The Kennedys and their American legacy |

The Kennedys and their American legacy

My family moved from Texas in 1946, when I was 7 years old, and settled into a house built in the 1920s by William S. Hart on Ninth Street in Santa Monica. The first presidential election I can remember at all was Truman vs. Dewey in 1948, but I wasn’t really much interested in politics until, like everybody else, I liked Ike in 1952.

The first presidential election in which I could vote was Kennedy vs. Nixon in 1960, and therein lies this tale.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago, when Sen. Ted Kennedy suffered what at first appeared to have been a stroke and finally was diagnosed as a malignant glioma, or brain tumor.

I am a few months from being 70 years of age, and the political history of my country for my entire adult life has been pretty well personified by one Kennedy or another.

Along with a legacy of legislation, there has been no lack of the more sensational.

I am no historian, but just off the top of my head, who of my generation cannot immediately put the appropriate context to: Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Kennedy, Joe Jr. and PT109, “Ask not … ,” Jackie and Camelot, Marilyn Monroe and “Happy Birthday, Mister President,” Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the Tuscaloosa schoolhouse steps, the Peace Corps and the race to put a man on the moon, Cuban missiles and the Bay of Pigs.

Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository, the Zapruder film and the grassy knoll, Lee Harvey Oswald, the Texas Theater, Jack Ruby, John-John’s salute, the Warren Commission, Jackie O., Bobby’s announcement of MLK’s death, the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel, Sirhan Sirhan, Chappaquiddick, Mary Jo Kopechne, Teddy’s back seat, and John Jr.’s death.

I’m sure there are lots more each of you can think of. Help play the game.

I’m a conservative and a Republican (not necessarily the same thing, you know), and have disagreed with various Kennedys a lot of the time. But who can doubt that over the years they have had the work ethic, the love of country and the personal resources, both intellectual and financial, to advance causes in which they believed.

Say what you will about dynasties in politics, and the two we think of these days certainly leave something to be desired. But the good old U.S. of A. could do with a few more like Jack, Bobby and Ted. May you irritate me for many more years, senator.


Ed Beckenbach lives in North San Juan.

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