The XX Factor

Teddy Kennedy Was a Pro

In his 77 years, Senator Edward M. Kennedy was many things to many people, from baby of an enormous political family to eminence gris of an enormous political party. The charismatic and attractive statesman succumbed to brain cancer late Tuesday night. A champion of legislation affecting millions of citizens whose rights as Americans needed protection, his personal life was not always handsome and dignified.

Every lifetime has its lowpoints and Kennedy’s particularly had valleys. As a Senate aide in the hallways of the Dirkson Office building one Saturday in the early ‘90s, I ran into the powerful committee chairman and, occasionally, carousing bachelor coming out of his third floor office. Apparently on his way to a match, an unathletic-seeming Teddy, known for his great appetites, was wearing tennis shorts shorter than Michelle Obama’s. He clearly needed a healthier lifestyle. Some time after that, he married Victoria Reggie, the love of his life, and got one.

In his career as a public servant, however, Kennedy’s arrow was always true. The fourth son who saw two middle brothers killed trying to lead the country and his oldest die trying to defend it, EMK regarded public service as the least he could do. His entire adult life, Ted Kennedy served the people of Massachusetts and the citizens of America respectfully, honestly, heroically, scrupulously, and with great discipline. The man may have shown a little too much leg on the tennis court but he came to work with his sleeves rolled up.

Photograph of Ted Kennedy by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.