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True Compass: A Memoir by Edward M. Kennedy
08-10-2010 Views: 1610

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Product Description

Edward M. Kennedy is widely regarded as one of the great Senators in the nation's history. He is also the patriarch of America's most heralded family. In this landmark autobiography, five years in the making, Senator Kennedy speaks with unprecedented candor about his extraordinary life.

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. In 1962, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he learned how to become an effective legislator.

His life has been marked by tragedy and perseverance, a love for family and an abiding faith. He writes movingly of his brothers and their influence on him; his years of struggle in the wake of their deaths; his marriage to the woman who changed his life, Victoria Reggie Kennedy; his role in the major events of our time (from the civil rights movement to the election of Barack Obama); and how his recent diagnosis of a malignant brain tumor has given even greater urgency to his long crusade for improved health care for all Americans.

Written with warmth, wit, and grace, True Compass is Edward M. Kennedy's inspiring legacy to readers and to history.

Product Details

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #3463 in Books
  • Published on: 2009-09-14
  • Released on: 2009-09-14
  • Format: Deckle Edge
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • 532 pages


  • ISBN13: 9780446539258
  • Condition: New
  • Notes: BUY WITH CONFIDENCE, Over one million books sold! 98% Positive feedback. Compare our books, prices and service to the competition. 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review
Product Description
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 Childrens Zoo (June 9, 1938)

John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy

Ted Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy at the St. Patricks Day Parade in South Boston

Ted and Vicki Kennedy (Photo by Ken Regan)

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Of course, the recent death of Senator Kennedy adds an extra layer of poignancy, but this would be a welcome addition to the political memoir bookshelf under any circumstances. Drawing upon a series of oral history interviews, and with the help of Ron Powers (Flags of Our Fathers), Kennedy devotes more than half of the book to the first half of his life-growing up as the youngest of his generation, gaining a political education while touring the western U.S. for Jack's presidential campaign in 1960, clashing with Lyndon Johnson over Vietnam, and the heartache of Jack and Bobby's assassinations. After a brief section on Chappaquiddick, Kennedy tends to the anecdotal when discussing his political career from clashing with Nixon over Supreme Court nominations to campaigning for Barack Obama. (Recollections of courting his second wife, Vicki, bring a welcome spark of personal charm.) Some readers may feel there is not quite enough introspection-while acknowledging his first wife's alcoholism, for example, Kennedy glosses over his own drinking problems-but despite the firm line he draws in the sand about discussing his personal life, Kennedy's tone of contrition is sincere. When he was a child, Kennedy's father told him, "You can have a serious life or a nonserious life." He chose the former, and at the end, seems genuinely grateful not just for what that life gave him, but what it enabled him to do for others.

From Bookmarks Magazine
Few reviewers doubted the significance of Kennedy's memoir, written in collaboration with Ron Powers, and most viewed it as an interesting read. The Los Angeles Times rated it as an American political classic on par with The Autobiography of U. S. Grant. But the Washington Post deflated the comparison, claiming that while Grant had some help writing his book, Kennedy's clearly shows the influence of his ghostwriter and should be viewed as a typical (if sometimes fascinating) celebrity autobiography. While most critics tended to side with Yardley on the book's literary merit, they all appreciated the various ideas and anecdotes from its pages, suggesting that most readers with an interest in American politics will, too.

Customer Reviews

Titans of History5
As a rule, biographies don't arouse my interest, and anything labeled a "memoir" is not likely to be at the top of my reading list--or anywhere else on it for that matter. In the case of TRUE COMPASS, however, I'm thankful to have made an exception. This particular memoir held my interest for a variety of reasons:

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.

"the greatest lesson anyone can learn"5
Senator Edward M. Kennedy's deeply moving memoir is the story of how the youngest most underrated of the nine children born to Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, through great perserverence, through a long and difficult journey found real purpose carrying out the course his brothers had set.

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.

All Memoirs Are How Their Authors Want to be Remembered5
As a Massachusetts resident, Ted and the rest of the Kennedy's have been a part of fabric of the Boston since before this reviewer arrived here nearly 50 years ago. Naturally, I was anxious to see this memoir. Over the years our family has supported him but sometimes supported his competition as well. We had supported his nephew Joe Kennedy and attended the latter's birthday parties at the Hyannis Cape Cod Compound where Uncle Ted was always in attendance. My kids have strolled the famous sandy dune paths with some of the Kennedy brood and chased their dogs around the circus-sized tents set up by the Kennedy's for their many social and political events. Our family will never forget the "Blues Brothers Production" the Kennedy family acted out at one of these rallies and sing-alongs for political supporters. They are like a troop of uninhibited traveling performers. My Mother-in-law practically swooned when she met Senator Kennedy and commented on how much he resembled the picture she had of JFK on her living room wall. The entire Kennedy family is a well-oiled political machine.
The fact that the Senator died just before his memoir's release made me want to see it even more. At a hefty length of 532 pages I was hoping to finally hear Senator Edward Kennedy's explanation of a couple of important events in his life that he hasn't been exactly forthright about in the past. The most important of those events was his driving his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in 1969 and swimming to safety while his passenger Mary Jo Kepechne, a campaign worker and maybe much more, drowned. That accident destroyed his chance to become President because by not even reporting it while there was still a chance of saving the young woman's life, he clearly was either drunk out of his mind, frightened, perhaps terrified of the bad publicity that would effect his career and he had panicked. Clearly not the actions of a man who people want to have his finger on the nuclear war button. His actions were so different than the historic rescue of his PT 109 shipmates that JRK performed in WW II also in the shark infested waters of the ocean in the pitch blackness of night. Ted's panicked actions plus the manipulation of the local legal system that followed and allowed him to cop a plea of leaving the scene of an accident have no doubt haunted him and all the rest of his friends and supporters for 40 years. I was most curious as to whether Ted would provide his readers with the whole truth, even if it weren't brutally exact. The Kennedy's haven't exactly been very upfront about the truth in the past if it was negative. They much preferred to seal it away and then spin it to death.
So, did the good Senator from Massachusetts come clean or at least enlighten his friends, supporters and admirers in this final official testimony of his life? Yes, and no. He said his actions were "Inexcusable and he made terrible decisions." He was drunk, frightened and confused. But what about the rest of the story? The memoir doesn't add anything to his accounts of those terrible days even though Ted kept a daily diary throughout his long career. He and co-author/collaborator/ghostwriter Ron Powers probably decided to leave those unhappy memories shrouded in mystery and just concentrate on the more positive aspects, of which there were many, of Kennedy's long and fruitful life.
If the old folk saying that a picture is worth a 1,000 words, then this book is twice as long as the word count would indicate. The book is packed with wonderful photos that most people have probably never seen before. In the caption next to one photograph of baby Ted in an old fashioned baby carriage is the comment that "Jack wanted me to be named after George Washington because I was born on his birthday." On another page is a picture of Bobby and his younger brother Ted at the reopening of the Royal Children's Zoo in 1938." It's Ted's first encounter with the Republican Party. Still further along in the memoir is a picture of Ted Kennedy, dressed in cowboy gear "Coming out of Chute 4 on Skyrocket, Miles City, Montana, August 27, 1960." The bucking bronco is rearing back to launch the future U.S. Senator off his back. Who among us has the guts to try this dangerous rodeo event? Across the page is a copy of 1962 campaign poster "I Need You and Your Two Votes" that reminds us of the young Kennedy's movie star good looks. A more recent color photo shows the Senator "Dressed as the Grinch for the office Christmas Party." He is wearing the Santa Claus Grinch costume complete with green face paint. He actually looks like the cartoon character and that is kind of scary. Opposite that picture is a color reproduction of "`Daffodils' a painting I made for Vicki." The readers don't have to be an ex-photographer like this reviewer to see some of the Kennedy's real personality captured by the terrific selection of photos included in this volume. And yes, all the Kennedy's inherited their parent's good looks. One is better looking than another. It's nice to see the photo portraits of their parents as young adults so one can compare the family's looks.
This book is of course a very valuable resource for historians. Even though all memoirs are how their authors wish to be remembered, they can still be valuable even if they ignore the warts and only focus on the triumphs. There include insights, memories and thought processes connected to any individual that only that individual is privy to and only they can explain why the event was important to them. This memoir is filled with personal stories about life within his family. Joe Sr. comes across particularly wise in the ways of the world in business as well as being a good father and passing on to his children what is really important in life. It's good that this book was produced and it's also good that Senator Kennedy sat down for a series of recorded interviews about the events in his life. Hopefully, there may even be material included in those personal histories that was left out of this memoir, but will eventually be released for future historians to better understand the life and accomplishments of the youngest of Rose and Joe P. Kennedy's sons. To be honest, this reviewer finds Joe P. Kennedy Sr. the most interesting member of the family. That's usually the case with the founding founders of a dynasty. However, Joe Kennedy's children have made extraordinary contributions to their country. Like every human, they had flaws but they still succeeded. What a shame that Joe Kennedy's namesake was killed in WW II because the entire family felt he was destined for true greatness. Both Ted and his sister Eunice's deaths closed the books on their long careers of public service. It remains to be seen whether Ted or Eunice will have made the greater contributions to humanity. This is an excellent read even for people who may not have always agreed with Kennedy's political causes or decisions. Every reader will learn more about the warm human being that was Edward Kennedy. Frankly, most readers will probably find the personal information and family anecdotes much more interesting than the good senator's detailed reminisces about behind the scenes hardball politics within the U.S. Senate itself. It's definitely a good read.

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