Meet the Press Netcast | August 30, 2009
MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, a special edition : remembering Senator Edward M. Kennedy , who was laid to rest yesterday evening alongside his brothers at Arlington National Cemetery . With us to honor his remarkable life and career in public office : his nieces Maria Shriver , the first lady of California and daughter of his sister Eunice Shriver who died just weeks ago, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend , the eldest child of his brother Robert F. Kennedy ; two of his closest colleagues in the Senate , fellow senator from Massachusetts John Kerry , and Chris Dodd of Connecticut ; plus, Democratic strategist Bob Shrum , longtime political adviser to the senator who helped write his famous speech at the 1980 Democratic National Convention ...
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY: The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.
MR. GREGORY: ...and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin , who authored the best- selling book "The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys ."
But first, it has been a weekend filled with tributes and remembrances as Ted Kennedy 's life was celebrated, his loss mourned and his body laid to rest. Friday evening, after the moving memorial service in Boston , I sat down at the Kennedy Library with his niece Maria Shriver . I began by asking her what the tremendous public outpouring for Senator Kennedy meant to her and her family .
MS. MARIA SHRIVER: I think driving from Hyannis Port to Boston , it was so moving to see people standing along the freeway, gathered on bridges; entire families, many in tears, boys with their hands over their hearts saluting. It was a great piece of American history that you were able to drive by. And this was a weekday, in the middle of the day , so people obviously had to leave work or leave their vacations, park their cars and wait to just watch a hearse go by. And I thought it was so generous of the people, and so moving. It's something I think Teddy would have been so thrilled by and also humbled by.
MR. GREGORY: It's interesting, for the past several days you hear so much about the career, about the issues, about the passion. And yet at this memorial service , you heard about the man.
MS. SHRIVER: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: And you understood that public service , for him, was about other people, about serving people.
MS. SHRIVER: Well, Teddy was, I think, known to the people who knew him, and his heart was extraordinary . He was the most compassionate, empathetic man. And I think he was that way because he himself was wounded and he himself knew pain, he himself knew struggle, he knew abandonment. He knew all of the things that pain a human being . And so when he saw other human beings in pain, or where their character was questioned or where they had loss, he was always the first person to reach out. And nobody does that who hasn't felt that way themselves. And I think that that was something that people often overlooked about him, didn't
understand about him. But this was a man, you know, who had fought a lot, who had struggled a lot, who had been through a lot, and he understood when other people also went through a lot. And I think you have that outpouring because people -- regular people understood that about him. They saw through all of the labels, they saw through, you know, what people wrote, they saw that this was a man who understood family , who understood struggle, who understood triumph and who understood , you know, weaknesses. And we all have that. And rarely do you see it, I think, so openly in a public person as you saw it with Teddy .
MR. GREGORY: What has it been like? You know, Americans watch all of this coverage, and they're watching the family and...
MS. SHRIVER: Hm.
MR. GREGORY: ...wondering how everybody is. As the president said, this wasn't unexpected, but it was dreaded. How's everybody been doing?
MS. SHRIVER: I think people, you know, people often say, "Well, it wasn't a surprise." Well, I think death is always a surprise. And I've just gone through two in two weeks. And it's always a surprise and it's always final and it's always difficult, and I think people grieve in their own way and in their own time. So I think Teddy was one of those larger-than-life figures in our family , he was really the center of our family , and he was one of those people that you never expected to die. You just expected him to beat the odds, you expected him to defy everybody's expectations. And I think anybody who's been through cancer knows how up and down it is, so you hear one day it's bad, one day it's good and you, I think, always hope that this person is going to beat the odds.
MR. GREGORY: He's been called the rock of the family , and yet you just referred to your mother , who you lost just in the past few weeks.
MS. SHRIVER: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: Another rock of the family .
MS. SHRIVER: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: It's a lot of loss for this family in a short time.
MS. SHRIVER: It's a, it's a lot of loss. It's a lot of pain. And -- but both of them lived extraordinary lives and they lived lives that had purpose, that had meaning, that had a mission. I remember my mother once said, "If you don't have an idea, what do you have? Where's your idea?" She would always say to me, "What are you doing? What -- where's your idea?" And I think both of these people had great ideas, and they fought their whole lives to make them reality. And I think one of the things that I think is so great about Mummy and Teddy is that -- the duration of their fight . I think we live in a society today that's all about instant success, instant gratification ; you know, you fight for something and you expect to get it in a week. And both Mummy and Teddy fought their entire lives , their entire lives , 40 years -- 50 years, in Mummy 's case, to give people with intellectual disabilities the same rights as everybody else. It took her lifetime to achieve that. Teddy fought his entire life for health care and all of the legislation you
heard talked about. And if he'd given up in a year or five years or 10 years, when many people wrote him off, none of the things that he accomplished would have been accomplished. I, I think both of them are incredible testaments to how long it takes, how hard one has to work to accomplish something. And I think we've lost sight of that in this country in all professions, whether it be journalism or politics. People expect you to get elected president and solve all the problems immediately. And I think if they look at people like Teddy or like Mummy , they see how long they had to stay in there and keep hammering away and hammering away. And I think that that gives us hope, when people get disillusioned that they didn't get something done right away, if you look at people like that and say, "Wow, they accomplished a lot, but it took a long time."
MR. GREGORY: You, you talk about health care .
MS. SHRIVER: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: I mean, as he got toward the end, as he watched what was happening in Washington , it's still an unresolved story.
MS. SHRIVER: Right.
MR. GREGORY: Did he feel like he was really on the verge of, of seeing this dream realized?
MS. SHRIVER: Yes. I think he, he thought , with the election of Barack Obama , this country was on the verge of seeing so many of his dreams realized. And I think, I think that will be realized. I think a lot has been written about how much his voice has been missed, and I think it has. But I think perhaps his passing will reinvigorate people to get it done. And he gave his life to that. But he gave his life to so many things, I mean, so he saw so much of what he fought for accomplished.
MR. GREGORY: There's this image from the convention last year of you wiping tears away as, as your uncle spoke so movingly about what he cared about, health care , other issues and forcefully as an advocate for, for Barack Obama. And it was kind of a goodbye and a long goodbye, but he had that next year. What was that final year like for him?
MS. SHRIVER: Well, I think it was -- for me, watching this final year was beautiful because I think, you know, there have been a lot of things written about Teddy over the years, and it hasn't all been complimentary. And I think for someone to have that kind of love come at you is a very powerful thing that very few people I think ever experience in their lifetime. And I think it was a blessing for Teddy that he was able to see that his work was appreciated, that his life had been valued, that people understood why he had stayed in the fight . And he accepted the love. It's so hard to accept, I think, love, and he let it come at him. And I think that that was so beautiful that he got to live and see how people appreciated him, and that people came up to him and thanked him and he could feel that kind of gratitude and...
MR. GREGORY: He, he got to experience something his brothers didn't...
MS. SHRIVER: Absolutely.
MR. GREGORY: ...which is to experience how people felt about him.
MS. SHRIVER: And I think very few people -- I think that's another lesson in all of this. I'm a big believer that people rarely know how people feel about them in their life. We run around in our lives all the time and we forget to stop and tell people how important they are and how loved they are and how grateful we are. And I think Teddy got to see that. And right after my mom died and he wasn't able to come to the funeral, I went over to see him two weeks ago. And I, I just said to him, "I want to thank you for being the most extraordinary brother to my mother ." Every health incident, he was there for my brothers and myself. He was in every emergency room with me all across this country , every ICU room he came in, he cheered her up. And I said, "I've never seen such an extraordinary brother ," and I said, "I've never seen such an extraordinary uncle. And I want to thank you for everything you've done for me, everything you did for my mother and my family , and I love you." And I'm so grateful that I had that moment. And I learned that from him and from people leaving too soon, that there's never a moment like the moment. Teddy understood that, how precious time is.
MR. GREGORY: There's wonderful pictures that we've seen of him escorting Caroline down the aisle, and after the wedding Jackie wrote him this note that included, "On you, the carefree youngest brother , fell a burden a hero would beg to be spared. Sick parents, lost children , desolate wives. You are a hero. Everyone is going to make it, because you are always there with your love."
MS. SHRIVER: And everybody did make it. And we've all made it and we've all been inspired by his love, I think his example, his inspiration. And I think if you really step back by his whole life, it wasn't perfect but it was his life. And he was a great patriot, he was a great advocate of public service , he was a great family rock for many families. And he was sure that we would all feel -- he was really adamant that we would all feel his presence in our lives , and we did. And I think, you know, that is a life well lived . It's a life of way beyond -- there was a best-selling book about a life of purpose. He lived one, a life of purpose, passion and meaning.
MR. GREGORY: He was able to take stock of his life in this, in this final year in the way that he wanted to do it. What do you think that was like for him?
MS. SHRIVER: Well, you know, I think you never know. I think he comes, and my mother , they come from generations that didn't talk much about feelings and -- but I think he, he was an introspective man, and he -- I think he looked at his life and I think he accepted his life as his own, he accepted his triumphs and his weaknesses. And I think that that's a great sign of strength in any human being , that they can accept their whole life, the journey of their whole life. He lived his own life. And he, he lived a life his parents would've been proud of. I think he worked really hard to make his parents, particularly his mother , proud of him. He worked very hard to make his sisters proud of him. This was a man who really took the concept of family to a whole other level. And my children had relationships with him. I don't know any other great uncle who operates like that. In my lifetime, never seen that.
MR. GREGORY: You told one of his biographers that it was so important for them to know him, because it, it was about the family , it was about the history, it was about what it meant to be Irish.
MS. SHRIVER: Oh, you know, he was, you know, he, he really wanted all of us know about our Irish heritage. He wanted all of us to know about our public service heritage. But he also wanted us to have fun. And he never beat down on you when you made a mistake. He was always encouraging. And I think, once again, that's because of the life he lived . You know, I think he was the youngest of nine kids, he had formidable figures to live up to and he understood how that weighs on a human being . And I think that's what brought out his empathy and his compassion. And I think, you know, if you go through this city, I met a woman up there tonight who said that her child had been murdered and lost, and Teddy reached out to her and helped her with legislation and changed her life and gave her purpose. And she -- wearing a button of her daughter. And I meet people, you know, every day that come up to me about Teddy , Mummy , Bobby , Jack , my dad. These are all people -- I said to my kids, "Do you notice that people turn out not for people who had their goal for making money or who were in search of fame, but people turn out for people who want to make the world a better place." They never went out to make money. They never went out to get on a reality show and become famous or get on TV . They went out to change the world, and people get that.
MR. GREGORY: There's so many Americans who have no connection to your family ...
MS. SHRIVER: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: ...and yet they feel something visceral and, with the loss of your mother ...
MS. SHRIVER: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: ...and now the loss of Teddy Kennedy , that it really is the end of such a distinct era...
MS. SHRIVER: Mm-hmm.
MR. GREGORY: ...for the Kennedys .
MS. SHRIVER: Well, I think Vice President, Vice President Biden addressed that by saying, you know, "I don't think this is the end of the Kennedys ." But I think that that will be written, that it's the end of an era .
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MS. SHRIVER: That the Kennedys are finished. And I think, really, the goal for each human being , whether your name is Kennedy , Shriver , Lawford , Smith, Gregory or whatever, is to live your life, the life that you choose, that's in your heart, that's about something bigger than yourself. And so we'll see.
MR. GREGORY: And there's still a living legacy for the younger generation.
MS. SHRIVER: And that's a value. That's a value. You know, ever since I grew up, ever since I was like four or five, it's like, which one are you? What are you going to do? Are you going to run for president? What are you going to -- you know, people should be -- you know, Teddy lived his life. Mummy lived her life. Uncle Jack and Uncle Bobby and Honey Fitz and this whole
library, it's about people who lived their lives and changed the world. So I think everybody should have that right.
MR. GREGORY: And now we are joined here in Washington by Ted Kennedy 's close friend and colleague in the Senate , John Kerry .
Senator, I'm glad you're here.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): That was a great, great interview.
MR. GREGORY: Well, she had so many personal things to say.
SEN. KERRY: She really -- yeah. Well, it's hard to do much more than that.
MR. GREGORY: There's been so much talk in the last few days about Ted Kennedy the sailor. And his son said so movingly, told the story about practicing until the dinner was cold on a Friday night getting ready for races on Nantucket Sound , and that his dad said to him, "There are other people who are smarter and more talented, but we'll win because we'll work the hardest."
SEN. KERRY: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: You've seen him up close in the Senate . How did that translate to his work as a legislator?
SEN. KERRY: Oh -- well, he was a very, very astute legislator. And it wasn't that everybody else was smarter. Teddy was superb as a tactician, strategist. He really, he had an uncanny instinct for the ebb and flow of politics and for the movement of the Senate . And there is a movement, there's a life in the Senate . And Teddy understood it. And so he, he really knew how to approach his colleagues, he knew when the moment was ripe. I can remember so many times when he'd say, "We're going to go do this," and you'd sort of scratch your head and, you know, "Is this going to work?"
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
SEN. KERRY: And, and it would work. And, and he had a sense of how to do it, how to put people in the right place at the right time. He, he also always had a, an ability to attract superb staff. And we are, all of us in the Senate , dependent on the abilities of our staff -- staffs, plural. And, and Ted just, you know, could get the most out of people. And he was always thinking not about where we were, but about where he wanted to wind up and how we were going to get there. So it, it wasn't dissimilar to preparing for the race and to the lessons he taught his kids.
MR. GREGORY: We have a couple of pictures of you, you with Senator Kennedy back in 1971 . You had come back from Vietnam and you and other veterans were protesting on the Mall , and he came to meet with you, and you said that was an important event. And then later in 1985 , then Senator Kerry and this wonderful inscription quoting Humphrey Bogart saying the beginning of a, of a wonderful friendship. What did he teach you about being a politician, about being a senator?
SEN. KERRY: David , when I first got involved in politics, I thought that politics was just about the issues. You know, you believe this, you believe that, you fight for this, you fight for that. What Teddy showed me is that politics -- and this is slightly contrary to what Tip O'Neill said when he said all politics is local -- all politics is personal. And that's really what Teddy taught a lot of us, I think. It is personal, and you ought to have fun doing it. And I really learned how to have more fun because of Ted Kennedy . I mean, you know, you'd go out and you're awfully serious, you'd take yourself too seriously. As I quoted in the, in the comments I made on Friday, you know, Ted said, you know, you always take the issue seriously, but you don't take yourself too seriously. And he really was good at that.
I might also comment on one other thing. I was listening to Maria , who I thought was so superb. The, the -- you know, I said on Friday that sort of the sweetest of all seasons was this gift of this period of time that we had with Teddy . And I think it was because he -- at the convention, at the birthday party here in Washington at the Kennedy Center , at Harvard at the, at the forum for his honorary degree, when he went to the White House , when he came to the floor of the Senate , it was just this outpouring of love. And it was just very, very moving, very special. He saw that, he felt that. And, and boy, what a gift both ways.
MR. GREGORY: He'd been giving so much of it over time, you got to experience it, to see it.
SEN. KERRY: Well, as Maria said, he was fighting a lot of that time. You know, there was this -- you know, Teddy 's life was not easy. There was a long period of time where Ted feared for his life. A lot of people don't realize that. But, I mean, after Bobby Kennedy was, was assassinated, Ted really believed that he was next. And, and there were many instances in ways that he tried to protect himself or tried to, you know, guarantee that that didn't happen. But there were struggles. There was a lot of difficulty in facing up to the massive amount of loss. And so many people often comment, you know, how, how did Ted do it, you know? These huge figures- - Joe during the war, Jack as president, Bobby as a candidate for president -- and it all fell on him, these, these nieces and nephews. And, I mean, what a, what a statement last night . The, you know, at the -- on the Hill as, as the dark dusk sort of clouded around us and the cameras were off and people were dissipating, moving away, and this sea of children surrounding the coffin, just heads bowed on it and, and the roses, you know, on the top of it. It really gave the full meaning to his family importance, to the center that he was to this family .
MR. GREGORY: You face something now yourself. If, if Ted Kennedy was, was a leader in knowing how to, how to carry on for his family and for his colleagues after such a tragedy.
SEN. KERRY: Yeah.
MR. GREGORY: You now sit with the fact that you are the senior senator from Massachusetts . How does that sit today?
SEN. KERRY: I -- you know, I woke up this morning and I still have trouble believing that he is not there. But as Maria just said, you have to live your life. Don't try to be somebody else. Don't go out and try to fill shoes or do something. Just be yourself and fight the fights, as we fought them together over these last years. And there are a lot of people in the Senate who understand the mission: Chris Dodd , Tom Harkin , you know, Sherrod Brown . I mean, countless
people who will carry on and, you know, do their best to try to -- you know, the cause endures, you know, the fight goes on, and we're going to continue to fight .
MR. GREGORY: I want to bring in Chris Dodd right now, who joins us this morning from Connecticut . Another close friend and colleague, of course, of Senator Kennedy 's.
And, Senator Dodd , welcome. One thing I want to ask you about is, again, something that was so poignant that came out of the funeral yesterday from his son. He said, "My dad taught me how to like Republicans , because he said they are just the kind of patriots, they love this country as much as I do and they're out there fighting the same kind of fight ." And yet, your colleague and friend lamented in recent years that it became harder to work across the aisle, that bipartisanship was something that was fading away. What happened?
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D-CT): Well, it's not about bipartisanship. I think that has its moments and its peaks and its valleys. It's civility in the process, I think more than anything else. There's always been bipartisanship or a lack of it back and forth. It's whether or not in the United States Senate you realize where you are and what body you serve, which Teddy understood so deeply. As John has just so eloquently said, he understood the rhythms of the place. We used to tease, David , with new members. They'd say, "Well, are we going to vote on Fridays or not?" And I'd say, "Listen, you find out what Ted Kennedy 's doing on Thursday night . If he's heading to Hyannis Port on Thursday night , there are going to be no votes on Friday. I don't care what the leadership tells you." Because Teddy understood exactly what was going to happen in that place better than most . And, and that idea of coming back now after September 8 , when we get back into session, if you want to, if you want to honor Teddy 's memory, it's to come back and sort of, as I said the other night , to sort of put behind us the blistering days of August and, and to enter the cool days of September and start acting like senators again where you respect each other. There are differences. You bring that partisanship to the table, but you work out your differences. That's what's we were elected to do, that's what Teddy understood adamantly about the place. It's why he was good at it, as John has again so well pointed out. He was a tactician, he was a master of the place, he understood it. And he also understood his colleagues, and he was willing to listen to them and he paid attention to them.
MR. GREGORY: Right.
SEN. DODD: I mean, they brought good ideas to the table. And if you do all of those things, then you can achieve the kind of results that Teddy achieved and that the Senate as a body has achieved historically.
MR. GREGORY: And...
SEN. DODD: When you abandon civility, then you're going to be in trouble.
MR. GREGORY: And, Senator Dodd , you heard Maria Shriver talking about reinvigorating the debate over health care . How do you think that happens now after the, the hot days of August?
SEN. DODD: Well, I think the president's got to decide in a sense, and he has, and to step up and really frame this again for us. The leadership can do it. Obviously Nancy Pelosi , Harry Reid I think have worked hard. I know Max Baucus is working hard with John on the Finance
Committee . And we've put a bill, a bill together back in July, as you know, David , Teddy 's committee, which I was asked to chair temporarily for him. A good bill, by the way. It had -- we considered 300 amendments, took 161 Republican amendments as part of that effort. Most of them technical, I acknowledge, but many of them are substantive. That bill has been now sitting there. We're ready to go and work on that along with the Finance Committee and to move forward. And that's what needs to happen here. And my belief is that if we can get these bills together and sit down with each other, we can produce a strong, vibrant, vitally needed national healthcare reform legislation of accessibility, of course, quality and affordability.
MR. GREGORY: I want to get a final thought from both of you. First from you, Senator Dodd . As you sit here this morning, after all the emotion of the past week, what is the meaning of Senator Kennedy , the man and, and the legislator, that you're thinking about this morning?
SEN. DODD: Well, John , I think, said it very well. I think, you know, one of the things that we didn't -- it's so difficult. I mean, Friday night , what, John and I had eight or 10 minutes . How do you capture 30 years of friendship in, in eight or 10 minutes ? But his ability to overcome adversity was stunning to me. I mean, I just -- what he went through, and to come back day after day, time after time . He used to say, by the way, you know, with all of our difficulties, he'd say, "Whatever you're worried about today, I promise you, a year from today you won't remember what it is. You'll worry about something else a year from now, but you won't worry about this." And he brought that kind of vitality to his life that I think is critical for every human being , I don't care what you're doing. Maria said it well, and that is each and every one of us have to sort of get up every day and confront your life as it is and make the best of it and be something larger than yourself, make a contribution. And that's Teddy 's message more than anything else, I think.
MR. GREGORY: Senator, Dodd , thank you.
Senator Kerry , Ted Kennedy thought about succession. He thought about who would be in the Senate after him. Do you think he would like a Kennedy to be there?
SEN. KERRY: Well, sure. But he's not making that decision, and who knows? I mean, that's not what it's about, and, and I think that's not what his efforts were about. He wanted the vote protected during this critical moment , and only for that moment. It wouldn't upset the process of having an election. Massachusetts will choose, as it ought to choose. But in the meantime, his cause of a lifetime, health care and other issues of great importance, global climate change , others, will not be adversely impacted by the absence of the vote, and that's critical.
Can I just say one thing?
SEN. KERRY: Yesterday, driving in, David , was so stunning, these people lining the road. And you couldn't help but think how Teddy had made that journey himself down Constitution Avenue and over to the cemetery. And, and, and he's been the face of, of the, the moments of remembrance, if you will, for Bobby , for Jack . You remember him up there with Ethel , with, with Vicki , with Joe. And now he's there. And, and I think it sort of hit us that, that, you know, it's a generational shift, but not the end of an era . It's -- what Ted did -- there was one sign I saw, "The People's Senator," and it was hand-scribed. It was such a genuine outpouring of, of a thank
you for fighting for people. And I think if we all remember that and try our best to continue to just stay focused on why we're here, then we'll honor him.
MR. GREGORY: Well said. Senator Kerry , Senator Dodd , thank you both very much.
We have more here coming up, more on Senator Kennedy 's life and legacy with his niece Kathleen Kennedy Townsend , longtime Kennedy adviser Bob Shrum and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin . Plus, a special look back at Senator Kennedy 's 45-year history appearing on this program . It's coming up only on MEET THE PRESS .
MR. GREGORY: More on the legacy of Senator Ted Kennedy , and highlights from his appearances spanning 45 years on MEET THE PRESS after this brief commercial break .
MR. GREGORY: Ted Kennedy was the lion of the Senate , but he was also the cub of the Kennedy family . And it was as a young man, just 30, that he made his very first appearance here on MEET THE PRESS . In fact, his mother , Rose , wrote a letter in 1965 to this program 's then moderator, Lawrence Spivak , noting her boys John , Robert and Teddy each made their debut on the program around the same young age.
(Videotape, December 14, 1997 )
SEN. KENNEDY: She was a stickler for -- kept her little index box so that she knew the facts about every one of us as we were sort of growing up. But this was, this was -- I can remember when my brother was a congressman on MEET THE PRESS and we -- it was in the wintertime, it was just at the -- and my, my mother and father brought us all in. This was the biggest thing that's ever happened to any, any Kennedy . And, and it always is still a big deal .
MR. GREGORY: A big deal and a test; that's how Kennedy 's brother the president saw it on the eve of Ted 's debut here in 1962 .
(Videotape, January 21, 2007 )
SEN. KENNEDY: But I'd prepared up in Boston . I thought I really had everything under control. Then I came to Washington to visit my, my brother over in the White House , and it was on a Friday or Saturday, and he said, "Well, Teddy " -- it was about 5:30 in the afternoon. He said, "You go over there and you sit behind the desk over there," it was behind the president's desk, "and I'll come on in here." And he asked Ted Sorensen and Mike Feldman to come on in. And he said, "We're going to put, put the -- we'll be the panel, we'll ask you some questions." I said just sitting there made me tremble on that.... They asked me about three questions and I said, "I'm going back to preparing some more." And at the end of it he says, " Teddy needs a little more preparation."
MR. GREGORY: That first appearance came just three days before Kennedy announced his candidacy for the Senate seat vacated by his brother John . During the interview there was already interest in the prospect of a Kennedy political dynasty .
(Videotape, March 11, 1962 )
MR. RICHARD CLURMAN: I wonder if you could tell us how you feel about the presence of a family such as yours occupying that number of key positions in American life .
SEN. KENNEDY: Mr. Clurman , if you're talking about too many Kennedys , you should have talked to my mother and father at the time when they were getting started.
MR. GREGORY: That issue of a family dynasty would follow him throughout his first campaign .
(Videotape, October 28, 1962 )
SEN. KENNEDY: All I'm asking is, is that I be judged on my own ability and the ability in which I would represent and effect a program for our state. And I would certainly be confident that many of the cynics would -- minds would be changed.
MR. GREGORY: Less than two years later, Senator Kennedy had to address the future of that dynasty in the wake of his brother 's assassination.
(Videotape, March 29, 1964 )
Unidentified Man : What is the future of the Kennedy family in the internal dynamics of the Democratic Party ?
SEN. KENNEDY: Well, to the extent that we're committed to the ideals and the programs of President Kennedy and as they have been further supported and -- by President Johnson , we're going to do everything that we possibly can to dedicate ourselves to the ideals which the president lived and the eradication of hatred and violence that took him away.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Kennedy would be a prominent voice on this program for decades, the longest time span of any guest. He voiced support for the war in Vietnam early on.
(Videotape, March 6, 1966 )
SEN. KENNEDY: I support our commitment. It was made sometime ago, but I believe that it is fundamental and is sound. I believe that we have to utilize every resource in our power, whether it's military or diplomatic, to see that this commitment is fulfilled.
MR. GREGORY: But nearly 25 years later he was a fierce critic of the decision to invade Iraq .
(Videotape, March 21, 2004 )
SEN. KENNEDY: Nuclear weapons, tie-in to al-Qaeda . That's the distortion, that's the misrepresentation, that's the lie.
MR. GREGORY: Kennedy appeared when he had something important to say on issues like health care .
(Videotape, April 18, 1982 )
SEN. KENNEDY: We now have a financing system that awards for sickness and illness, for paying the fee-for-service program . We ought to provide financial incentives for keeping people healthy rather than treating them when they're ill and sick. We could save billions of dollars on it. And that kind of a, an alternative I think we ought to be addressing. But we haven't.
MR. GREGORY: Always a fierce advocate for his issues, but early on much more coy about his ambition.
(Videotape, March 11, 1962 )
MR. EARL MAZO: Do you hope or intend someday, perhaps, to run for president?
SEN. KENNEDY: Well, Mr. Mazo , I'd say that having seen the problems of my brother , I, I just wonder whether that, that seeking or that job is, is really worth it. I would hope to effectively be able to be of public service to the people in my home state, to effect their interests in a constructive way.
MR. GREGORY: Years later he did run, and as a candidate he was asked his fitness for office in the wake of the accident at Chappaquiddick .
(Videotape, November 18, 1979 )
SEN. KENNEDY: The fact of the matter is I've been impacted over the course of my life by a series of crisis, by a series of tragedies. I lost my brothers under the most trying and tragic
circumstance. I've also faced the illness and sickness of a child that's been impacted by cancer. I've had other tragedies in my life, and I have responded to those challenges by, one, acting responsibly, and two, by the continuing commitment that I have to public service .
MR. GREGORY: After that 1980 bid, Kennedy reflected on the campaign .
(Videotape, June 1, 1980 )
SEN. KENNEDY: And I'm the first to acknowledge that we did make mistakes. And there've been inadequacies in my campaign , I suppose even in my own performance during the course of the campaign , which I am quite prepared to acknowledge.
MR. GREGORY: Years later, Kennedy addressed that one elusive goal and his life's work.
(Videotape, March 21, 2004 )
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Do you regret having never been elected president?
SEN. KENNEDY: Well, I fought for it and didn't make it. I would've liked to at -- certainly at the time. But I've -- into the Senate , I love the Senate , and I plan to stay there till I get the hang of it.
MR. GREGORY: I think most agree that he got the hang of it over time.
We are now joined by Ted Kennedy 's niece Kathleen Kennedy Townsend , presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and the senator's longtime political adviser Bob Shrum .
Welcome to all of you. And, Kathleen , our deepest sympathies. And we're very thankful that you're here this morning to share your thoughts.
MS. KATHLEEN KENNEDY TOWNSEND: Well, thank you. And I want to thank all the people across this country and really the world who have been so -- shown an outpouring of love and affection and thanks to my uncle. And I want to also say Vicki has done an extraordinary job over the last few days helping out.
MR. GREGORY: You, you see that tape. Just on this program , the legacy on this program , really something.
MS. TOWNSEND: Well, he -- it is extraordinary . Because all the time, as he said in it, despite the tragedies, despite his own mistakes, he says you can keep fighting. And I think, you know, as a, as a niece and member of this family , it was important for all of us to see this -- our uncle, in the toughest times, always keep fighting, never giving up and saying to each of us, "You can do it, too," and inspiring us and helping us and building us. And I'm telling you, you know, we were
talking earlier in the green room about how it is tough not to have a father, and it's -- there's a real loss in not having that. And he came through and he really reached out and embraced my family and, and, you know, John and Caroline .
MR. GREGORY: Doris , we, we talk about legacy . And you're, as an historian, you look backward. But you look forward as well in this circumstance. The president talked about Kennedy as the senator of our time. Where does he rank?
MS. DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN: Well, it's always scary for an historian to look forward. We, we are much more comfortable talking about Abraham Lincoln a hundred, 200 years ago. But I think I might be able to say that not only is he the greatest legislator of our time, which is what President Obama said, he may be the greatest all-around senator of our time. The interesting thing is when then Senator John Kennedy was in the Senate in the '50s, he created a committee to look at who were the great senators. And look at who they were, Teddy shared all their qualities. Henry Clay , the great legislator. Daniel Webster , the great orator. Teddy may not have had that stirring oratory, but he become a voice for the voiceless, right? And then you've got Taft and you've got Norris and you've got the various progressives who all their lives fought for a cause . He fought for that liberal cause . He belongs there. Then you have Vandenberg , bipartisan leader. He's all of those things. And then at the same time, he made the people in Massachusetts feel like he was one of them. I thought when we were sitting vigil, during the, the days be -- the hours before he was actually taken to the memorial service , that you watched those people come through, ordinary people , every one of them knew him. Governor Patrick said, "I knew him before I met him."
MR. GREGORY: Hm.
MS. GOODWIN: But people in Massachusetts met him. So you see these people come by, they're saluting him, their Red Sox hat comes off, they're doing the sign of the cross . And you talk to them -- and as Kathleen knows -- they all had a story."He helped my grandmother, he helped my son, he was there." You put all those things together, I think he may be the greatest all-around senator of all time.
MR. GREGORY: Bob Shrum , you were so close to him throughout his career. But in that 1980 bid -- and he addressed it when he was asked by Tim Russert about not achieving it. I guess he would joke on the campaign trail later that "I didn't -- I don't mind not being president, I just mind that somebody else is."
MR. BOB SHRUM: He actually said that all through the, all through the '70s, too. But he certainly didn't mind that Barack Obama became president, and I think he played an absolutely instrumental role in it. I think that he would say that in -- he did say that in 1980 he spent too much time thinking about whether to run for president and not enough time thinking about what he was going to say when he got out there. The course of least resistance was, with the lead he had in the polls, to make sure that he didn't offend anyone. And this led to, in the initial stages of the campaign , not saying much. Well, Ted Kennedy happened to be the worst politician I ever met in my life at saying nothing. He was maybe the best politician I ever saw at saying something. And actually, I think the oratory motivated people, stirred people, gave them a sense of his purpose. And a lot of people give good speeches. And I think he gave unbelievable speeches, but then he went and made those speeches become part of the life and fabric of the
country , from the Americans with Disabilities Act to -- there are six million kids in this country who are covered with health insurance today because of him. So he, he let into law the, the law to, to fight apartheid and set sanctions against South Africa . And you could go down a list of about 50, 60 or 70 gigantically significant pieces of legislation, and if any senator could claim one or two of them...
MS. GOODWIN: That's right.
MR. SHRUM: ...they would say, "I've had the most extraordinary career." He could claim all of them.
MR. GREGORY: Let me, let me ask about another aspect of his personal life , the personal struggles in his life. There was a such a poignant letter that he wrote to the pope that was read at the burial last night , and I want to put a portion of it up on the screen:"Most Holy Father, I asked President Obama to personally hand deliver this letter to you. ... I am writing with deep humility to ask that you pray for me as my own health declines. I was diagnosed with brain cancer more than a year ago, and, although I continue treatment, the disease is taking its toll on me. I am 77 years old and preparing for the next passage of life. I have been blessed to be a part of a wonderful family , and both of my parents, particularly my mother , kept our Catholic faith at the center of our lives . That gift of faith has sustained, nurtured and provided solace to me in the darkest hours. I know that I have been an imperfect human being , but with the help of my faith, I have tried to right my path."
Kathleen , the imperfect part of his being was something that was very public, from Chappaquiddick to the incident in Florida in 1991 to other struggles.
MS. TOWNSEND: Right.
MR. GREGORY: How did he make -- take stock of that in the end?
MS. TOWNSEND: Well, that's what -- I mean, I have to say, I think that's one of the great, important parts of the Catholic faith . We used to joke we were the church of sinners rather than the church of saints, and therefore you -- we're all sinners. And you can pray to God and say, "I -- are you going to believe that I can make, make something better of my life?" rather than if you sin, you can never come back. And that is really what I think the Catholic faith is. And you saw that yesterday when the, the cardinals were there, the priests were there. There -- they were saying, "This man is going to heaven, because he was there for the least among us." And I think one of the -- I can't remember who said this, but it was you can't take your own faults and say, "Oh, I'm so bad. I can't do anything else." And some of us feel that, "Oh, well, we're not worthy." And he wouldn't let that sense of judging himself to stop him from doing something better. And that's a great spiritual understanding that I think he shares with and was an inspiration to people of many faiths.
MR. GREGORY: Bob Shrum , you saw this up close, that as a public figure , as a politician, he had to come to the grips to the fact that the public treated those kinds of indiscretions differently in his era than they did in his brother 's era, and he had to adjust to that.
MR. SHRUM: You know, I think that whatever weaknesses, whatever happened, he had to live it out in public in a way that most people, most of us, live in private. I think Kathleen 's right, he never let it interfere with him. But there was always, for me, an incredible strength of character. I mean, this was someone who in 1980 everybody said he's bound to win the nomination.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. SHRUM: He's on his way. Nothing's going to stop him. And when things got tough, when he went into the dark valley, he just kept going. And he inspired everybody in that campaign . We all ended up not getting paid, I mean, because we had no money.
MS. TOWNSEND: Right.
MR. SHRUM: He inspired everybody in that campaign to keep going. He did little things that really mattered and showed incredible generosity of spirit. We were down there in the Christmas before when we thought we were going to debate President Carter, and then the debate got cancelled because the president said he had to take care of the hostage crisis . And he -- my -- he knew my parents lived not very far away , and he said, "Why don't you have my parents come over and have dinner with my mother and me?" And my mother , her first reaction was, "I can't possibly do that. I haven't had my hair fixed." And my father said, "We're going to go."
MS. GOODWIN: "You're coming."
MR. SHRUM: And we went over there, and she'd broken her leg earlier, and he had two advance guys carry her into the house. She sat with your grandmother and they talked about their devotion to the Blessed Mother ...
MS. TOWNSEND: Right.
MR. SHRUM: ...for about an hour, an hour and a half...
MS. TOWNSEND: Exactly.
MR. SHRUM: ...while he showed my, my father and my nephew around that house and told them everything that had happened in that house.
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. SHRUM: And they could've been the leaders of another country , the way he was treating them.
MS. TOWNSEND: Yeah.
MR. SHRUM: And I think he did that with people. And you know those crowds that people are talking about? I wasn't surprised to see, in the lead up to his death and afterwards, what journalists said, what historians said, what others have said. All those people standing out there somehow or other got it. They got it...
MS. TOWNSEND: Yes.
MR. SHRUM: ...that he cared about them and that he had changed their lives . And it was such a privilege to be a small part of that.
MR. GREGORY: I want to end, I think in a...
MS. TOWNSEND: And that they kept saying thank you.
MR. SHRUM: Yeah.
MS. TOWNSEND: I mean, I don't know, were you in the parade, but you could -- as you, as you drove by...
MR. GREGORY: Hm.
MS. TOWNSEND: ..."Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. God bless you ."
MS. GOODWIN: And, you know, to go to your point.
MS. TOWNSEND: It was really stunning.
MS. GOODWIN: You know, Hemingway once said, "Everyone is broken by life, but afterward many are strong in the broken places." And that's all you can really ask of a person is that they absorb -- and when you looked at the letter to the pope, it was much deeper felt than when he was on MEET THE PRESS . That sounded more defensive in 1979 . He had absorbed, I think, those sadnesses, the pains, the imperfections, the things that he did. And all you can do is to ask that person to become strong and make up for it by doing everything you can. And he said...
MR. SHRUM: You know the difference? In 1979 , we rehearsed that answer.
MS. GOODWIN: Oh. That's very interesting.
MR. SHRUM: That letter , that letter ...
MS. GOODWIN: That's very interesting.
MR. SHRUM: That letter came from his heart.
MS. GOODWIN: Wow.
MR. GREGORY: Can I end on something that I, I just -- what I've taken from the last few days is the enduring lesson of perseverance. And there's a couple of things I want to show; the aftermath of that crash in 1964 that almost took his life, and you see the determination on his face, waving to the crowd after he'd been so severely injured, then the image of last year at the convention. Despite such personal pain, such physical pain , he made a point of being there. But I think what was most poignant was the lesson that his son talked about at the funeral yesterday, that as a kid,
losing his leg, and his dad wanted to take him out to go sledding, and he fell and he cried and he said, "I don't think I can do this." And this is what he said:
MR. TED KENNEDY JR.: ...slipped and I fell on the ice, and I started to cry. And I said, "I can't do this." I said, "I'll never be able to climb up that hill." And he lifted me up in his strong, gentle arms and said something I will never forget. He said, "I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can't do. We're going to climb that hill together, even if it takes us all day."
MR. GREGORY: Just 10 seconds left. That's a legacy .
MS. TOWNSEND: It is the legacy . And I think it's the legacy of Rose and Joseph Kennedy , who said to their children, "Persevere, get something done, make a difference."
MR. GREGORY: Thank you all for sharing your thoughts on what has been, I know, an emotionally exhausting past several days. Thank you all very much.
MS. TOWNSEND: Thank you very much.
MR. GREGORY: We'll be back after this brief station break with some final scenes from this weekend.
MR. GREGORY: That is all for today. We'll be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS . And we leave you now with scenes from this week's farewell to Senator Ted Kennedy .
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Ted Kennedy was the baby of the family who became its patriarch, the restless dreamer who became its rock.
MR. JOE KENNEDY: He had such a big heart, and he shared that heart with all of us.
VICE PRES. JOE BIDEN: At the end of the day it was never about him, it was always about you; a truly remarkable character trait .
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R-UT): In the end, those in repose are greeting as we speak. In the end, the darling Rose no longer has to seek. I will miss my Irish friend. God be with you till we meet again .
MS. CAROLINE KENNEDY: I looked up and there was this one star hanging low in the sky that was just bigger than all the rest and brighter than all the rest, with a twinkle and a sparkle louder than all the others. I know it was Jupiter , but it was acting a lot like Teddy .
SEN. KENNEDY: The work goes on, the cause endures...
MR. T. KENNEDY: "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die." I love you, Dad . I always will. And I miss you already.