Washington Life remembers the life of the Honorable Edward Moore Kennedy (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009)
United States Senator (1963-2009), Patriarch, Peacemaker, Humanitarian, ?Author, Sportsman, and Friend
An Afternoon with Ted Kennedy
In late 1999 Architectural Digest assigned me to visit and write about Senator Ted and Victoria Kennedy’s new house in Kalorama. Washington designer Josepha B. Faley had just finished re-furbishing the interior, very much to the Kennedys’ specifications and the result was elegant but comfortable and unstuffy. Victoria “Vicki” Kennedy had been the main contact with the designer, but it was the senator who, with evident satisfaction, spent a whole afternoon acting as my guide around the house and garden.
I had previously met him in my day job as a foreign policy reporter, but this was Ted Kennedy in a context few outsiders had ever seen. We discussed the different merits of antique English furniture (his) and French and Continental furniture (his wife’s), and how they co-existed in the house. He showed me a host of Kennedy family memorabilia, all grouped together along one wall so as not to overwhelm the house. One framed page from a yellow legal pad is a true page from history. It contains President John F. Kennedy’s notes from a 1963 National Security Council meeting. In one corner the president had scribbled a reminder: “Teddy’s house on Sunday.” There is also a poem written for him by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis upon his marriage to Victoria in 1992.
Displayed around the house were maritime oil paintings of sailing boats and seascapes signed “Ted K.” “Painting is relaxing and I enjoy it,” the senator said of his quasi-secret hobby. It was also an extension of his other passion – sailing. “I only do boats, seascapes, sand dunes, and lobster pots.”
Inevitably, our talk turned to politics: he was then planning to run for a seventh Senate term in 2000. Sitting in an upholstered wingchair which had an embroidered cushion inscribed, “The only difference between this place and the Titanic is that the Titanic has a band,” he said he was running again because, “In the things I’m interested in, we’ve been able to get a lot done, but there’s a lot more to do. We’ve made progress in knocking down the walls of discrimination; we’ve been able to have some impact in creating a more just society, with enhancing conditions for the aging.”
Engaging young people, he mused, was “a central challenge.” People got a lot of information, but had a shorter attention span. It was a win some-lose some situation, but then it always had been – “that’s a fact of the political system.” To the last day of his life, he was still working on the things he was interested in.