For Kennedy devotees, as well as readers unfamiliar with the “lion of the Senate,” this book presents the compelling story of Edward Kennedy’s unexpected rise to become one of the most consequential legislators in American history and a passionate defender of progressive values, achieving legislative compromises across the partisan divide. What distinguishes Edward Kennedy: An Oral History is the nuanced detail that emerges from the senator’s never-before published, complete descriptions of his life and work, placed alongside the observations of his friends, family, and associates. The senator’s twenty released interviews reveal, in his own voice, the stories of Kennedy triumph and tragedy from the Oval Office to the waters of Chappaquiddick. Spanning the presidencies of JFK to Barack Obama, Edward Kennedy was an iconic player in American political life, the youngest sibling of America’s most powerful dynasty; he candidly addresses this role: his legislative accomplishments and failures, his unsuccessful run for the White House, his impact on the Supreme Court, his observations on Washington gridlock, and his personal faults. The interviews and introductions to them create an unsurpassed and illuminating volume. Gathered as part of the massive Edward Kennedy Oral History Project, conducted by the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, the senator’s interviews allow readers to see how oral history can evolve over a three-year period, drawing out additional details as the interviewee becomes increasingly comfortable with the process and the interviewer. Yet, given the Kennedys’ well-known penchant for image creation, what the senator doesn’t say or how he says what he chooses to include, is often more revealing than a simple declarative statement.
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