked up his work.

Kennedy

No, I think there’s a lot to it. I think you also have a lot of periods of loneliness during this period and seeking solace. I was bothered by my back at times. In other words, there were times where—

Young

You were experiencing constant pain weren’t you?

Kennedy

I felt that, yes, it’s with you all the time, more sometimes than others, but it’s very much there. So I mean, you had those kinds of times.

Young

What was your immediate family situation, Joan’s situation, during all of this?

Kennedy

This was a difficult time with her. I mean she tried and tried hard to get help during this time, and she went to different places. It looked like it was OK for a while, and then she had a tough period. I think the disease is not completely inherited, but an awful lot of that thing is inherited. I mean her parents, unfortunately, both died of alcoholism. You could see in your living family the dangers that people can have in these things. I think there’s a lot we’ve still got to learn about it, but boy it is devastating, a devastating disease. I think she’s tried nobly to deal with it. It’s just been devastating, I think over her entire life, really.

Young

But again, there was nobody at home that you could turn to.

Kennedy

No, no. Well, now you have the—we have Teddy’s time and his recovery from cancer. Patrick now is a chronic asthmatic and we spent a lot of time with him in hospitals. He had a lot of difficulty. He’s so incredible. These [Portuguese water] dogs [Sunny and Splash] are not allergenic, and yet he reacts. He’s the one person I was trying to think of. Who else, Vicki, reacts to the dogs?  He’ll get a reaction.

Young

Breathing problems.

Kennedy

He’s had it since childhood, and he’s had a very tough time, where—you know, playing sports, not being able to do these things, and that’s been a big, you know a major challenge.

Young

From an early age.

Kennedy

An early age, all the way through. I think maybe it would be worthwhile, while we’re on this pathway, if we want to do Palm Beach. What’s your sense, that we do that, and then that’s probably—

Young

That’s probably it for the day.

Kennedy

Probably it for the time. What sort of triggered this was your talking about Steve. You mentioned his being up there at the Cape for me in ’69. Steve was then sort of a new brother to me. I had a terrific, wonderful relationship with him. He did so much in terms of Bobby’s memorial, Jack’s memorial, and was great fun. We’d go away with Jean [Kennedy Smith] and Steve, my sister Pat [Kennedy Lawford], and some of the Robert Kennedy children, at Christmastime. He and I got along terribly, terribly well. Then, he had brothers that actually died from blockages in their carotid arteries, two brothers that didn’t live to 65. He was getting about 60, and so he went in to get a check of his carotid arteries, and they found a speck on his lung. He died a year later from lung cancer. He had been a smoker and went through different chemotherapies and the rest of it. So he died in ’90, in August of ’90. It had been a difficult summertime. That was a real loss to me, again a personal loss, because I was very close to him.

We move forward to March of ’91, when we were down in Palm Beach. Bill Barry and a number of members of the family were there and it was a time when Steve would have been with us. That was the night of the Palm Beach incident, which I wasn’t obviously directly involved in. My going out with my nephews and others to a bar late at night was not the best judgment. But this time in Palm Beach had been a haunting moment, a haunting time for me, which sort of triggered the idea of at least getting out of the house. That whole experience lagged on for a long period of time, and it affected other members of my family, and that continued on and on for weeks and months, through the trials and finally the acquittal. That was a very trying, trying time emotionally, I think spiritually as well.

Then in June of that year, I met Vicki. I met Vicki in 1991 and fell in love with her. The corresponding changes in my life were seismic in terms of my ability to have an inner sense of joy and ability to meet new kinds of challenges, return to a sense of optimism and purpose and focus.

Young

That becomes very important. Before we get into it, could you say a little more about Palm Beach. Was this a situation where you, though in a far lesser degree, where you felt some sense of accountability or responsibility for what happened, or was it just one of those things?  Did it weigh on you?

Kennedy

Well, it was a foolish thing to do, to go out like that. There may have been a couple of times that you might have done something like that—I can’t remember what they were—but I might have taken people out [to a bar late at night.] This was just sort of a moment of time when it just seemed spontaneous and we went out. The follow-up on this—why don’t we take a break.

Young

Sure, sure.

Kennedy

Well, I think when—we’re looking at Florida, in late March of ’91. I’d been asked about it and I’ve always said that I wish I’d gone out for a walk on the beach, instead of going out with my son Patrick and my nephew. My nephew was 30 years old, so these are mature individuals I went out with. And although I was not implicated in any kind of, I suppose inappropriate kind of activities, at the time when this all became public, I think in the public’s mind, I was implicated. I think there were maybe two or three days when most people thought I was the assailant, not my nephew. And even when they found out that it was not me but my nephew, I think it was just very easy to—

Young

It was a Kennedy.

Kennedy

It was a Kennedy. They took this over and it became a larger than life episode. I think, in fairness to some I suppose—a few years earlier at Palm Beach, we had lost my nephew David from an overdose of drugs and we were very sad. He never really ever recovered from the loss of his father, never recovered. Others had challenges and difficulties but David was absolutely consumed by it and there was so little that we could do. Nonetheless, I think in the wake of ’68, there had been stories written about some of the nephews, and Palm Beach sort of capsulized this sentiment or this feeling, and the focus really ended up being totally on me. You know, it was just dramatic, I mean we saw that even in my own state. We dropped you know, 25 points in the polls. I mean this thing just became—people became—whatever it was in the back of their minds, they just became certain that I was the figure on this thing. It took a lot—eventually, they worked their way through it and it worked out. There will always be people that don’t want it to work out and want to use it as a political thing. But I think that after that, in probably the late spring, after those trials began, I had to get back on—as you say, back on track.

Young

Your life is about to reach a new turning point at this stage.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

Was this an accident?

Kennedy

Well, I think it was—hey you know, obviously, an enormously regrettable incident.

Young

Oh no, I’m not talking about that [Palm Beach] incident. I’m talking about your new life [with Vicki], the lady on the couch over there. I was wondering if this is—

Kennedy

Hello, Missy, is that you?

Young

—one of these accidents. No, the serious question is, it’s obviously—it obviously is a turning point and a change in your own life.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

And I think, how did this come about? I’m not asking about courting, though you can talk about that, but I’m saying why does this man, who has gotten through a failed marriage, with all kinds of difficulties in the family, tragedies in the family, is now in his late 50s—why is he now doing something about his own life that he hasn’t done before. Shall I put it that way?

Kennedy

Well, one of the great, good fortunes of my life was meeting Vicki at a very important time in my life, and I think her life as well. I don’t think I ever thought about or that I’d be—get married or have some permanent relationship, but that changed with Vicki and very joyously so. She’s been a terrific soul mate in every way, I mean she’s a magnificent person. She’s a bit volatile sometimes, she gets—

Young

Really?

Kennedy

Yes. But she is certainly the love of my life and has made an enormous difference in my life, my personal happiness. I have a sense of purpose and she’s very involved and engaged in all of the important decisions of my life and has brought great joy to my life.

Young

So you weren’t looking to make a change in your life, it just happened?

Kennedy

Absolutely.

Young

You weren’t wanting now, to get remarried, and looking for somebody. It was—

Kennedy

You’re talking about now, getting remarried? [laughter]  No.

Young

No, no.

Kennedy

I had not thought about it.

Young

This is—we’re getting to a joyous chapter in your life.

Kennedy

A joyous chapter, here we go, this is it. No, absolutely.

Young

It becomes very important, as to how—

Kennedy

I think it’s absolutely so, and we’ve had a lot of fun too. It’s not only the serious aspects of what it is meaning in terms of one’s soul, but we’ve had a lot of fun along the way and I think it’s looking to the future with a sense of optimism and joy in these extraordinary, interesting, challenging times. Which brings us back to where we started earlier today, and that is the chances for new leadership as the Senate is coming back in and the new opportunities to change direction of the country. This is what I’ve been involved in over my life. I’m sort of getting on in years, but still blessed with good health and a good deal of motivation, and desire to try and play a role in these times. And I think those views are shared by Vicki, so I think that makes it—

Young

You’re partners too. You’re both very interested in politics and public issues.

Mrs. Kennedy

Can I say, that’s not something that we talked about.

Young

It isn’t.

Mrs. Kennedy

When we were dating, not too much. It was—I think timing was really important for both of us. I actually accepted Teddy’s dinner invitation because I decided, I never wanted to marry again and I thought, who could be a better person to go out to dinner with and not have to worry about a long-term commitment than Teddy. I mean that was you know, because he’s fun and we’d just laugh and have a great time. Boy, did that change. We spent a lot of time just talking, a lot, a lot of time talking, and just sharing details about our family lives. Like, we were telling him about how my grandparents came to this country, that kind of stuff, I mean really very old fashioned, sit in the parlor kind of talking, and we just became increasingly, deeply connected to each other. But we really didn’t talk about politics—he knew my family, obviously my parents were at dinner the night he says that we met, and he doesn’t mean that we met for the first time, because we’d met years before. But that’s the night that you know, maybe he first wanted to ask me out or something.

Young

Yes.

Mrs. Kennedy

It was just the time, it was just the timing. He was going through a difficult time because of the Palm Beach trial and his preparation, but we weren’t talking about that either.

Young

You weren’t talking about that.

Mrs. Kennedy

I remember him telling me his polls had dropped to some number, and I kind of joked and I said well, if they go down to such and such, I’m not going out to dinner with you, or something. You know, I mean it was that kind of—that would be the extent of how deeply we talked about it. And then he made a speech at Harvard in October I think, of ’91, and I was at the speech, at his invitation, but honestly, until the plane ride over, I didn’t know what the speech was. You know, I’ve read how I helped draft the speech.

Young

That was the story in the press.

Mrs. Kennedy

Right, but I knew nothing about it. That wasn’t what we were talking about.

Young

Teddy Kennedy is now going to confess, and you were behind it all—that was the story.

Mrs. Kennedy

I had absolutely nothing to do with it and it was, I think on the plane, that I first even read the speech. So you know, all those things are a little—there’s a lot of fiction in there, but it was obvious that we were falling in love.

Young

Well, you know, in an earlier interview, we were talking about your Senate campaigns, and we came to the ’94campaign where Mitt Romney is running against you for it, and you were part of that interview.

Mrs. Kennedy

Yes.

Young

And in the course of that interview, if I remember correctly, you [EMK] were sort of reviewing where you’d been before the campaign—how you were falling out of step or something in your life. You talked about well, you’re eating too much or you haven’t lost weight, you’re not spending enough time on Massachusetts and things like that, and I got the impression that Vicki was much involved in the campaign when you bounced back. That was what was behind my sense that you were moving to a new phase, because the polls were telling you something, that Ted Kennedy is sort of out of it, he’s a 60s liberal, he doesn’t care about us any more. You know, for somebody who studies politics, that becomes kind of an important thing. How does this get turned around?

Mrs. Kennedy

I’ll tell you, we may have said this previously, but that actually was the feeling in ’94, when we would go around, although the polls, I mean Teddy was still winning early on, and then Mitt Romney sort of had a surge. But we would be out in different towns, and you got the sense, because there was that ’94 Gingrich Revolution and there was a whole different anti-government, government is the problem sort of thing that was very—just palpable out there. People were hurting and I can remember our conversation. I said well maybe we really are out of it, I mean people were just in a different place. But then Teddy was able to get out and talk to them and they reconnected to him and to his vision and his optimism and what he believed our country should be, and it was a really positive thing ultimately. Massachusetts was a very happy outcome in an otherwise pretty dismal time for Democrats.

Young

Do people realize, Ted, just going back to a more somber subject. Do you think there’s any possibility that people could recognize, when you say the grief and the tragedy of Mary Jo is inside of you and will always be—is that a concept that people could understand?  I don’t think so.

Kennedy

No, I don’t think so.

Young

I think it’s still sort of a negative out there, “Well, he’s OK but….” And that sort of brings me back to my pitch for why this is important, this kind of talk is important for oral history, because otherwise it will die with you and myths about the kind of person you are will become the conventional wisdom. That’s why I think it’s tough but it’s important for you to do this.

Kennedy

Well, you’re always hopeful that people will look at the totality. I had  bumps along the line, but you look at the totality of what you tried to do over the course of your life, and what you’ve learned, whether you’ve moved to sort of a higher level and tried to accept the challenges and learn from them, not get sort of consumed by them, and [you look at] the motivation, I mean the purpose, the drive [and what it comes from].

Young

I’m puzzling in my own mind, given your accounts of this walk through these decades and the events of the decades. I’m still sort of puzzled about the question of are you bringing yourself back and then renewing your faith, or is your faith bringing you back?  You did refer that of course, there were periods of bitterness and anger—

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

Can you say anything to sort of sort out that puzzle?  Is your faith carrying you through or you’ve checked out and then—

Kennedy

I think it really comes together doesn’t it?  It’s why you work and work hard. You can say well, you have different sorts of pressures and motivations at different times of your life. After Bobby went, I was trying to work on Indian education and those other kinds of activities, whether or not it’s grief work, which you mentioned earlier. But you have powerful, powerful examples, in terms of family life and in terms of spiritual life, of work. My mother was still, at 95 years old, working on French and German, listening to records in her room. I mean this constant theme in all of my upbringing, everything I was always exposed to, was that we had opportunities. That was very important, we had opportunities, and you do something constructive and positive with those opportunities. It could become well, you know, [something you do] almost for praise, I need praise, but you had the responsibility. Early in my life, I remember my father talking to me and saying, “We’ve got a lot of children. If you want to try and do something with your life, I’m going to be here to help you, and if you don’t want to do something with your life, you’ve got older brothers and sisters who do, and I’m going to have to spend time with them.” So think about that a little bit.

Young

That’s pretty direct.

Kennedy

I went back in my bedroom after talking to him and made my mind made up. It didn’t take much time. But this is, I think, where the family and the faith really come together and they support each other, because they involve you in a cause that’s more important than you are. There’s a spiritual aspect to that and a personal satisfaction from it, and an uplifting aspect of it, which you receive from helping someone [other than yourself]. That’s the irony. Choosing a life that helps others is probably a reflection of something that we seek; it may very well be the next possibility, i.e., our ultimate and eternal reward for doing God’s work during our lives. I find that they really come together. Faith becomes a more powerful force in your life and your work becomes more effective.

Young

As you move through life.

Kennedy

As you move through it, yes. You get older, you realize there are more days, as they say, behind you than there are ahead. I mean, it’s easier to get—you get older, tired or whatever and you really wonder how much you’re going to be able to achieve or accomplish. So I think you probably—I can understand people getting discouraged at things, and I think it’s pretty easy, probably, to slip back into that kind of mode. I think you’ve got to understand that.

Young

There’s a theme that runs through here and it’s particularly prominent in your eulogy of Bobby, but it runs through and it’s very consistent with what you’re saying. Call it rededication or renewal or whatever—what the person who has gone out of your life has done and stood for is a reminder of work remaining to be done. I think that’s a large part of how faith and family example sort of come together and move one ahead.

Kennedy

Yes, I think that’s right.

Young

This is analytic stuff, but I think that’s what people will figure out.

Kennedy

I think it’s powerful.

Young

Did faith mean to grandpa [Fitzgerald] what it means to you?

Kennedy

Oh, I think so, yes.

Young

Really?

Kennedy

He went to 26 years of first Fridays, well that’s unbelievable. We made the first Fridays and we barely made them. You know, you go to church the first Friday at each month  and trying to get separate teaching. He was very—you know, one thing I didn’t mention in the Harvard incident, when I had that. After I had gone down and I talked to my father about it he said well you know, he said you’ve got two alternatives; one to go to college. There may be possibilities of going to Notre Dame, and you can complete that. Or go into the military. I sort of talked about it with my brothers and decided to go in the military and then come back. There was no guarantee you could get back into Harvard, I mean they didn’t give any indication at all. It was sort of a roll of the dice, because you served two years in the Army at that time. But after I went in the Army, my father—it was the year that they had the Army cheating scandal [at West Point], and they fired 96 cadets out of the military. He gave each one of them a scholarship to go to college, anonymously. I never found out about it until probably five or seven years after. They received a Notre Dame scholarship—Father Cavanaugh was his friend [who arranged it.] My father gave that to them because of what happened to me. Pretty heavy stuff.

Young

Yes.

Kennedy

And you know, he’d gotten letters back from some of these people that went back in the military and they talk about what a difference it made in terms of their lives getting back on track, their future and all the rest. Otherwise, they would have cashiered. So it was an interesting sort of sidebar. He did what he believed was right. He went all the way. I had made mistakes, someone else was making them, he’s going to be doing something else. But he was very strongly committed and a believer. He took great pains in doing the altar down there [St. Francis Xavier], named after Joe, the design. I mean, it was a very live force in his life. Cardinal Cushing was a great pal, a personal pal, and his other best friend was Father Cavanaugh of Notre Dame. They used to spend time with him. They went to play golf before Mass every morning, you know at my parents’ place in France. My father went to Mass every morning, never skipped, my mother also. But he got discouraged at times too. I don’t think there was any question he got tested.

Young

We talk about role models, a parent or some other person. I don’t care much for the terminology, but it’s really a question about people who look to a parent or somebody else as guide for their own decisions or behavior. Did you want to be like your father? Or did you want to be yourself, using his wisdom?

Kennedy

When we grew up, we always knew. I mean, that my father played baseball and was very successful. So none of us played baseball and none of us I  think probably could have gone into business. We all knew none of us could do what he did—and that was pretty generally true all the way through. But I mean for role models, I didn’t need them outside my family.

Young

You had plenty of them.

Kennedy

Plenty of them. They were the real thing. They believed and they were workers, and they were terrific fun. They were very joyous people. You know, President Kennedy, he met two of my friends. One was John Culver, who was a classmate at mine at Harvard, and my brother said, you know you ought to run for Congress or something. But he just saw a person that was purposeful and good fun, and boom, he runs for Congress and the Senate. His son is now elected Governor of Iowa. And Tunney, he headed off in a different direction, but when he finished in the Air Force out in California he stayed in the district of Riverside, ran for Congress, eventually got to the Senate. People write about the motivation and the inspiration President Kennedy gave them. But it was a very personal thing with him. He said, this is somebody who is interesting and interested.

Young

I think at another time, it need not be one of the special interviews, but I think at another time, your reflections on motivations to go into public service during that era when you and Tunney did would be valuable. A lot of the inspiration, personal inspiration was of course from Jack.

Kennedy

Yes.

Young

The influence on the youth and the students of that era was just amazing. How different it is now, or is it different?  Your reflections on how you get people motivated to go into public service—I’m not asking you that now, unless you want to talk about it, but I think that’s very important for the political future, because a lot of people are turned off.

Kennedy

A lot of people are turned off.

Young

There’s a lot of local involvement, but I’m not so sure about running for the Senate. I don’t know how many good people really try to do that any more.

Kennedy

Now it’s more, it’s oh, we’ve got some ideas. Of course you know, you had a generation then that had been at war too, so these were tough people. They had been through [that struggle] and they knew what they wanted to do. I mean, it’s not the confusion out here now, about what you ought to do. They knew what they wanted to do. Not that they were always right, but they had a [purpose]…. And then I think they saw that what they had a real impact….Now, it’s a different pace and a different time.

Young

Is that about it for now?

Kennedy

We can go over this and think through it, and come back on it.

This is one of the many interviews that comprise the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History. For more information about the Edward M. Kennedy Oral History, including links to all interviews, please click here.

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