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Twelve Stories: How Democracy Works Now | Participants



Senator Edward Kennedy

Edward M. Kennedy was so truly an iconic figure in the United States, with so much written about his family and his own life, that it sometimes seemed as if we were filming our story with someone else.

When we finally met him in March, 2002 after months of waiting to slip into his impossibly-crowded schedule, there was that first moment of electricity, of course. But the man we came to know as Senator Kennedy defied any expectation of celebrity. He was altogether charming and gracious. He listened with startling focus. And when he agreed to help us with our idea for a film, doors began to open that would not have opened any other way.

Over the years that followed, we were lucky enough to be able to stand on the nearby edges and watch Senator Kennedy work. He was the best teacher about the Senate anyone could have possibly had. His workdays seemed to stretch from dawn until all hours of the night, he had the wonderful personality and the long relationships that made dealing with each of his 99 fellow Senators possible, and probably the rarest quality of all these days, he knew how to negotiate -- all the way to a deal. There was no doubt to anyone who worked around him, this man loved the Senate.

There were a lot of framed letters on the walls of the sitting room outside his office in the Russell Building -- one from his mother when he was about 8 years old complaining about his bad spelling, various others. Mixed in with the family notes was one from Senator Trent Lott, one of the more illustrious Republican opponents to many ideas Senator Kennedy had promoted through the years. It was a little thank you note, following a teatime visit, that mentioned how much he had enjoyed their discussion and ending with the line, "Dear Ted, if the world only knew."

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