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In Defense of Strong Women – How Vicki Kennedy Saved Ted Kennedy

Our American media is like none other in the world. When something significant happens, we pick the bones dry, examining every square centimeter of every angle, until there is nothing left to the imagination. During this past week of Senator Ted Kennedy's memorials, every aspect of his life was exposed and up for discussion. I couldn’t help but take note how imperfect a person Senator Kennedy was.

I must admit that I didn’t know very much about Senator Kennedy’s early days and the events that lead many to describe his life as ‘flawed’. Through interactive timelines and the magic of the Internet, I was able to read many original New York Times articles that described the less than ideal events in Senator Kennedy’s life. Here are the incidents that seem to have particularly checkered his legacy:

May 1951: Ted Kennedy is caught cheating on a Spanish exams and leaves Harvard College. He enlists in the Army for 16 months and later re-enrolled in Harvard.

November 1958: Ted Kennedy marries former model and New York debutante, Virginia Joan Bennett.

March 1962: Ted Kennedy runs for Senate less than a month after he turns 30.

November 1962: Ted Kennedy is elected to the Senate after a bitter fight with Edward J. McCormick.

July 18, 1969: Accident at Chappaquiddick – Senator Kennedy drives his car off of a bridge at Chappaquiddick, Ma. and manages to escape. His passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowns. Kennedy waits eight hours to report the accident, explaining he wandered about in apparent shock. Others said Kennedy waited until he sobered up the next morning before calling the police. Kennedy pleads guilty to leaving the scene of an accident.

July 25, 1969: Kennedy seeks forgiveness – After mounting controversy, Senator Kennedy delivers a television address to explain his actions and ask voters if he should resign. He conceded that his actions were ‘indefensible’ but denied any intentional wrongdoing. A year later, Kennedy is reelected.

December 1982: Senator Kennedy and wife, Joan, divorce after 24 years of marriage. Mrs. Kennedy said her husband was a womanizer. After the divorce, Senator Kennedy is said to have often drank and caroused in Washington with a fellow senator and chased women.

1989: European paparazzi photographs Kennedy having sex on a motorboat.

March 1991: A woman accuses Senator Kennedy's nephew of rape at the Kennedy family estate in Palm Beach Fl.

June 1991: An ethics complaint is filed against Kennedy alleging his conduct in the rape case against his nephew violated Senate rules. The complaint also asserted that the Senator initially failed to cooperate with the Palm Beach police. Eight days later, the complaint was dismissed.

June 1991: Ted Kennedy and Victoria Reggie meet at a party celebrating her parent’s 40 wedding anniversary. Ted Kennedy said of this meeting, “I had known Vicki before, but this was the first time I think I really saw her.”

October 1991: Kennedy Apologizes to the Voters. In a discussion of his future in politics, Kennedy said: “I recognize my own shortcomings – the faults in the conduct of my private life. I realize that I alone am responsible for them, and I am the one who must confront them.” He added, “I believe that each of us as individuals must not only struggle to make a better world, but to make ourselves better, too.” Kennedy vows to clean up his life and do better.

July 1992: Kennedy marries Victoria Reggie.

This timeline of the life of a public servant is like none other I’ve ever seen. I can’t imagine how a public figure could embarrass himself and his family time and time again as Senator Kennedy did. I’m sure Joan Kennedy was a good woman and wife. Before she met her husband, Joan was high-society debutant and a model. She bored Senator Kennedy’s three children and stood by his side as he recovered from a broken back which he sustained in a plane crash. She even stood by his side through the Chappaquiddick accident and through his public promiscuity and blatant disregard her feelings and public perception. Senator Kennedy basically drove Joan to drinking and she finally divorced him.

Why couldn’t Joan and Ted Kennedy make a go of their marriage? Simple: Joan just wasn’t the one and Ted just wasn’t ready.

I also think Senator Kennedy suffered from survivor’s guilt. After all his older brothers had tragically preceded him in death, I think the guilt of surviving hindered him from recognizing his potential and the vision of who he was to become. Guilt kept Senator Kennedy from realizing the man he was called to be.

Then, Senator Kennedy rescue came when he met Vicki Reggie in 1991. Vicki was the daughter of Senator Kennedy’s close friend. She had graduated magna cum laude from Tulane University, then summa cum laude from Tulane University Law School. Vicki was an accomplished lawyer and had been raised in a political family. When she and Ted emerged as a couple in September 1991, it was clear that she was the one and Senator Kennedy was ready.

During my research, it seems that after 40 years in politics, all of a sudden, Senator Kennedy’s personal life stopped stealing the glory of his political career. It seems after Kennedy’s marriage to Vickie, his private life stabilized and his life as a public servant began to flourish. He accomplished some of his best feats after he married Vicki.

On the Saturday morning that Senator Ted Kennedy was eulogized, ABC News’ Chris Cuomo asked Vice President Biden: [When Edward M. Kennedy was elected to the Senate, the New York Times wrote a scathing review, saying the only thing he had going for his was his name. Today, he has one of the most decorated obituaries the paper has ever done. What happened to change the perception of Senator Kennedy?]

Vice President Biden said, "Every mistake he made in his life, he made a lie out of the mistake by the way he lived the rest of his life."

Vicki Kennedy is the reason Senator Kennedy outlived his mistakes. Vickie Kennedy is the only reason Ted Kennedy is going down in history as a champion rather than a disgrace. When Senator Ted married Vicki, he found his redemption. At last, Senator Kennedy had found someone strong enough to stabilize his personal life.

Strong women, women who hold their own, women with strong personalities and opinions are often looked upon with disdain. Some men feel threatened, saying a strong woman would not let him be a man. I’ll admit it: strong women are not for everybody. Every man can’t handle the standards they set; they can’t clear the bar over which they are required to leap. But sometimes, it takes a strong woman to tame a wild-spirited, heavily flawed man. Sometimes, it takes the strength of a woman to help a man realize his full potential. Sweet, pretty women are good. But sometimes it takes a strong woman to save a man. Edit


Having been just turned on to you by a friend, I must say, I truly am a fan. I feel as if we are on the same wavelength with a lot of today's topics. You are fresh! in the best sense of the word. I do have a question about your ..."How Vicki Kennedy Saved Ted Kennedy"
Not to take anything away from Mrs. Kennedy, I do believe she had sumthin' for ole Teddy, but are we sure that she saved him or was the man just getting too old and tired of running the streets?? Delete Reply

Thanks so much for the kind words! I really appreciate your feedback.

I agree with you on the point you made. That's why I said not only was Vicki the one, but Ted was ready! I think it is very important to acknowledge that Ted had reached a point in his life that the things that once gave him pleasure, no longer did so. He wanted the stability of a wife, family, relationship... someone to be accountable to. And Vicki was there to steer him in the right direction.
Men have been known to be able to reinvent themselves after a life of foolishness. But we women generally are not. It seems we get once chance at it and if we don't snag it, well... but that is another topic altogether. Maybe next week's blog! lol

Anyway... thanks for the feedback. And never hesitate to leave a comment. Oftentimes, people give me a whole new perspective that I didn't consider before... and I really need that! Delete Reply

I think you're right on this point. I think Vicki got the best of Ted. But I feel sorry for Joan. She put up with all of his crap and she's shut out. Ted would not be where he ended up if Joan hadn't been there in the beginning. Though I feel so sorry for Vicki, I feel equally sorry for Joan. She should have been there standing with her children and there should have been some acknowledgement of the life she had with him. Delete Reply

Excellent post and insight on strong women. I consider myself one and I've chosen singleness at different times in my life, like right now, because of it. "Behind every great man is a strong woman who deals with him and more than likely made him." Delete Reply

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