The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy

The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy

by Bill Adler, Bill Adler, Jr.

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The mantras, witticisms, and philosophies of Ted Kennedy, collected by the editor of the New York Times bestselling The Kennedy Wit.

“The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”
      —Democratic National Convention, 1980

“Like my brothers before me, I pick up the fallen standard. Sustained by the memory of our priceless years together, I shall try to carry forward that special commitment to justice, to excellence, and to courage that distinguished their lives.”
      —Speech given before the start of the 1968 Democratic Convention

A collection of quotations and philosophies from Ted Kennedy, grouped thematically in categories (“Words of Inspiration,” “On the Kennedy Family and its Legacy,” “Personal Reflections,” “On Religion and Public life,” “Lighter Moments,” etc.). Each section will include a brief introduction by the editor to set off the group of quotes, which range from charming little one-liners to Kennedy's letter to Pope Benedict that President Obama hand-delivered to the Vatican in July 2009.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681770024
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 07/27/2015
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 316 KB

About the Author

Bill Adler is the author of numerous bestselling books including Kids' Letters to President Kennedy, The Kennedy Wit, and Kids' Letters from Camp. He has edited a wit book about every President since John F. Kennedy.
Bill Adler, Jr. is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Outwitting Squirrels. Before writing fulltime, Bill Adler Jr. worked as a public policy lobbyist on Capitol Hill and as a literary agent.  He lives with his wife and two daughters in Washington, DC.

Read an Excerpt

The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy

A Treasury of Reflections, Statements of Belief, and Calls to Action


Pegasus Books LLC

Copyright © 2009 Bill Adler and Bill Adler, Jr.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-1611-8



* * *

The Kennedy name has long been associated with soaring words and inspirational utterances. When we think of President John F. Kennedy, we can hear his ringing call to serve: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." When we think of Bobby Kennedy, we may remember him best by his bold vision for a better future: "Some men see things as they are, and say 'Why?'—I dream of things that never were, and say, 'Why not?'"

These two lives were cut tragically short, but even so, they left words that will continue to inspire Americans for generations to come. We are more fortunate when it comes to the life of their youngest brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who was granted 77 years to make a difference with his life. The third-longest serving senator in U.S. history has had 46 years to address us in speeches, statements, and other prepared remarks, as well as informal comments and recorded conversations. When in front of a large crowd he was often a rousing orator, a stemwinder, but not all the quotations in this chapter were delivered in a booming voice from a podium; there are some that come across equally well—perhaps better—when the reader is alone in a quiet room.

It was always a pleasure to search for and find these nuggets. We listened to many hours of videotapes of speeches, read through essays, and combed through public statements, and so often found ourselves stopping to appreciate some felicitous phrase, some lilting combination of words that reminded us that he was more than a moving speaker: He was truly a fine wordsmith. Of course, we know that Senator Kennedy also employed some supremely talented speechwriters, but in the end—as some of those speechwriters have noted in interviews about the experience of working with him—the choice of words was always his.

When it came to the music of the English language to move us to the heights, Senator Kennedy had perfect pitch.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.

—Democratic National Convention, August 12, 1980

Let each of us, to the best of our ability, in our own day and generation, perform something worthy to be remembered.... Let us give something back to America, in return for all it has given us.

—Speech, March 1, 1976

I have seen throughout my life how we as a people can rise to a challenge, embrace change and renew our destiny.

—Speech at Harvard, December 2008

If I can leave a single message with the younger generation, it is to lash yourself to the mast, like Ulysses, if you want to escape the siren calls of complacency and indifference.

—Speech, June 4, 1978

Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights. I know it. I've seen it. I've lived it. And we can do it again.

—Democratic National Convention, August 12, 2008

The commitment I seek is not to outworn views but to old values that will never wear out. Programs may sometimes become obsolete, but the ideal of fairness always endures. Circumstances may change, but the work of compassion must continue.

—Democratic National Convention, August 12, 1980

It is true, as has been said on this floor, that prejudice exists in the minds and hearts of men. It cannot be eradicated by law. But I firmly believe a sense of fairness and good will also exists in the minds and hearts of men side by side with the prejudice; a sense of fairness and good will which shows itself so often in acts of charity and kindness toward others. This noble characteristic wants to come out. It wants to, and often does, win out against the prejudice. Law, expressing as it does the moral conscience of the community, can help it come out in every person, so in the end the prejudice will be dissolved.

—from Kennedy's first speech on the Senate floor, April, 9, 1964

Our progressive vision is not just for Democrats or Republicans, for red states or blue states. It's a way forward for the nation as a whole—to a new prosperity and greater opportunity for all—a vision not just of the country we can become, but of the country we must become—an America that embraces the values and aspirations of our people now, and for coming generations.

—Address at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, January 12, 2005

We must insist that our children and our grandchildren shall inherit a land which they can truly call America the beautiful.

—Democratic National Convention, August 12, 1980

It is our moral duty ... to ensure our security but also to reflect our humanity. That is our calling. We should keep out those who would harm us, but welcome those who will contribute to America. We must protect our communities and our nation with laws that are just and fair. But we must also provide a path for honest, hardworking people to emerge from the shadows and earn the privilege of American citizenship.

—National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, June 8, 2006

Since I was a boy, I have known the joy of sailing the waters off Cape Cod. And for all my years in public life, I have believed that America must sail toward the shores of liberty and justice for all. There is no end to that journey, only the next great voyage. We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make.

—Speech at Harvard, December 2008

A new American majority is ready to respond to our call for a revitalized American dream—grounded firmly in our Constitution and in the endless adventure of lifting this nation to ever new heights of discovery, prosperity, progress, and service to all people and to all humanity.

—Address to the National Press Club, Washington, DC, January 12, 2005

Traveling across the length and breadth of America, taking the measure of our people, you cannot help but come away with a sense that we can do the job—that our problems are only human, and the solutions will be human, too; that America is a land whose people have the capacity to solve its problems many times over, if only we let them try.

—Speech to the National Jaycees Convention, Portland, OR, June 15, 1971

More than four decades ago, near this place [the Lincoln Memorial], Martin Luther King called on the nation to let freedom ring. Freedom did ring—and freedom can ring again. It is time for Americans to lift their voices now—in pride for our immigrant past and in pride for our immigrant future.

—"I Stand With You" Speech at Immigration Rally, April 10, 2006

Don't sacrifice your political convictions for the convenience of the hour.

—As quoted by William Safire in his 1990 book, Words of Wisdom: More Good Advice

There are some who seek to wreck the peace process. They are blinded by fear of a future they cannot imagine—a future in which respect for differences is a healing and unifying force. They are driven by an anger that holds no respect for life—even for the lives of children. But a new spirit of hope is gaining momentum. It can banish the fear that blinds. It can conquer the anger that fuels the merchants of violence. We are building an irresistible force that can make the immovable object move.

—University of Ulster, Derry, Northern Ireland, January 9, 1988

I love the flag no less because I believe that America has lost its way in Vietnam. I love the flag no less because I want America to move ahead and right the wrongs we see in our society at home. Those of us who push America on do so out of love and hope for the America that can be.

—Fourth of July address, Wakefield, MA, 1970

[We] are ... good neighbors. The settlers traveled to the West in wagon trains because they knew that the survival of their families depended on strong communities working together for the common good. They lived by the Golden Rule not only as a moral mandate, but as a necessity. That is our American heritage. Neighbor helping neighbor. All of us contributing to our communities and to our nation to make them stronger.

—Speech, March 14, 2005

No nation is guaranteed a position of lasting prosperity and security. We have to work for it. We have to fight for it. We have to sacrifice for it. We have a choice. We can continue to be buffeted by the harsh winds of a shrinking world. Or we can think anew, and guide the currents of globalization with a new progressive vision that strengthens America and equips our citizens to move confidently to the future.

—Address at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, January 12, 2005

The Bible gives us an excellent ancient example of power, justice and love coming together in the course of human events. That example is God's work on behalf of the Israelites while they were in bondage, during 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and in the midst of their many battles for independence. This same God inspired Dr. [Martin Luther] King to boldly proclaim the vision of a new America, undivided by race, religion, or gender—an America where the ingenuity, creativity and industry of African-Americans is welcomed—an America built on the principles of one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

—Remarks on Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, Peoples Congregational United Church of Christ, January 14, 2001

This November the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans, so with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause. The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on. —Speech at the Democratic National Convention, August 25, 2008


* * *

Early on in our task of cataloguing Senator Kennedy's writings and speeches, we began to see a clear and consistent pattern emerge: each was imbued with a deep appreciation of history. For every event he has commemorated, for every policy advocated or opposed, he notes much more than its impact on our present lives but takes care to measure its place in the tapestry of our times, its ties to the past and its significance for our future.

We see this in his congratulatory remarks upon the election of the first African-American president, Barack Obama, as well as in his somber reflections on the day after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It's there, too, in his measured words of resistance to the Bush Administration's drumbeat toward war in Iraq.

Far more often than the standard politician, Senator Kennedy draws upon the wisdom of past leaders and the lessons of the historical record to present his understanding of a challenge or crisis in the here-and-now. We did a quick experiment to prove the point, choosing twenty speeches and policy statements at random, and found not a single one lacking a reference to the roots of the issue under consideration or a citation of the work of a historian of the subject, or the insight of a leader who had dealt with the issue before. In a few cases, the citation was to something said by his brother Jack or Bobby, for it is clear that Ted Kennedy's appreciation for the role of history is due in no small measure to having grown up in a family whose children were imbued from their earliest years with a sense of our history and their places in it.

With Barack Obama we will close the book on the old politics of race against race, gender against gender, ethnic group against ethnic group, and straight against gay.

—Endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for president, American University, January 2008

Yesterday's [September 11] terrorist atrocities against innocent Americans were vicious and horrifying. They were acts of unspeakable cruelty unleashed against the American people in a shameful attempt to spread chaos throughout our nation and instill fear in the hearts of our citizens. But such acts will not succeed, and they never will succeed.

No American will ever forget watching a hijacked civilian aircraft crash into the towers of the World Trade Center, or seeing the plume of smoke rise from the Pentagon in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. No American will ever forget the sense of anger and vulnerability that swept our nation yesterday, when thousands of innocent lives were suddenly and senselessly ended by these vicious acts.

My heart goes out to the victims of this attack and their loved ones. The American people share our anger, our grief—and our resolve. We cannot bring back the lives of the fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, relatives, and friends—although we wish desperately that we could. We cannot yet fully answer the complex questions that haunt the country about this atrocity. As we search for and find the answers, we pray for the victims and their loved ones, and we hope that they will find a measure of peace and comfort from our prayers.

This is a massive tragedy for America, and we must make clear that our national resolve will not be weakened. Our country has been tested and tried in the past, and we have always emerged stronger and wiser. We will do so again now. America's commitment to the values of freedom and justice.

—Statement on the Terrorist Attacks in New York and Washington, DC, September 12, 2001

History will now say on this impeachment, as they said on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, that it was the radical Republicans.... And that is going to be the judgment of history.

—Speech opposing the impeachment of President Bill Clinton

We are now at a major cross-road in our history. The 9/11 atrocities have forced us all to think profoundly about what is great in America. All through our shock and grief, the people's courage never failed. 9/11 was one of the nation's saddest hours, but the response was one of our finest hours.

That hour must not be lost. It can mark the beginning of a new era of common purpose—a return to policies which truly reflect America's values, a return to the genuine pursuit of justice. The unselfishness we saw in 2001 must not give way to selfishness in 2003. The noble caring for one another that we celebrated then must not be succeeded now by a retreat from our ideals.

Yes, our country is strong. But it can be stronger—not just in the power we hold, but in the promise we fulfill of a nation that truly does make better the life of the world. If we rededicate ourselves to that great goal, our achievements will reverberate around the globe, and America will be admired anew for what it must be now, in this new time, more than ever—"the last, best hope of earth."

—Statement on American values and war with Iraq, March 13, 2003

I am announcing today my candidacy for the Senate of the United States. I make this decision in full knowledge of the obstacles I will face, the charges that will be made, and the heavy responsibilities of the office to which I aspire. ... The Senate is surely one of the most important bodies in the Free World. Each year its decisions affect the hopes and lives of men and women in every part of the globe, in every state of the Union and in every town, city, and county in Massachusetts. In the months and years immediately ahead, the Senate will be deciding whether our younger citizens will receive the education they need—whether our older citizens will receive the medical care they need—whether our transportation system will flourish or falter—whether our cities will obtain new industries and whether our industries will obtain new contracts and new markets at home and abroad—whether our tax laws, our immigration laws, our anti-recession safeguards and our anti-crime laws are to be modernized and made more effective.

—Announcing his candidacy for United States Senate, March 14, 1962

This disaster reminds us that we are all part of the American family and we have a responsibility to help members of that family when they are in need.

—Speaking of Hurricane Katrina at the presentation of the 2005 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award to Stephen Bradberry of New Orleans, November, 2005

Historians of the future will wonder about the years we have just passed through. They will ask how it could be, a century after the Civil War, that black and white had not learned to live together in the promise of this land.

—Speech, January 26, 1976


Excerpted from The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy by BILL ADLER, BILL ADLER JR.. Copyright © 2009 Bill Adler and Bill Adler, Jr.. Excerpted by permission of Pegasus Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Words of Inspiration,
On Defining Moments in Our History,
On the Constitution and Equal Justice Under Law,
On Leadership and Courage,
On the Kennedy Family and Its Legacy,
A Voice for Children,
Issues of Global Impact: The Environment, War, National Security, and Public Safety,
Democracy and Human Rights,
Economic Justice and the American Worker,
Health Care: Senator Kennedy's Last Great Challenge,
In Lighter Moments,
Personal Reflections,

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The Wit and Wisdom of Ted Kennedy 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately, there are much better books of quotes/books about Ted Kennedy out there.