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True Compass: A Memoir Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 14, 2009
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In this landmark autobiography, five years in the making, Senator Edward M. Kennedy tells his extraordinary personal story--of his legendary family, politics, and fifty years at the center of national events.
The youngest of nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, he came of age among siblings from whom much was expected. As a young man, he played a key role in the presidential campaign of his brother John F. Kennedy, recounted here in loving detail. In 1962 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he began a fascinating political education and became a legislator.
In this historic memoir, Ted Kennedy takes us inside his family, re-creating life with his parents and brothers and explaining their profound impact on him. For the first time, he describes his heartbreak and years of struggle in the wake of their deaths. Through it all, he describes his work in the Senate on the major issues of our time--civil rights, Vietnam, Watergate, the quest for peace in Northern Ireland--and the cause of his life: improved health care for all Americans, a fight influenced by his own experiences in hospitals.
His life has been marked by tragedy and perseverance, a love of family, and an abiding faith. There have been controversies, too, and Kennedy addresses them with unprecedented candor. At midlife, embattled and uncertain if he would ever fall in love again, he met the woman who changed his life, Victoria Reggie Kennedy. Facing a tough reelection campaign against an aggressive challenger named Mitt Romney, Kennedy found a new voice and began one of the great third acts in American politics, sponsoring major legislation, standing up for liberal principles, and making the pivotal endorsement of Barack Obama for president.
Hundreds of books have been written about the Kennedys. TRUE COMPASS will endure as the definitive account from a member of America's most heralded family, an inspiring legacy to readers and to history, and a deeply moving story of a life like no other.
A Look at Edward M. Kennedy Through the Years
(Click on each image below to see a larger view)
Ted Kennedy with Bobby Kennedy at the opening of the Royal Children’s Zoo (June 9, 1938)
John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy
Ted Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston
Ted and Vicki Kennedy (Photo by Ken Regan)
From Publishers Weekly
Top Customer Reviews
As one who came of age politically during the presidential administration of JFK, I recognize most of the names and the events that populate Senator Kennedy's narrative. Any reader of age 50 or more who paid any attention at all to the world in which he or she was growing up will recall the radio bulletins, the TV newscasts, and the newspaper headlines of the past fifty years as events unfold in this book. We can relate to much that is here on a very personal level.
The narrative takes us beyond the surface news that we recall, giving us an insider's view. Kennedy opens the stage door for us and lets us see a fair amount of the backstage action. While no striking, history-altering revelations are here, we do get to see personal actions, interactions and reactions of major players on the world stage that we probably missed during the public performance. (Sorry, my metaphor seems to be getting a bit unwieldy.) The point is that this is not a rehash of news that we digested over the last five decades but an insider's view of the events that made the news.
These memories give us a very mortal, human view of the Kennedy clan. We all know that the Kennedy family personified influence, wealth, and political power. We may have admired them or detested them for this, but we all saw them as different, above the crowd, not really one of "us." They were the American version of royalty, untouchable, shining, and often wearing the crown of public adulation. TRUE COMPASS, however, gives us a new insight into this prominent family, and we can finally see the brother-to-brother, brother-to-sister, and child-to-parent love and respect that played a huge role in shaping the character of a president, of a U.S. attorney general, of a U.S. senator, and of an ambassador. This memoir may bring the Kennedys as close to the rest of us as they can be brought.
The textual narrative is outstanding. There are no dull, dry, or merely factual passages anywhere between the covers of this book. Every jot and tittle of every sentence and every paragraph is imbued with feeling, conviction and commitment. The narrative is neither salacious nor slick--it is sincere. Now, I'm not at all certain how much of this book was physically written by Edward Moore Kennedy, perhaps little of it. The acknowledgements section makes it rather clear that an author named Ron Powers and an editor named Jonathan Karp were highly instrumental in creating the product that we may purchase and read. I came away with the impression that the events and feelings and observations in this book were more than likely recorded from Senator Kennedy's spoken reminiscences for an oral history project at the University of Virginia and that Powers transliterated these recordings into the written word. Regardless, however, of who wrote what, the narrative flows smoothly and inexorably from beginning to end, carrying the reader along from revelation to revelation. And the grammar and mechanics are perfect except for the appearance of an objective rather than a nominative pronoun here and there, but that reflects actual and natural American speech habits, so I suppose that I cannot legitimately criticize that usage.
A spiritual message also weaves its way through these memories, often hidden but sometimes on the surface. I am not referring to the Kennedys' Catholicism, although that is certainly mentioned whenever it becomes relevant to the text, but to Edward Kennedy's connection to the sea. Permit me to say simply that it is a beautiful message.
TRUE COMPASS is, I feel, one biography, one memoir, one history that deserves to be read by every American who lived even a portion of the years that it covers. If, good reader, you are my contemporary, born in the mid 1940s, give or take a few years, you will see your own history in this book. If you are much younger but still interested in the forces that have shaped your country, you will also enjoy the recollections here. In fact, were I on the American history faculty of any university, I would definitely put this book on the reading list for my students. Every book read consumes a number of hours or days or weeks from the reader's lifetime. This book is worth that expenditure.
An avid sailor, Kennedy said sailing helped him, "displace the emptiness inside me with the awareness of direction" and so it could be also said that the direction his brothers left him also helped displace the void left by their deaths. He not only picked up where they left off in politics but he took on the role of father-figure to all of their children too.
While there are hundreds of books about the Kennedys, this is the only definitive inside account from a member of the family, evoking high expectations for candor and revelation into the inner lives of this family like no other.
While this book is exquisite in its detail - a testament to Ted Kennedy's love of painting a picture, telling a story and lighting the dark with humor - it may leave you wanting for deeper introspections into the virtually relentless litany of tragedies that befell his life. Alas, this sailor didn't like to look back and peer too deeply into the darkness he had escaped - even in his memoir - for fear that the darkness might overtake him and engulf him in despair. Keep moving forward, stay ahead of the storm, "I can handle this" seems to have been his mantra and code for survival.
At the heart of this autobiography is the message that through perseverance, will-power and fortitude we can overcome any shortcomings, atone for any failures and succeed in our chosen course. By sticking with it and telling himself "I can handle this" he was able to survive everything from devastating deaths and accidents, to passing both legislation and kidney stones - and he unwincingly delivered a speech through the pain of these kidney stones in much the same fashion he survived all the pain in his life - through his mantra "I can handle this," "I can handle this."
Ted Kennedy even teaches his grandson "Little Teddy," "we might not be the best," but "we can work harder than anyone." That, he tells us in his memoir, "is the greatest lesson anyone can learn"... "stick with it," through everything life hands you, follow your "true compass," "work harder than anyone" and you will eventually "get there."
A great sailor indeed.
Sailing seems a metaphor for Senator Kennedy's life, and in turn his uniquely American life seems to be a timely metaphor and lesson for how we might endure the rough waters we find America in today, and prevail.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
agreed with the Warren report's findings about how his brother died.