(NECN: Mike Nikitas) - Few knew President John F. Kennedy better than his younger brother, the late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy.
Back in 1999 he took the time to share some treasured memories with our Mike Nikitas.
It was 1999 and the senator was 67 when Nikitas met him in his Boston office. It was clear then that the years since his brother’s death had not dimmed his feelings.
He said he thought about his brother “every day.”
He said he thought of his brother as “somebody who’s an inspiring, loving figure, who continues to inspire me.”
While the deep bond between Jack and Bobby Kennedy was well-known, Jack Kennedy also shared a less-publicized, almost father-son relation with his youngest brother, Ted, teaching him how to sail, which would become a life-long passion for the senator.
What did he remember most about his brother growing up?
Kennedy said, "On my wall in the U.S. Senate is a sign, a letter my brother wrote to my mother. It says, ‘Can I be the godfather?’ He took a special interest in my growing up."
Kennedy said his brother “took enormous interest in all aspects of my life, whether it was school or athletics. He would pick books I would like to read."
In 1962, midway through JFK's presidency, Ted Kennedy was elected to the Senate. President Kennedy came to Boston just to vote for him. But JFK had his hands full in the White House with the “Bay of Pigs” disaster, the attempt to overthrow Castro, and the success of standing with Berlin against the Soviet threat.
His successes were among the triumphs of the 20th century.
JFK's defining moment in foreign policy was the Cuban missile crisis. He forced the Soviets to back down and dismantle their nuclear missile sites in Cuba. Audio tapes released decades later revealed a cool president and those tapes also show a regretful president. Kennedy was regretful of the death of South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem, killed in a military coup that JFK invited.
On the home front, JFK supported civil rights, pushed for Medicare and created the Peace Corps, challenging Americans to be part of something greater than themselves.
Ted Kennedy said, “Basically his great appeal, I think, was the set of challenges.”
America came to a crashing halt when President Kennedy was assassinated.
It was not an event Senator Kennedy would speak about.
He focused instead on what he surprisingly said was his brother's greatest accomplishment.
He said, “I think really, it was really as a father. I think this was really important in all our lives. My father and mother made it very clear to us that whatever we did in public life never really compared to what we would do with the lives of our children. And my brother took that very seriously. I think that his greatest contributions were John and Caroline.”
The agony over the president's death propelled the nation to achieve some of his unfulfilled legislative goals.
But his death could not prevent the exposure of his weaknesses.
That exposure has not shattered the JFK image, but has sustained and completed it, revealing to history a more human figure.