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True Compass: A Memoir

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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. TRUE COMPASS 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 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. TRUE COMPASS 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. or 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.


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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. TRUE COMPASS 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 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. TRUE COMPASS 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. or 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.

30 review for True Compass: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"

    I really enjoyed the first 300-or-so pages of this book and sailed through that portion very quickly. After that it gets bogged down in the way of every politician autobio I've ever read. Too much detail about campaigns and the nuts and bolts of bureaucracy. I scanned much of this stuff, but I didn't want to pass over it too quickly because there's some juicy info in among the boring bits. His chapters on the various presidential administrations were eye-opening for sure. The story of his life b I really enjoyed the first 300-or-so pages of this book and sailed through that portion very quickly. After that it gets bogged down in the way of every politician autobio I've ever read. Too much detail about campaigns and the nuts and bolts of bureaucracy. I scanned much of this stuff, but I didn't want to pass over it too quickly because there's some juicy info in among the boring bits. His chapters on the various presidential administrations were eye-opening for sure. The story of his life before politics was good reading. So much has been written/said/conjectured about the Kennedy clan, collectively and as individuals. The things Teddy chose to focus on tell us much about his love for and loyalty to his family. Call it whitewashing if you will, but the dirt can be found elsewhere. He's entitled to slant things a bit in favor of those he loved, and he takes ownership of his private and public mistakes. Besides, who among us wouldn't whitewash our own life stories? I particularly appreciated his viewpoint as the youngest of the nine Kennedy children. He showed up so late in the game that his brother Jack was also his godfather. Teddy idolized, idealized, adored and nearly worshiped his three older brothers. And he lost every one of them when their lives should have been just getting started. This was a lifelong heartache for him. He spent the rest of his life trying to emulate them and live up to their hopes and ideals in the political arena. Those who will insist on forever criticizing the man for his missteps are no doubt enjoying many of the fruits of his labors over 40-plus years in the Senate. He spent his life wearing that criticism and soldiering on in spite of it. Time to forgive and let him rest in peace. Sail on, Big Teddy. You will be greatly missed by so many.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kiessa

    It is hard for me to put my finger on why I feel the way I do about this book.... I must say that I am fascinated with the Kennedy family - their privilege yet tragedy, their ideals yet human failings, their wealth yet tireless work for their country, their large yet mortal family... After recently reading Bobby Kennedy's biography, a book that left me feeling like I knew the man himself, I started this book with the same expectations. And, for the first quarter of the book I detested Ted Kennedy It is hard for me to put my finger on why I feel the way I do about this book.... I must say that I am fascinated with the Kennedy family - their privilege yet tragedy, their ideals yet human failings, their wealth yet tireless work for their country, their large yet mortal family... After recently reading Bobby Kennedy's biography, a book that left me feeling like I knew the man himself, I started this book with the same expectations. And, for the first quarter of the book I detested Ted Kennedy's remoteness and seemingly impersonal style. It took me a bit to warm up to him, and he revealed more of himself as the book went on. Despite not being all that interested in modern politics, the intricacies of policy development nor many political personalities, I did ultimately enjoy this book. what I liked best was Ted Kennedy's perspective on his own flaws, the healing love of his wife Vicki, his call to service, and his family. He often speaks of people who might have presumably been foes or enemies of his brothers with gentleness and magnamity, not surprising since I had read elsewhere that he was known in many circles for building relationships, extending forgiveness and personally helping others. He made clear his affection for the Reagans, and I've since read that the feeling was quite mutual. I went from thinking that Ted Kennedy was a womanizing name-dropping alcoholic with a penchant for parties and emotional frigidity to seeing him as a human being with endless layers of complexity that included flaws and bad decisions, but also an obvious depth of caring and good intentions. In the end, I am happy to have read this book to better understand a man and a family whose contributions and sacrifices for this country cannot be denied.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jake

    It was, I believe, the summer of 1992. I was standing outside the stage door of the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington D.C. waiting for actors from the National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera to come out after the show. The stage door opened and a gray-haired man with a preoccupied expression emerged. He wasn't a cast member. He was Senator Edward Kennedy, only 15 or so feet from me. I just gazed as American royalty strolled out the back door of an immense building named after his brothe It was, I believe, the summer of 1992. I was standing outside the stage door of the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington D.C. waiting for actors from the National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera to come out after the show. The stage door opened and a gray-haired man with a preoccupied expression emerged. He wasn't a cast member. He was Senator Edward Kennedy, only 15 or so feet from me. I just gazed as American royalty strolled out the back door of an immense building named after his brother. Yet another in a growing shelf of books I heard about on NPR, True Compass interested me because of the symbolic role Ted Kennedy came to play in the ongoing healthcare debate. Until this book I'd never read, nor had any special interest, in the Kennedys. Finally, with midterm elections approaching, I thought it would be good to read a book with insights into being a member of Congress. True Compass is first and foremost a nostalgic work. It starts with a discussion of Mr. Kennedy's diagnosis with terminal cancer. From there, the reader heads back to the privileged existence of a young boy from a powerful family in Massachusetts. As he proceeds into recounting a controversial career as Senator, Ted Kennedy remains personal and frank. I found Mr. Kennedy's self-portrait compelling, especially in its honest portrayal of a man trying to get out from behind the shadows of his iconic brothers--brothers he admired greatly. I know Ted Kennedy is a man as easily vilified as lionized. Yet, I came away from this book with a better impression of him, feeling he generally made good on the incredible privilege and power life threw in his lap. Kudos to award-winning author Ron Powers, and the publishers at Twelve. This memoir is masterfully constructed, relating Mr. Kennedy's life like an Oscar-winning biopic script would. Whether Mr. Kennedy is worthy of such a treatment is worth debate among experts, and I am not one. However, I appreciated the chance to spend a couple of weeks getting to know the man from his own memory.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    Ted Kennedy wrote this memoir during the final months of his life, knowing he was dying of cancer. At times the book seems sincere and personal, but at times it seemed to be a heavily-edited compilation from other historic sources by a not-so-subtle co-author - hence less a convincing memoir than a political biography. I did enjoy the personal glimpses particularly of the early years: what it meant to grow up a Kennedy in Hyannis Port, the legacy of powerful parents and the charismatic older brot Ted Kennedy wrote this memoir during the final months of his life, knowing he was dying of cancer. At times the book seems sincere and personal, but at times it seemed to be a heavily-edited compilation from other historic sources by a not-so-subtle co-author - hence less a convincing memoir than a political biography. I did enjoy the personal glimpses particularly of the early years: what it meant to grow up a Kennedy in Hyannis Port, the legacy of powerful parents and the charismatic older brothers, a life of wealth and prestige. Young Teddy idolized his brothers and was "groomed" by them in many ways. He gives very personal and touching responses to the deaths of Jack and Bobby. Kennedy doesn't skip over some of the well-known mistakes of his life: cheating at Harvard that got him expelled, the accident at Chappaquiddick, divorce, drinking problems, etc. He tries to show how he learned from his mistakes and was a better man for them. Most of the latter part of the book either bored or annoyed me. It's so heavily political, and bogs down in what came across to me as self-serving descriptions of travels, legislative activities, policy debates, etc.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I quickly became tired of the self-serving, bloviating tone of this book. While the early chapters are interesting with a look inside the Kennedy family, the rest is just all about how self-important Kennedy found himself. One example is two paragraphs complaining about how Jimmy Carter didn't serve alcohol at the White House. If having a drink was that important to you, Teddy, (and it was) get yourself liquored up before heading over there for dinner or take yourself to the bar after you leave. I quickly became tired of the self-serving, bloviating tone of this book. While the early chapters are interesting with a look inside the Kennedy family, the rest is just all about how self-important Kennedy found himself. One example is two paragraphs complaining about how Jimmy Carter didn't serve alcohol at the White House. If having a drink was that important to you, Teddy, (and it was) get yourself liquored up before heading over there for dinner or take yourself to the bar after you leave. He spends pages complaining about how Carter wouldn't do him favors such as appointing judges and then has the audacity to complain that Carter held grudges (of course inserting that he, himself would never do such a thing). He never shows the least personal responsibility for any mistakes he made during his life and simply blames the media or someone else for his shortcomings with one exception - when he was expelled from Harvard for cheating. The first half of the book is extremely detailed but the second half just seems to skip, jump and hop through the years. Al Gore's presidential campaign is relgated to a single sentence. John Kerry's received a couple of pages. I love reading political memoirs, both biographical and autobiographical. In Edward Moore Kennedy's case, I'm looking forward to some years from now if/when someone actually takes on this subject with a more discerning objective viewpoint. Kennedy himself seemed unable to do that.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Vivian Valvano

    2.5 stars. The strongest parts of Ted Kennedy's memoir are his expressions of love and gratitude toward his wife, Vicki, his expressions of deep love and concern for his children, and his awareness of his development over the years into a hard-working, justice seeking legislator. That said, he was not an extraordinary writer, but perhaps he should be commended for not having ghost writers make it appear as if he was. My main problem with his memoir is this: while he includes information about th 2.5 stars. The strongest parts of Ted Kennedy's memoir are his expressions of love and gratitude toward his wife, Vicki, his expressions of deep love and concern for his children, and his awareness of his development over the years into a hard-working, justice seeking legislator. That said, he was not an extraordinary writer, but perhaps he should be commended for not having ghost writers make it appear as if he was. My main problem with his memoir is this: while he includes information about the obviously painful and very serious pitfalls of his life, I think he glossed over many of them too much. I don't know whether any explanation of Chappaquiddick would have satisfied me, but his fell short for me. He dismissed discussion of his first wife very quickly, and he labeled her an alcoholic, which is public knowledge, but clarified that he himself drank but was not an alcoholic. I wonder (not!). He definitely minimized his account of the night when he induced his nephew and son to party with him and his nephew was accused of rape. Finally, though, I did get the impression of eventual growth in his character and his recognition of the power of his loving relationship with Vicki. But ... still a funny discomfort in my mind.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim Leffert

    Ted Kennedy grew up the baby of his family, looking up to his energetic and accomplished older brothers. Now, more than four decades after John and Bobby were killed, and at the end of his own life, Ted recounts the story of how he grew up to be the person that he became, a leader and champion in his own right. It’s a warm and bighearted book and filled with inside stories behind the headlines and the legends. It’s not an unbiased historical biography (although it relies upon historical records, Ted Kennedy grew up the baby of his family, looking up to his energetic and accomplished older brothers. Now, more than four decades after John and Bobby were killed, and at the end of his own life, Ted recounts the story of how he grew up to be the person that he became, a leader and champion in his own right. It’s a warm and bighearted book and filled with inside stories behind the headlines and the legends. It’s not an unbiased historical biography (although it relies upon historical records, journals that the senator kept, and previously written books) but rather, Ted Kennedy’s story as he sees it. For example, he admired and loved his father greatly and uncritically recalls his father’s advocacy of the policy of appeasement of the Nazis; he admired and loved his brother Jack greatly and dismisses stories about his brother’s compulsive sexual behavior as baseless nonsense. He loved his brother Bobby, and mentions in a matter-of-fact way his early work assisting Senator Joseph McCarthy. Nonetheless, there is much in the book that seems to be revealing of Ted Kennedy’s personality and that explains how his life and passions developed, including his thoughts about how the youngest child of an incredibly wealthy family became a tireless advocate for ordinary folk and those who are disadvantaged. Kennedy explains how family members influenced him, including his father and, especially, his grandfather, “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, legendary Boston politician, with whom young Ted was close. Kennedy does not gloss over Chappaquiddick; he presents his explanation of what happened and how it happened and although it is presented in a way that attempts to minimize the unsavory aspects of it, he comes across as attempting to come to terms with his responsibility for this tragedy. Kennedy mentions his excessive alcohol use for a long period while he was serving in the Senate, asserting that it never interfered with his work and explaining that it had to do with medicating himself for dealing with the residue of tragedies that he has experienced. Kennedy is legendary for his ability to forge personal connections with colleagues on both sides of the aisle; he has kind words to say about many of the people that he encountered, including some political opponents. He recalls that he and his older brothers even hit it off with Richard Nixon when Nixon served in Congress, and he lauds George W. Bush for his grasp of education issues (but not for the Iraq invasion!). For this reason, it is intriguing that he is unsparing in lavishing scorn on one political figure—Jimmy Carter--whom he opposed for re-election in the presidential primaries in 1980. In addition to explaining why he came to dislike Carter so vehemently, Kennedy offers revealing anecdotes about Clinton, under the pressure of the impeachment trial, Reagan’s lack of engagement, at times, with policy issues, and his courtship of Victoria Reggie. Those of us who found Ted Kennedy’s legacy to be meaningful and who miss his presence in today’s political firestorms will find this memoir to be an “up close and personal” encounter that brings this larger-than-life person, whom we all think we know, into sharper focus.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    Although the writing is a bit plodding and pedantic, it's hard to not be intrigued by yet another window into the epic Kennedy family. Kennedy's voice rang sincere and earnest to me. Although written as his life was ending, Ted still spoke like the youngest child- one forever trying to catch up to and shine as brightly as his older siblings, one seeking to create his own opinions and future underneath the iron rule of strong parents determined to set the course of their childrens' futures. Becau Although the writing is a bit plodding and pedantic, it's hard to not be intrigued by yet another window into the epic Kennedy family. Kennedy's voice rang sincere and earnest to me. Although written as his life was ending, Ted still spoke like the youngest child- one forever trying to catch up to and shine as brightly as his older siblings, one seeking to create his own opinions and future underneath the iron rule of strong parents determined to set the course of their childrens' futures. Because of the vast age difference between he and his brothers, who remained his truest compass long after their deaths, Kennedy's childhood memories are endearing but almost passive- he is an observer for much of his child and young adulthood as his brothers rose in power and fame. It isn't until he reaches the Senate that his story really becomes his own. His observations of Jimmy Carter rang a sour note, but I found these as well as his musings on Watergate, the Reagan administration, Vietnam, all fascinating. It is nearly impossible to relate to the vast wealth and privilege of the Kennedy family, yet Kennedy took the tragedies in his life (and there were so many) as opportunities to fight for those who did not enjoy his good fortune. Kennedy stumbled so many times but kept moving forward in a life of public service that merits respect and celebration. If Congress and the American people come to their senses and support universal health care, it will be in large part due to Ted Kennedy's tremendous advocacy.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carl R.

    True Compass is labeled a “memoir.” I always thought a memoir had a limited scope of time and events, such as Pamuk’s Istanbul, which focuses on his growing up years. True Compass is really an autobiography. A rather eerie experience reading this, knowing it was written with a true, not a figurative, deadline. The acknowledgements state that it was begun in 2004, but I’m sure it was not then slated for a 2009 finish. Certainly the author (Kennedy gives credit in the acknowledgements section to True Compass is labeled a “memoir.” I always thought a memoir had a limited scope of time and events, such as Pamuk’s Istanbul, which focuses on his growing up years. True Compass is really an autobiography. A rather eerie experience reading this, knowing it was written with a true, not a figurative, deadline. The acknowledgements state that it was begun in 2004, but I’m sure it was not then slated for a 2009 finish. Certainly the author (Kennedy gives credit in the acknowledgements section to Ron Powers for much of the writing, but Powers is not listed as an author or “as told to”) he had no inkling of his own 2009 finish. Since Kennedy and and brothers and family lived so much of their lives in public, and since they always seemed to be center stage in the pivotal moments of the last sixty years or so, reading this book seemed a little like reviewing current events. Camelot, the assassinations, The Civil Rights Act, The Great Society, Vietnam, Johnson, Chappaquiddick, Medicare, the Clinton impeachmentand on and on--Teddy and his parents and siblings and offspring and their offspring were right in the middle of all of it all the time. Because he focuses so heavily on the public knowledge aspects of most of these events, I did not pick up a lot of behind-the-scenes knowledge or insight from True Compass. There were some. I hadn’t realized the degree of antipathy between him and Jimmy Carter. A true clash of Catholic wealth and protestant plainness. I also didn’t realize how he’d been bounced around from school to school during his childhood. He ended up distinguishing himself at Harvard, but I doubt he would have gotten in in the first place without the push of privilege. At any rate, however he got there, he got himself elected to the Senate at the earliest possible age (thirty) and built a career of achievement that few can match. He had his flaws, like all of us. The the always open wound that stemmed from the overpartying flaw, is Chappaquiddick. He makes no excuses for himself on that one, and he acknowledges that atonement is not a one-time event, but a lifelong process. But Mary Jo is still dead, and it was his fault. I miss him, and I wonder if the health care legislation would be such a mess if he were still around. No way of knowing, is there? True Compass is a breezy read, not overly self-serving, not too full of polemic (though a conservative might be of a different opinion), and a good compendium of the events of our recent history and of a life that is too big to fit in one book. I’m sure there will be many others.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David Kubicek

    This is an extraordinary memoir. It held my interest and was a quick read, which is good for a 500+ page book. There are several reasons why this autobiography is so intriguiing: * It gives a well-rounded look at Ted Kennedy's life: his family, his schooling, his years campaigning for his brothers, and his own political service. * Kennedy writes candidly about the low-points in his life: his brothers's assassinations, Mary Jo Kopechne, and his divorce. * He gives a behind-the-scenes look at the This is an extraordinary memoir. It held my interest and was a quick read, which is good for a 500+ page book. There are several reasons why this autobiography is so intriguiing: * It gives a well-rounded look at Ted Kennedy's life: his family, his schooling, his years campaigning for his brothers, and his own political service. * Kennedy writes candidly about the low-points in his life: his brothers's assassinations, Mary Jo Kopechne, and his divorce. * He gives a behind-the-scenes look at the Presidents with whom he served, portraits that often differed greatly from their public personas. This is not a kiss-and-tell autobiography, but Kennedy is candid about his experiences and what he learned from his mistakes. True Compass is a must-read for anyone who has, or is planning to have, children. The first part is largely concerned with how the Kennedy children were raised. I've seen many times in the media that Joe Kennedy groomed his sons to go into politics. Ted debunks that notion. His parents, he said, emphasized public service but did not dictate to their children how to accomplish that public service. In fact, Joe was surprised when Jack announced that he planned to run for Congress. The book is full of anectdotes. For example, to illustrate the respect for Joe by his adult children, Ted told of Jack's visit home while he was president. Jack decided to sleep in on Sunday morning but awoke suddenly when he heard his father's footsteps coming up the stairs. Knowing that he would be questioned about why he wasn't in church, he dressed hurriedly, slipped out the back way, and climbed over the fence into the neighbors's yard. Ted didn't mention if Secret Service agents were right behind him or if he ditched them, too. True Compass gives us a good look how things get done in government and how politics has changed over the years. Kennedy tells about good and bad experiences he has had working with both Domocrats and Republicans, and he doesn't use his book as a platform to lash out at people he doesn't like. This is a nonpartison book. It tells the story of an American dynasty and its last patriarch. It is a memoir that should be read, and can be enjoyed, by Democrats and Republicans.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jim Bowen

    I know that I'm not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but words cannot adequately describe how much this book irritated me. I'm an avowed liberal who works in the US for 6 months a year, so the autobiography of the last significantly political Kennedy should interest me. That's why I bought it after all. It didn't. As soon as I sat down, it became apparent that this book isn't anything more than a puff piece where Kennedy spends 532 pages skimming through his life, putting the most positive spin I know that I'm not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but words cannot adequately describe how much this book irritated me. I'm an avowed liberal who works in the US for 6 months a year, so the autobiography of the last significantly political Kennedy should interest me. That's why I bought it after all. It didn't. As soon as I sat down, it became apparent that this book isn't anything more than a puff piece where Kennedy spends 532 pages skimming through his life, putting the most positive spin on everything he had to address (the fact he drank like a fish and how that might have contributed to his nephew's rape arrest for example), and ignoring the rest (Chappaquiddick is dealt with extraordinarily briefly, despite the fact it's a term that symbolises his life now). In America, Garrison Keillor signs off his "Lake Wobegon" monologues with the description of the town as a place where "the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average." That statement could be used to sum up this entire book. There is no self-awareness, let alone self-analysis here. He genuinely seems to believe that most people should see him as he sees himself, as some bastion of the common man who should be seen through that light only. For those of you who have issues with him, he makes no excuses. He makes no attempt to excuse any of his actions. He tells us repeatedly through the book that he is who he is, and won't demean himself by explaining areas of his life he chooses to ignore. If that's the case, why write the book? It's also worth noting that the editor didn't manage the book well. Kennedy half tells a number of stories that eventually gets told, and semi-repeated (often within a few pages) throughout the book. In addition, there's no linear narative. He hops about his life like a magpie, and that seriously affects the flow of the book, and how it reads. For someone who was such a good orator, I'm surprised how poorly structured this book is. In short, don't buy this book. The Edward Klein book about Kennedy is much better, because it approached him in a more neutral way.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tara

    Ted Kennedy's biography is insightful. Unlike third-party observers who have tried to recount the personal and political lives of Kennedys, Ted Kennedy's observations are unmatched. This is his family. Bobby and JFK become more than tragic heroes - they become sons, brothers and fathers. And these are Ted Kennedy's tragedies and personal failures - his viewpoint, not those of theorists and lovers of conspiracy. The only complaint is his restraint. After so many years of reticence (ingrained into Ted Kennedy's biography is insightful. Unlike third-party observers who have tried to recount the personal and political lives of Kennedys, Ted Kennedy's observations are unmatched. This is his family. Bobby and JFK become more than tragic heroes - they become sons, brothers and fathers. And these are Ted Kennedy's tragedies and personal failures - his viewpoint, not those of theorists and lovers of conspiracy. The only complaint is his restraint. After so many years of reticence (ingrained into him, by his own admission, by family and generational expectations)the restraint is understandable. But this is a biography and it seems in so many instances Kennedy could have scratched more than the surface of events with deep flowing currents. Overall - a lasting reminder of a man who served his country with passion and a steel will to do good for the common man while carrying the burden of losses that are forever seared into the national conscience but were his to bear personally.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

    From the moment this book was published, it was inevitable that I would buy it. Eventually, armed with a 30% off coupon from Borders, I did just that. And I'm glad I did. Anyone interested in the political process would probably enjoy this book, because there is plenty of that included. But Kennedy's poignant reminiscences of his family are both touching and revealing, and make up one of the best parts of this book. The best part, though, the thing that sets this book apart from other memoirs, i From the moment this book was published, it was inevitable that I would buy it. Eventually, armed with a 30% off coupon from Borders, I did just that. And I'm glad I did. Anyone interested in the political process would probably enjoy this book, because there is plenty of that included. But Kennedy's poignant reminiscences of his family are both touching and revealing, and make up one of the best parts of this book. The best part, though, the thing that sets this book apart from other memoirs, is Kennedy's reflections on his faith. The true compass of the title isn't liberal politics or wealth or family connections, although all of these abound in this book. Kennedy was guided throughout his life by his faith. That is not to say that he was without his flaws, as he had them aplenty. He deals with them in a straightforward manner here, without descending into a gushing confessional. I think the thing I admire most about Kennedy, though, is something he shared with many members of his family. When Kennedy's son was battling cancer at the age of 12, Kennedy took him to Boston every three weeks for treatment. There, while his son was undergoing treatment or sleeping, the father prowled the corridors, getting to know other parents in the same situation and listening to the fears they expressed--of how they were going to pay for the expensive care that was keeping their kids alive. Kennedy took that experience and made the fight for adequate health care in this country the cause of his life. It's tragic that he didn't live to see it, but even more tragic for the country that we don't have it. This is a trait that many people have--the abilitly to take a personal sorror or tragedy and use it as a force for good for others. The Kennedys certainly aren't the first to do so, and I hope they won't be the last. But compare Kennedy's reaction to his son's illnesses to the recent comment by a male Senator, during a debate on health care, that maternity care really isn't necessary. I guess he forget that he had been born. The ability to understand the pain of others, and to take action on their behalf, is part of what made Kennedy a great man.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tamie

    I was surprised how different the Ted Kennedy in this book was to my image of him. When he described his childhood, he reflected a real innocence. It reminded me that he was truly the youngest child with his parents and siblings nurturing him. Not only was he able to have a long childhood but he was seeing the world through the eyes of a family that was very famous. Between his family's nurturing and the suffering he felt about the losses he experienced, he became a really compassionate person. H I was surprised how different the Ted Kennedy in this book was to my image of him. When he described his childhood, he reflected a real innocence. It reminded me that he was truly the youngest child with his parents and siblings nurturing him. Not only was he able to have a long childhood but he was seeing the world through the eyes of a family that was very famous. Between his family's nurturing and the suffering he felt about the losses he experienced, he became a really compassionate person. He was destined to be in politics. Though he seemed to enjoy every seat that he had, he really hit his stride when he was no longer running for President. He was not afraid to tell people how he felt and because of his status he add unprecedented access. Ultimately, his assessments of people was generous even when he thought they were wrong. His perspective on history was like being a fly on the wall. One of the saddest, most misunderstood incidents in his life was the Mary Jo Kopechne incident. It's a shame that it never got cleared up (he was giving her a ride from a reunion party of some of his brother's -- who was killed the year before -- staff but wasn't particularly impaired, was on an unfamiliar route in the dark -- they had no romantic connection). The happiest part of the book was when he met his second wife. They were very much in love and shared a full, generous life. My respect and admiration for Ted Kennedy is at a high now. He is a great reminder of how much joy can be derived by doing things that we think are going to help other people.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andy Miller

    Ted Kennedy wrote this after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, in fact the first chapter describes the day of his seizure and the events after that. I am an admirer of Ted Kennedy, despite his personal flaws, some of which he acknowledges in his book. You can tell that Ted Kennedy truly likes people which sets him apart from many liberals(and I consider myself a liberal) who can be condescending and patronizing to people. And Kennedy had a reputation for liking and working with people he did Ted Kennedy wrote this after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, in fact the first chapter describes the day of his seizure and the events after that. I am an admirer of Ted Kennedy, despite his personal flaws, some of which he acknowledges in his book. You can tell that Ted Kennedy truly likes people which sets him apart from many liberals(and I consider myself a liberal) who can be condescending and patronizing to people. And Kennedy had a reputation for liking and working with people he did not agree with. I especially enjoyed the chapters of his growing up and his family life, the "Kennedy" history focuses on JFK and RFK and even more on Joe Jr than Ted. He grew up at a different time than them and had different experiences. He does address Chappaquidic with at least some candor but his account is at best incomplete and at worst dishonest. I think he does a better job discussing his first marriage. In addition to enjoying reading his memories of growing up, I loved reading his perspective on the political and legislative battles during his career. I share his political views but I think even those who do not agree with him politically would come to respect his effectiveness in fighting for what he believed in and his ability to work and respect with those who opposed him

  16. 4 out of 5

    Rena Jane

    After reading the Boston Globe's biography of Kennedy, I read his own version of the story. And it was very readable and enjoyable. I've always been a fan of Ted Kennedy, and this book did nothing to detract from my view of him. He was honest about his philandering, drinking and mistakes. He reminds me of myself, in that if he breaks the rules, he's bound to get caught! Kennedy's insights into the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton presidencies was interesting and enlightening. It reaf After reading the Boston Globe's biography of Kennedy, I read his own version of the story. And it was very readable and enjoyable. I've always been a fan of Ted Kennedy, and this book did nothing to detract from my view of him. He was honest about his philandering, drinking and mistakes. He reminds me of myself, in that if he breaks the rules, he's bound to get caught! Kennedy's insights into the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton presidencies was interesting and enlightening. It reaffirmed many beliefs I held at the time, as well as explaining many things I had wondered about. Though his life was often marked with tragedy, Kennedy's faith in God and upbeat spirit are worthy of mention. This was a very readable and enjoyable autobiography. We were blessed to have his singular vision grace our government for so many years.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    The history in this book is fascinating. The book captured more than the life of Ted Kennedy. It brought to life history that years of study in history books would never make interesting. I underestimated Ted Kennedy's influence for the good in this country. He worked tirelessly for his causes and whether I agreed with them or not, I admire his tenacity and ability to collaborate with others.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Overall a good memoir by Sen. Ted Kennedy, filled with family and political anecdotes. The first half was more interesting where he talks about growing up Kennedy. The second half was more about what it takes to make things happen in the Senate.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    This book ends up being a personal reflection of Ted Kennedy's life near its end. Indeed, Kennedy says (Page 13): ". . .I think of them often: my parents and my brothers and sisters all departed now save for Jean and myself. . .My story is their story, and theirs mine, and so it shall be in these pages." Thus, more personal reflections than discussion of issues and people in historical context. It is unfair for me to ask that he write a book that I would have wanted him to write, but. . . . The b This book ends up being a personal reflection of Ted Kennedy's life near its end. Indeed, Kennedy says (Page 13): ". . .I think of them often: my parents and my brothers and sisters all departed now save for Jean and myself. . .My story is their story, and theirs mine, and so it shall be in these pages." Thus, more personal reflections than discussion of issues and people in historical context. It is unfair for me to ask that he write a book that I would have wanted him to write, but. . . . The book is filled with discussion of Kennedy and his family, from his early youth onwards. Much of such discussion, of course, is poignant, given the losses of brothers in war and to assassination. The part of the book where he discussed family and friends has a nice tonality to it, as we come to learn about the inner aspects of the Kennedy family (from his parents and brothers, to nieces and nephews, to. . .). His discussion of the brain tumor, how to attack it, and how to persevere in the face of its almost inevitable conquest of him is powerful. On the other hand, the discussion of historical events has a superficial quality to it. Brief discussion and then moving on to the next highlight. For instance, "No Child Left Behind." He worked with others, Republicans and Democrats to help this law, championed by President George W. Bush, become enacted. However, I would have found it very important for him to discuss more of the interactions among the variety of players, how they hammered the legislation out, and what they did to pass it. Such coverage was rather superficial. And, of course, some of the tough moments in his life, such as the death of Mary Jo Kopechne at Chappaquiddick. If my memory is accurate, his version in this book is pretty much what he said at the time of this incident. People who have doubts about this episode will not have their minds changed; those willing to accept his version of events will accept the description. So, as a personal reflection, this works fairly well. However, the opportunity for us to learn from the author about events leading to important public actions such as legislation tends to be rather superficial. This was not his intent, of course, but I regret that we will almost surely never have his perspective on such events appear. For what this book intends, it does pretty well. But it could have been much more. . . .

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    I felt Ted Kennedy's biography was quite insightful. Hearing the events of history from his viewpoint was something I feel the Kennedy literature was always missing. Third-person recounts of Kennedy tragedies and triumphs lacked any personal touch the way that Ted's memoir was obviously able to seamlessly include. As the youngest, of a powerful, Democratic driven, Irish Catholic family, Ted had big boots to fill as a child. He speaks of Joe Jr., Jack, and Bobby not only as the tragic heroes Amer I felt Ted Kennedy's biography was quite insightful. Hearing the events of history from his viewpoint was something I feel the Kennedy literature was always missing. Third-person recounts of Kennedy tragedies and triumphs lacked any personal touch the way that Ted's memoir was obviously able to seamlessly include. As the youngest, of a powerful, Democratic driven, Irish Catholic family, Ted had big boots to fill as a child. He speaks of Joe Jr., Jack, and Bobby not only as the tragic heroes Americans cherish, but as role models, confidants, big brothers.....heroes to another American, yes...but heroes to a little brother; reasons cannot even begin to fathom. I enjoyed reading his eloquent way of writing; much like his oration which I love so much. I found myself laughing at even tho most difficult stories he recounted; because he did recount even the most painful of events with his Irish whit. Except perhaps, Chappiquitic. Although much time was spent discussing this event; little was clarified. Kennedy did share his method for neither paying reverence to nor discounting any negative attention he received in his lifetime; sharing that any comment to media would have fed the insatiable appetite of the media and endanger any of his credibility; for, if he failed to deny any such allegation, he would appear to the public as guilty. I enjoyed his senate stories and anecdotes of the good 'ol boys; he shared meaningful recollections. I appreciate his strong faith and guiding force through his challenges. I feel he was candid in sharing of many demons he dealt with. Long review short- I loved reading this book. My only complaint: The Nixon years part of the book did drag on a bit. He had great reason to dislike the man, but was abundantly clear from the start. I feel more time could have been spent on sharing about his run for presidency and failure; and less on why Nixon failed as president.

  21. 4 out of 5

    KOMET

    Out of all the memoirs from public figures I have read, this is the best. Senator Edward M. Kennedy --- who earned the title "Lion of the Senate" for his unrivaled skills and achievements as a legislator --- takes the reader through the various phases of his life in a way that brings the reader closer to who he was, through triumph and the many tragedies he and his family faced. He was the youngest child of that generation of Kennedys who took to heart the value of public service as a way of pro Out of all the memoirs from public figures I have read, this is the best. Senator Edward M. Kennedy --- who earned the title "Lion of the Senate" for his unrivaled skills and achievements as a legislator --- takes the reader through the various phases of his life in a way that brings the reader closer to who he was, through triumph and the many tragedies he and his family faced. He was the youngest child of that generation of Kennedys who took to heart the value of public service as a way of promoting positive, meaningful changes in the U.S. to benefit the broad spectrum of the nation's citizenry, many of whom had been long neglected and marginalized --- and in the process, inspired millions to strive to create a more just and better world. In reading "True Compass," I distinctly felt as if Senator Kennedy himself were sharing with me his life and the values that shaped and sustained him. My one deep regret is that I once had the opportunity --- in 2006, the year before he was diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him in August 2009 --- to meet him at a book signing during lunch hour from my job. But I foolishly passed that up, thinking there would be another time to meet him in public. Notwithstanding that, "True Compass" helped to bring back Senator Kennedy as he was in life for many of us who followed his career and admired and revered the man for his long service to the country, fighting for us, the people.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Wise

    The sad passing of this man and almost immediate publication of his memoir could not have been more dramatically timed. He played a key role in the election of a president he felt would carry on his dream, and I hope he died feeling that the passion of his Senate career - health care reform - was to soon produce concrete results. In the introduction he addresses his cancer diagnosis and prognosis, and at the end sums up as though death is close. In between he recounts in a conversational manner h The sad passing of this man and almost immediate publication of his memoir could not have been more dramatically timed. He played a key role in the election of a president he felt would carry on his dream, and I hope he died feeling that the passion of his Senate career - health care reform - was to soon produce concrete results. In the introduction he addresses his cancer diagnosis and prognosis, and at the end sums up as though death is close. In between he recounts in a conversational manner his recollection of his life from childhood through his many terms in the U.S. Senate. After reading the last page, I felt as though this man had used his last hours to tell me personally the story of his long and exciting life. I've ready several other books on the Kennedys, and was somewhat reluctant to read this book, thinking it would be a rehash of details already covered by many. That was not the case. Teddy's perspective on his family was unique as the baby of the family looking up to his older brothers. And this Kennedy lived a full and successful life which he was able to describe to the very end. He did not seek to relive the tragedies of his family, but with the support of his wife Vicki, took advantage of this one last opportunity to open up about his emotional journey. His departure marks the end of an era. This memoir is a perfect insider's summary.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    The entire Kennedy family is shrouded in as much scandal as it is old Camelot majesty. Teddy certainly embraced sharing the idyllic flavor of his upbringing in this book, but he unapologetically avoided talking in depth about his or any of his brothers' scandals. Senator Kennedy and a really wonderful writing staff wrote through his father's history, his childhood growing up on the beach in Massachusetts, his college years while his brothers entered the political arena, his finding himself and h The entire Kennedy family is shrouded in as much scandal as it is old Camelot majesty. Teddy certainly embraced sharing the idyllic flavor of his upbringing in this book, but he unapologetically avoided talking in depth about his or any of his brothers' scandals. Senator Kennedy and a really wonderful writing staff wrote through his father's history, his childhood growing up on the beach in Massachusetts, his college years while his brothers entered the political arena, his finding himself and his own political power in the 70s and 80s, and his opinions on every president from Carter to Obama (with some LBJ in there, too). He finished the book right around the time of the 2008 election. All of the major Democratic candidates were strong that year, but he felt that Obama had the zeal that was needed at the time. He was fair, if a bit distant, about his first wife, and he gushed and glowed about his second wife Vicki. I know truth has multiple voices, but Ted's voice here added a lot to my understanding of the history of his time. This is not a book I would have picked up on my own - in fact, I read it at the request of a now-lapsed book club - but I'm glad I ultimately persevered.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Duncan

    "Our roof looked to Joe & Jack as if it might be ideal for launching a parachutist. So they made up a parachute from sheets & ropes. For the test run, they were generous enough to invite the son of the chauffeur to share the adventure. They helped him on with the straps, and then they helped him off the roof. Luckily, he only suffered an ankle sprain., but it was a pretty bad one." Well, this is the Kenendy's, isn't it? Magic and black magic! You read that passage, and at first you think "Our roof looked to Joe & Jack as if it might be ideal for launching a parachutist. So they made up a parachute from sheets & ropes. For the test run, they were generous enough to invite the son of the chauffeur to share the adventure. They helped him on with the straps, and then they helped him off the roof. Luckily, he only suffered an ankle sprain., but it was a pretty bad one." Well, this is the Kenendy's, isn't it? Magic and black magic! You read that passage, and at first you think to yourself, "Oh, the charming golden adventure of growing up Kennedy!" And then you think again. Oh dear. They're already throwing the Help off the roof, and it's just page 43! And this is a memoir, so it's the cleaned up version! If things stay this punchy and obliquely honest, I'll keep reading. I'll let you know!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marcia

    I learned that being the youngest of 9 is not a piece of cake. As a very young boy he was shunted from boarding school to boarding school as his parents were very busy people and they had already raised 8 children. Expectations were tremendous and failure was not an option. When Teddy's dad tells him there are two ways to live - productive and non-productive lives and that his brothers and sisters were doing some good and intereting things in their productive lives, but if Teddy wanted to live a I learned that being the youngest of 9 is not a piece of cake. As a very young boy he was shunted from boarding school to boarding school as his parents were very busy people and they had already raised 8 children. Expectations were tremendous and failure was not an option. When Teddy's dad tells him there are two ways to live - productive and non-productive lives and that his brothers and sisters were doing some good and intereting things in their productive lives, but if Teddy wanted to live a fun and non-productive life, his father would still love him of course but probably wouldn't have much time for him. My estimation of Ted Kennedy has risen 100%. He had a lot to live up to and I think in the long run he did a very fine job. The book was interesting from start to finish.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    This memoir contains a treasure trove of our nation's recent history. It is a recollection of a time when legislators treated one another in a more collegial way. Like him or not, Teddy Kennedy was a highly intelligent man and a dedicated student of the senate during his time. He breathes life into what seems to have now become only a shell of the former great institution our founding fathers intended it to be. Overall, an enjoyable history lesson with interesting characters and a heartfelt pers This memoir contains a treasure trove of our nation's recent history. It is a recollection of a time when legislators treated one another in a more collegial way. Like him or not, Teddy Kennedy was a highly intelligent man and a dedicated student of the senate during his time. He breathes life into what seems to have now become only a shell of the former great institution our founding fathers intended it to be. Overall, an enjoyable history lesson with interesting characters and a heartfelt personal story.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jared Blum

    Overall a good read, and a nice trip down memory lane. With such a long history in the senate, he spent some time discussing how things have changed, but not enough for my interests. I would have liked to hear if he thinks things are truly more partisan now than they were in the past. He speaks several times about how important his catholic faith is to him. I would have liked for him to discuss how he rationalizes his support for abortion.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    Kennedy's warm and witty personality shines through in this book. Very interesting mini-history lesson as it spans from World War II to 9/11. As someone in politics' inner circle for decades, Kennedy also gives a glimpse into the many facets of wheeling and dealing and campaigning. Combined with his personal story, this was a great read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen Suglia

    I was disappointed in that I thought I would learn some of the truth to his past. Anything that might be considered less than perfect is not probed in depth and usually only in a paragraph or two and then sometimes by the need to share responsibility -- divorce, car crash -- it was interesting in reading about the backstabbing and party politics but that is hardly news.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kelli Peters

    This was a moving and detailed memoir of Ted Kennedy's life. Kennedy describes his relationship with his family and time in politics. I would encourage anyone who is interested in the Kennedy family to read this book.

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