Review: Ted Kennedy, in a new biography, is better — and worse — than you thought.
The story of Ted Kennedy’s life has been an obsession for years now — whether for political or personal reasons. He is a tragic, brilliant, unruly, and at times violent man who was a beloved but controversial figure in American politics in the 1960s and throughout his life after that. Many remember him as being the first politician to say “F- you” to President Gerald Ford in the famous “Kitchen Debate.” But many others remember him as the man who had the power to make a difference in America’s racial history. As a freshman senator, Kennedy helped pass a civil rights bill that ultimately led to the Voting Rights Act, which changed the country’s political culture forever. But his political legacy also extends to the women’s movement, the environment, gay rights, and even the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was signed by his son, John Kennedy, in the White House. And then there was his time spent as a prosecutor for Racketeer Influence Abroad, which led to a series of indictments and guilty pleas from corrupt French and other officials.
As a result of all that, the fact that Kennedy was almost assassinated remains a major theme in the narrative, as well as the public perception of him.
And now, Ted Kennedy, a new biography from the non-profit New England Historic Genealogical Society, finally and finally tells Ted Kennedy the story of his life, from his life as a prosecutor and judge to his time as the first politician to say “F- you” to President Gerald Ford.
And he does so in a rather surprising way.
Ted Kennedy’s life, as a teenager, came down to the wire for a young black man trying to get into Columbia College. And he did not have a lot of support. A few dozen people showed up, including Ted’s father and a number of his friends. They were given a place in the freshman dorm alongside other black students at Columbia, but they needed to take an entrance exam. They did not have one. So they all sat together and sang “Oh! Susanna” to pass the exam, and they failed. Eventually, they all moved on, and Kennedy graduated in just eight months, at the top of his class.
He went on to the University of Michigan to study