In the summer of 1986 my brother got married in Philiadelphia so my sister, my mom, and I all flew out to attend. We had a spare day so we rented a car and drove down to Washington D.C. Surprisingly, for all the travelling we do, none of us had ever been there so it worked out. I love old dorky-level American history (and still do) and a day-long mix of that with my traditional level of cynicism towards the government sounded terrific. With an early enough start I figured that I could just keep hitting museums until closing time or until I got tired of looking at things.
By the afternoon I needed a break and since the visitor lines were short I took a break in the Capitol building and hung out in the Senate viewing gallery to see what was going on. It was time to leave after a half-hour or so of bureaucracy watching and as I was walking through the crowd in the main rotunda I heard That Voice. Totally unmistakable. Everyone in the universe knows the Kennedy Voice. I turned around and there was Ted Kennedy – chatting with a couple of aides.
Easily the most charismatic guy I’ve ever seen. Startlingly so. It’s difficult to think of someone outside of movie stars and pop culture types who’ve got that kind of magnetism but whatever the “it” is that makes someone own a room Ted Kennedy certainly had it. Even in a crowd of aides, random lobbyists, and anonymous tourists. I can only imagine how well it worked for JFK.
Gawker has the best assesment of his career. Probably the most OTM sentence is:
The man’s many, well-documented flaws aside, he was on the right side of history, most of the time, and he did more to actually make America a better place than 90% of the careerists and charlatans who pass through the United States Senate.