The Kennedy Legacy

With Eunice Kennedy Shriver's death and Ted Kennedy facing down terminal cancer, Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi suggested in a piece this weekend that the next generation of Kennedys seem unlikely to live up to the legacy of their fathers and uncles.

So far, the surviving children of Camelot have not been able to live up to the myth and reality of their parents’ accomplishments on the political stage.

Patrick Kennedy, son of the Massachusetts senator, is a congressman from Rhode Island; further political advancement seems unlikely. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, was elected lieutenant governor of Maryland, but fell short in a run for governor.

Caroline Kennedy’s ill-fated effort to succeed Hillary Clinton as US senator from New York is a recent reminder of the challenge of connecting with average voters. Her brother, John F. Kennedy Jr., might have possessed the magic blend associated with their father and uncles. But, his death in July 1999 at age 38 in a plane crash off Martha’s Vineyard leaves that as pure, untested hypothetical.

But, as even Vennochi notes, the fame and accomplishment of Ted Kennedy's generation owes something to an era that cannot be replicated: will be difficult to match the political potency of the original brand. It was nurtured by a vigilant network of family and friends. With help from a compliant media, it withstood scandal and attack by political enemies. It was a product of its time, and times have changed, even in Massachusetts.


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