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08/25/2010

One year ago: Edward M. Kennedy

August 25, 2010 |  6:00 am

Ted-kennedy Edward M. Kennedy, who died one year ago, had a legendary family name to live up to. The famed Massachusetts Democratic senator and icon of American liberal politics was the last surviving brother in a family made up of a president, a senator, a major disability advocate and a WWII pilot who died in action.

By even some of his most ardent opponents' accounts, he wore the Kennedy name well.

Although his most cherished legislative goal of universal health insurance eluded him, Kennedy helped write a number of laws that included making it easier for workers who change or lose jobs to keep their health insurance, giving 18-year-olds the right to vote and deregulating the airlines, thereby helping lower airfares.

One misstep, however, plagued Kennedy's political career and likely squelched his aspirations to the presidency.

On July 18, 1969, he drove his Oldsmobile off a bridge into the water on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. He survived without serious injury, but his female passenger died. In a lapse of judgment that was never fully explained, Kennedy sought the help of friends and advisors and delayed reporting the accident to police for 10 hours.

Still, his Senate career was kept intact until his death, and he managed to live a full life despite the frequent tragedies that befell his family.

"People measure me against my brothers' 'performance,' " Kennedy said in a 1983 New York Times interview. "It's always been with me. But I like to believe that during the time I've been in the Senate that I've made some contribution. I take some satisfaction in that. My brothers were very much their own people. I like to think that I'm my own man."

For more about the "lion of the Senate," read Edward M. Kennedy's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Edward M. Kennedy. Credit: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

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