Review of True Compass, by Edward M. Kennedy
True Compass: A Memoir by Edward M. Kennedy My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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 intriguing:
- 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’ 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 anecdotes. 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’ 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 Democrats and Republicans, and he doesn’t use his book as a platform to lash out at people he doesn’t like.
This is a nonpartisan 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.