The late Senator Ted Kennedy was a Washington, D.C. legend, serving 47 years in Congress. This week, the University of Virginia’s Miller Center will release part of the oral history it compiled on Kennedy, working from 300 interviews it did with him and those who knew him.
As part of the oral history, Ted Kennedy did 29 interviews that produced about a thousand pages of transcript. Then, the Miller Center spoke with those who knew him.
His friends, family, colleagues, staffers, journalists -- just about anybody who worked with him over his nearly 50 years in the Senate.
Barbara Perry directs the oral history project, which includes every president since Jimmy Carter. She says Ted Kennedy’s part is more than twice the size of anyone else. For Bill Clinton there were 130 interviews. For Kennedy, nearly 300.
“He wanted it to be about his entire life, and given that he was the youngest of nine children, his life followed the arc of the Kennedy family, in fact even went back beyond that to his mother’s father, the former mayor of Boston, Honey “Fitz” Fitzegerald.”
A graduate of the University of Virginia law school, Kennedy spoke at the Miller Center in 2006, extolling the virtues of oral history in helping us to understand how leaders thought about the problems of their day.
“The listener has the added benefit of the genuineness and spontenaity of the human voice. Oral history allows those who participate in history, rather than historians, to provide tone and shading to the words that describe their thoughts and their deeds.”
He recalled his own work as a champion of healthcare reform.
“I was there in 1964 when Medicare was defeated, in 1965 when it was passed, and the next year we passed Medicaid. Both of them passed within 8 months and implemented within 11 months, without computers.”
And he lamented the nation’s failure to fully support education and innovation.
“Are we going to say that China, which has produced … research, and we are cutting back all our basic research in this nation.”
About 700 pages of transcripts will appear on the Miller Center’s website, just after midnight Wednesday. Perry says there won’t be any bombshells, but readers will find new and intriguing details. The official release will take place Wednesday afternoon in Washington.