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Senator Edward Kennedy Dies at 77, A Look at His Life and Legacy

Aired August 26, 2009 - 06:00   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: We're coming up to the top of the hour now. We're just about 6:00 a.m. on the East Coast, and we're on the air this morning.

We've been on the air actually since a little after 1:00 this morning because we learned that last evening on the one year anniversary of his appearance at the Democratic National Convention that Senator Ted Kennedy at the age of 77 passed away from brain cancer. And he will be sorely missed in the Senate and by so many people in this nation.

KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely. And the condolences or memories are pouring in this morning. We heard from President Obama actually in a written statement. He said that the nation has lost "the greatest United States senator of our time. He went on to say, "For five decades, virtually every major piece of legislation to advance civil rights, health and economic well-being of the American people bore his name and resulted in his efforts."

He also said that basically he cherished his confidence and his support in his race for the presidency. As we know that was back during the primary, a big controversial move on the part of Senator Kennedy to throw his support even though he was great friends with the Clintons and very close with Senator Hillary Clinton to throw his support behind then-Senator Obama, vying for the Democratic nomination.

ROBERTS: We are live outside of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port bringing you some pictures now as the sun begins to come up on Cape Cod. A little less than an hour ago, the coroner's man left the Kennedy compound. No information as to whether or not it contained the remains of Senator Ted Kennedy.

There's the picture of the van leaving, but it was the coroner's van. It had been there for several hours. And we will hope to get an update very soon. Haven't had much information coming out of the Kennedy compound through the course of the night on the status of things right now as to what the process will be in the coming hours and days.

The only thing we did receive from the Kennedy family was a statement that said, "Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we love so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port. We lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives. But the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. We thank everyone who gave him care and support over this past year and everyone who stood with him for so many years in his tireless march for progress toward justice, fairness and opportunity for all. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him."

CHETRY: He even said that in some of the last times we heard him publicly speak, you may also remember despite the fact that he was suffering with this brain tumor, he was very active all the way until the end. One of the -- on the lighter side, he was the one who was responsible for bestowing Bo, the Portuguese water dog on the White House.

The first family, of course, really wanted a dog. And it was his love, as he called him, Portis (ph) that introduced the Obamas to that. Many other things he was able to throw out the first pitch of his beloved Red Sox even though he was ailing. And he was able to make it a standing ovation when he appeared at the Senate to cast a vital vote.

ROBERTS: He lived life right up until the end.

CHETRY: He did.

ROBERTS: We saw in recent weeks the pictures of him going out for a day sail there close to the family compound in Hyannis Port.

Our John King, host of the "STATE OF THE UNION," is a native son of Massachusetts. He joins us this morning. And, John, let me ask for your thoughts as the sun begins to come up on this day, the first day in a long time, without Senator Edward Kennedy.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John and Kiran, good morning. Watching the pictures at the compound, obviously a tragic morning at the Kennedy compound. But to see in the distance those waters off Hyannis Port that Senator Kennedy loves so much and that it's so shaped his family over the years. And so that is the place where the family has come together after so many -- too many tragedies.

The death of his older brother, Joe, at World War II, the assassinations of John Kennedy and then Robert Kennedy. Other deaths and family tragedies, also family triumphs, weddings and celebrations and birthday celebrations. And there are pictures of the three brothers playing football. The young vibrant Jack, Bobby and Teddy as the Kennedy family calls them. And, of course, now this was the Kennedy we did see get old for the past 41 years since his brother, Bobby, was gunned down.

He has been the torch bearer of that Kennedy family. And in that role, he has a remarkable record of legislative achievement that even his most conservative Republican critics pay tribute too. He has been the patriarch of the Kennedy family and on a personal note has held down together. And he is a legend in national politics and certainly in Massachusetts. So as he passes today, people will look back on his remarkable record, the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Acts of the '60s, the minimum wage debates throughout the years, the Medicare legislation of the '60s, and then the change to add the prescription drug benefits under the Bush administration.

Bipartisan compromise became the trademark of a man who was such a principled liberal. And that is his legacy in Washington. And as we wait for the details from the Kennedy family, I can tell you this -- we do know in the final months his wife, Vicki, has laid out a very detailed plan for how she wants him to be remembered and put to rest and the family no doubt announce most of those plans later today, John. But she was at his side, John and Kiran.

And if anyone changed Ted Kennedy's life in his later years when many of us were perhaps too stubborn to be changed, it was the marriage to Vicki back in 1992. Since that transformation in his life to the very end when until the brain cancer took his energy away, he was happy again. He was more engaged. He had a sense of humor again and a bounce in his step. That is you were noting in the toss. He last demonstrated it in a campaign way helping Barack Obama become president of the United States.

CHETRY: You talked about all the various pieces of legislation through the decades that he's helped shepherd through the Senate and bring to ultimate passage. One, of course, near and dear to his heart, he almost called it his life mission and work, was to get universal health care. He strongly felt, whether you agree with him or not, that it was the right, not the privilege of every single American to have health care.

Where does this debate go now? And where might have he stood as he watched things get very divisive through this August recess as throughout the town hall meetings and in the chambers of Congress? Many people fighting over just what any type of health care reform would ultimately look like?

KING: It is such a great question, Kiran. And the sad irony that the cause he most cared about is being debated on the floor of Congress right now. And he was absent from the debate and now, of course, he has passed from the debate. And the question is this -- will the loss of his vote in the Senate in the short term further complicate a process for the president of the United States right now that is off the tracks?

This is an internal Democratic problem at the moment, even though there continue to be some efforts to get Republicans onboard. And had Ted Kennedy been there, what might he have been able to do? Might he have been able to broker the profound disagreements right now between the more conservative Democrats in the Senate who are very skeptical of the so-called public opposition and the more liberal House of Representatives which says it will not pass a health care reform bill that does not have a public option?

Could he have somehow brokered, as he has in so many big fights in the past, those differences within the Democratic family on the issue on which he has such standing in the party? We will not get the answer to that. The question is as Speaker Pelosi noted in her statement this morning, will his passing now be an impetus for the Democrats to work out their differences for the country, perhaps, to work out some of its questions and disagreements with the Democratic approach? And will in his passing some new momentum come from the health care debate.

That will be the defining question in Washington, a week, ten days, two weeks from now after what you will see in the next 72 hours which will be a great deal of reflection on the life and legacy of Ted Kennedy.

ROBERTS: John King reporting for us this morning. John, thanks so much. Stay with us because we like to come back to you.

I'm getting all sorts of statements of remembrance this morning here in the United States, around the world, and now from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Governor Deval Patrick has issued a statement on the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy.

Governor Patrick says, "One of the Commonwealth's brightest lights went out last night. Ted Kennedy was a compassioned, effective visionary statesman, family man and friend. Diane and I were blessed by his company, support and many kindnesses and miss him profoundly. We pray for comfort for his beloved wife and partner, Vicki, and his entire family."

And, of course, Governor Patrick is now in the middle of discussions as to whether or not the laws in Massachusetts in replacing Senator Kennedy should be changed to allow for an interim appointment before that special election takes place. The president of the Senate also is involved in those discussions and we'll see where that goes from here.

CHETRY: Yes. Senator Kennedy wanted that. He sent a letter saying, please, just get a temporary person in there so that there are two representatives from Massachusetts in the Senate. And as John King pointed out, I believe, it's Strom Thurmond who also was not present right now if there would be critical voters of Robert Byrd...

ROBERTS: Robert Byrd.

CHETRY: Robert Byrd, rather.

ROBERTS: Strom Thurmond passed away sometime ago.

CHETRY: Strom Thurmond has passed away.

The other interesting thing is it's not just here in the United States that his legacy is being felt and that people are sending their condolences and remembrances. We're hearing from the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, as well. She sent a letter of condolence actually to the president of the United States, Barack Obama. And in it she wrote, "Dear Mr. President, it's with great sorrow that I've been informed of the death of Senator Edward Kennedy. I would like to express my condolences to you and the American people, and to the family of the deceased."

She noted that for decades Edward Kennedy was a towering figure in U.S. politics, battling for justice and equality and defined by persistence and resoluteness. She also goes on to say that both Germany and Europe have lost a great and dear friend. Again, the chancellor of Germany.

ROBERTS: We're also hearing from the president. And our Dan Lothian is on Martha's Vineyard where he's covering the president who's there on vacation. He joins us on the telephone.

And, Dan, what's the word from the White House and the president?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, the president paying tribute to Senator Ted Kennedy, someone who he relied on as a senator, as a candidate and also as president. And he put out a statement this morning saying, in part, "I valued his life, counsel in the Senate, where, regardless of the swirl of events, he always had time for a new colleague. I cherish his confidence and momentous support in my race for the presidency. And even as he waged the valiant struggle with a mortal illness I've profited as president from the encouragement and wisdom."

And he goes on to say, "An important chapter in our history has come to an end. Our country has lost a great leader who picked up the torch of his fallen brothers and became the greatest United States senator of all time," John.

And, you know, as you know, the president relied heavily on Senator Kennedy during the campaign at a time when many people felt perhaps that Senator Kennedy would have endorsed Hillary Clinton who had the support of the Democratic Party, had the big money, the big donors. He made the surprise endorsement of Barack Obama, eventually a pivotal point that led to his presidency. Take a listen to the remarks he made on that day when he made the endorsement back in January of 2008.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He is tough-minded. But he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to the better angels of our nature. I'm proud to stand with him here today and offer my help, offer my voice, offer my energy, my commitment to make Barack Obama the next president of the United States.


LOTHIAN: And the president winding up his statement by saying, "And the Kennedy has lost their patriarch, a tower of strength and support through good times and bad. Our hearts and prayers go out to them today, to his wonderful wife, Vicki, his children, Ted Jr., Patrick and Carrie, his grandchildren and his extended family."

So a difficult day certainly for a lot of Americans in particular for President Barack Obama who has hailed Ted Kennedy as a friend and as an adviser now for quite sometime. And certainly during the time when he has been trying to push for health care reform, Ted Kennedy has been there behind the scenes giving him advice, John. ROBERTS: Certainly is a sad moment in America this morning. Dan Lothian, and obviously, a big void as well in the president's push for health care reform, a void that certainly won't be filled anytime soon.

CHETRY: Absolutely not.

Coming up, we're going to be speaking with some of his former colleagues as well, including former Senator Bob Graham and others. We're going to check in once again with the former mayor of Boston and many other people who knew Senator Kennedy not only as the politician, but also the man.

ROBERTS: Yes. And also in that moment, one year to the date that he died, it was August 25th, 2008, when he appeared at the Democratic National Convention. This was after he'd had brain surgery. He was undergoing chemotherapy as well. And he made that triumphant appearance in Denver at the Democratic National Convention. We'll have that moment from history coming up for you in just a couple of minutes.

It's now 12 minutes after the hour.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

CHETRY: And welcome. There is a live look this morning on this AMERICAN MORNING.

It's 14 minutes past 6:00 there in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. At the Kennedy compound, the police presence there. We saw a coroner's van leave about 30, 45 minutes ago as well. We saw a coroner's van leave 30, 45 minutes ago as well.

We got the news late last night that Senator Edward Kennedy lost his valiant fight with brain cancer passing away at the age of 77.

ROBERTS: And a live look at the Capitol building now where the flag has been lowered to half staff in memory of Senator Kennedy, dead at the age of 77 after a long fight with brain cancer.

You know, it was May of 2008 when he was diagnosed with the cancer. He had surgery on it in June. Chemotherapy treatment after that. And the Democratic National Convention was quickly approaching and he had really wanted to be there because of his support for Senator Barack Obama trying to make him become president. It was, you know, the time, the week that he was accepting the nomination.

For Senator Kennedy, it really was the culmination of a dream. He was one of the major sponsors of legislation, 1964, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the next year. And so he really, really wanted to be there. And there was a buzz that went through Denver that week that maybe he was going to make an appearance. Maybe he was just well enough to be able to do it. And I remember the night, it was August 25th, 2008. We heard that he was in the building. And then there was speculation as to whether or not he was well enough to appear on stage. And then he came out and put all of those doubts to rest. Let's take a look at that moment in history.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My fellow Democrats -- my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here. And nothing -- nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.

I have come here tonight to stand with you, to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals, and to elect Barack Obama president of the United States. As I look ahead, I am strengthened by family and friendship. So many of you have been with me in the happiest days and the hardest days.

Together, we have known success and seen setbacks, victory and defeat. But we have never lost our belief that we are all called to a better country and a newer world. And I pledge to you -- I pledge to you, that I will be there next January on the floor of the United States Senate when we begin the great --


ALL: Teddy, Teddy, Teddy.

KENNEDY: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you.

For me, this is a season of hope. New hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many and not just for the few -- new hope. And this is the cause of my life -- new hope. That we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American, north, south, east, west, young, old, will have decent quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.


We can meet these challenges with Barack Obama. Yes, we can. And finally, yes, we will.

Barack Obama will close the book on the old politics of race, agenda, and group against group, and straight against gay. And Barack Obama will be a commander-in-chief who understands that young Americans in uniform must never be committed to a mistake, but always to a mission worthy of their bravery.

We are told that Barack Obama believes too much in an America of high principle and bold endeavor. But when John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn't say it's too far to get there. We shouldn't even try. Our people answered his call and rose to the challenge and today an American flag still marks the surface of the moon.

Yes, we are all Americans. This is what we do. We reach the moon. We scale the heights.

I know it. I've seen it. I've lived it. And we can do it again.

There is a new wave of change all around us. And if we set our compass through, we will reach our destination. Not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation. And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause.

The work begins anew. The hope rises again. And the dream lives on.


CHETRY: There were tears in the audience. People were cheering, people were crying.


CHETRY: He actually choked up a little bit a few times. It was just remarkable because we had heard about the surgery, about the prognosis, and about the recovery, and the chemo. And yet he looked so strong and vibrant when he made the speech.

ROBERTS: And that was the thing. You know, I was there that night. We were wondering what he was going to look like.

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: Was he going to come out? Was he going to be frail? And he was so vigorous and so forceful particularly given everything that he had gone through. It was really quite stunning to see how well he did.

CHETRY: Probably forgot for a moment that he was suffering from terminal brain cancer.

ROBERTS: It was easy to forget that. Yes, you had to sort of remind yourself that this is a man who is very, very ill.

One of Senator Kennedy's long-time colleagues in the Senate is former Senator Bob Graham from the great state of Florida. They spent 18 years together, worked on awful lot of legislation. Senator Graham joins us now from Miami Lakes, Florida.

Senator, it's awfully good to have you on with us. Let me ask you where your thoughts are going this morning?

BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA, FORMER SENATOR (via telephone): John, I'm very sad for the family, particularly for Vicki. They shared almost a classic love story the last years of their life. America has lost a great symbol and a great leader. The Senate has been denied probably the most effective senator certainly in the last 50 years.

ROBERTS: And how will you remember him, senator?

GRAHAM: Well, I'll remember among other things the gap between the perception that I and I think many people had of Ted Kennedy in the '60s and '70s and the reality of the man that I came to know in the next 18 years. There were some who thought that he'd gotten the position because of his name and his brothers. They associated him with being more of a playboy than a serious politician.

He was exactly the opposite. He was extremely conscientious. He was always well prepared. He surrounded himself with probably the best staff in the Senate. He was focused all along.

It's a sad irony that the dream that he held most of the year was universal health care and that he should leave us almost at the time that that seems to be closer to reality than it has been in any time in his life. And in particular a bitter part of his passing today.

CHETRY: You know, one of his former aides, Paul Kirk, said without question Senator Kennedy was the most accomplished and effective legislator for economic and social justice in the history of our country. One of the things that he was most passionate about as we know and he talked about in his later years was this health care situation. He believed that there should be universal health care and that should cover everybody. And that that was a right, not a privilege.

As we look forward and I'm sure you're watching all of this now and your former colleagues debate this. And there are serious questions about whether or not a universal health care bill will make it through Congress. How do you think he would view this fight and where do you think this fight is going forward?

GRAHAM: I think that life and now the death of Ted Kennedy will be important elements of the next few weeks of the debate on this subject. The fact that he kept it as such a centerpiece of American politics, an unrealized dream will assist its passage. Unfortunately, the force of his own voice and intellect and his ability to find the point of consensus is going to be denied to the American people and to the President Obama. That's the sadness.

One of the characteristics of Ted Kennedy, Kiran, is while he came from the family of affluence and influence and high notoriety, he never lost the common touch or never lost a genuine concern for the people who had been left behind in our society. And he felt that one of the important roles of government was to make us one people, united behind some basic principles of common decency as opposed to being separated by our own particular social or economic class.

CHETRY: Very interesting. And, as I said, the former aide called him one of the most thoughtful and genuinely considerate friends I've ever known. And you've echoed some of those sentiments this morning as well.

Former Senator Bob Graham, thanks for joining us this morning with your thoughts on Senator Kennedy.

GRAHAM: Thank you very much, Kiran.

ROBERTS: We're going to take a quick break at 27 1/2 minutes after the hour. When we return, we're going to be talking with Donna Brazile about the life and legacy of Senator Ted Kennedy. Stay with us.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's a story Ted Kennedy sometimes tells. It's about a boy who sees an old man tossing starfish stranded by a receding tide back into the sea. There are so many, asked the boy. What difference can your efforts possibly make? The old man studies the starfish in his hand and tosses it to safety saying -- it makes a difference to that one.

For nearly half a century, Ted Kennedy has been walking that beach, making a difference for that soldier fighting for freedom, that refugee looking for a way home, that senior searching for dignity, that worker striving for opportunity, that student aspiring to college, that family reaching for the American dream. The life of Senator Edward M. Kennedy has made a difference for us all.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ROBERTS: We're half past the hour now. And if you're just joining us, we're updating you on our breaking news this morning.

Senator Ted Kennedy has passed away at the age of 77 after a 15- month battle with brain cancer. He was diagnosed with a malignant glioma in April of 2008. Had surgery on it. Chemotherapy as well. He has been keeping his hand in the debate over health care reform right up until the very end, even asking the governor of Massachusetts and the Senate president to consider a change in the law that would allow a very, very quick deployment to his seat when it became vacant knowing that he only had probably days to live.

And late last night, early this morning, we've learned that Senator Ted Kennedy has passed away at the age of 77.

CHETRY: Yes. And his family released a statement saying we've lost the irreplaceable center of our family, the joyous light in our lives. But the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live in our hearts forever. They went on to say he always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him.

And, again, we're going to be looking right now at live pictures of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. You see the sun coming up, a glorious shot of the water and the background, and the home, of course, marked by sadness this morning because of the passing of him.

It was interesting, a longtime Kennedy staffer who didn't want to be named because of the sensitivity of the moment told "The Boston Globe" that he died the way he lived. We're counting some of the last weeks and months of his life. He said, "fully in the moment with incredible courage. He knew exactly what was going on. He wasn't afraid. And given everything that he had been through his entire life was always optimistic, and knew that this country's best days were ahead."

ROBERTS: Yes. He certainly lived life all the way up until the very end. You know, he loved the water so much. And he was going out sailing, and he was working the telephones in the health care debate trying right up until the very end to remain the effective senator that he was for 47 years on Capitol Hill.

Also in downtown Boston this morning, a live picture of the Kennedy Library. It's expected that people will be probably arriving there to pay their respects to the Kennedy legacy. This, of course, marks not just the death of a senator, but the end of an era.

And a little bit of tape to show you. This happened shortly after 5:00 this morning outside of the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. The coroner's van leaving. Do not know if the van was carrying the remains of Senator Kennedy or not. But that was the picture that came to us a little after 5:00 in the morning.

Another picture that came to me just a little while ago, if I can share a personal e-mail with you was this one. This is Senator Kennedy at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, January 20th of this year. And it came with the caption -- "Drum major for justice." And the person who sent me that e-mail is Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Donna Brazile who joins us on the telephone now from Seattle.

Donna, it's good to have you with us. We'll be asking your thoughts on the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST (via telephone): Well, John, I'm very sad. He was a drum major for justice, a champion for the poor and the downtrodden. And on this day, the 89th anniversary of women's suffrage, Ted Kennedy will also be remembered as a fighter for women's rights and civil rights, and equality for all.

He never wavered in his pursuit of justice for those who lacked the voice. And I remember Ted Kennedy for having an open door, especially for those who wanted to come in and talk about equality, freedom, justice. He was the senator that always reached out. And he encouraged young people no matter their political affiliation to get involved in political life. And I will remember him personally perhaps at the presidential inaugural when I last saw Senator Kennedy.

I was with my sister, Lisa, a Katrina survivor. And she shouted out, and she said, Ted Kennedy, Ted Kennedy. And he run out, he was in a motor scooter with his wife, Vicki, who was a Louisiana native. And she said, thank you for standing up for us in Louisiana. And he gave her a hug. And I'm sure that pictures well, because I'm sure she'll want that picture out. And then he went on to talk about, you know, the enormous day that we're about to take in to witness the inauguration of our first black president. And he reminded me that Bobby Kennedy, his brother, had once foretold the story that America would indeed elect a first black president. So I will remember Ted Kennedy for his tenacity, his strength, and as someone who just fought for poor people, the right to organize, the disabled, for gays and lesbians. He was truly an American hero.

CHETRY: And he certainly, Donna. This is Kiran as well here. Thanks for being with us this early. I know it's early for you in Seattle -- either that or late. One or the other.

It's interesting when a picture is painted of those who knew him. You know, they talk about his unapologetic embrace of liberalism of the fact that that sometimes made him a very big political target. But they also say even though he strongly held those beliefs and certainly made no attempt to hide them in any ways, he found ways to collaborate with people that on the surface he couldn't be more different from, whether it would be Senator John McCain on immigration, whether it be, even George W. Bush, or former president on the no child left behind. There's sort of an art form that his mother joke around that it was the ninth child talent. Finding ways to have patience and to bring people together. But when you look at his legacy, how rare is it to find a politician who is -- I'm sorry, I'm hearing a little bit of feed through there.

Are you still able to hear me, Donna?

BRAZILE: He didn't just offer legislation and push, push to pass it. He also reached out across the aisles to try to find bipartisan support. He was an icon. And I don't -- I can't think of no other senator living or dead that played such a large role in the life of most of the citizens of this great country.

And when I think of all of the legislation, the voting rights act that I've heard others talked about this morning, the Family Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act. Ted Kennedy's signature is all over those pieces of legislation, but also the passage of the bill that made Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. He also fought the home rule for the District of Columbia. He was our champion there for voting rights. He was always willing to stand up for what was right and what was just, and what was good for the country.

ROBERTS: Donna, it's John. How do you think his passing is going to affect the debate over health care, and the push by the Democratic Party to try to get some sort of legislation passed?

BRAZILE: You know, 40 years ago, it was Ted Kennedy who introduced a bill for universal health care. Again, this was an issue that was close in his heart, and I was looking at the clippings from the convention last year, where he rallied the party and the country once again to make the task of universal health care a number one priority. I think this will help to redouble the efforts of those who would truly like to see some major reform of our health insurance system in this country. And I hope that when Congress returns to work in a couple of weeks, they will not only remember Ted Kennedy, but also remember what he fought for. And this would have been a fight that he would lead to the bitter end.

ROBERTS: Obviously, it's impossible to replace a person like Ted Kennedy. But, you know, looking forward, what do you think his lasting impact on the Senate and on politics in America is going to be?

BRAZILE: John, I mentioned, he -- Ted Kennedy has a large political franchise. I mean, he was a liberal icon, a liberal giant. But many of the issues that Ted Kennedy championed were -- they were issues that involved Americans from all walks of life. And I think that the members of the Senate will regroup and continue to fight for those -- the causes of Ted Kennedy's health care, immigration reform, climate change.

Ted Kennedy would have been involved in all of those fights, and he would have led the battle as well on education. So I would hope that the Senate will come back to Congress, will come back and look past all of the differences we have as Americans. But look at what we share together, the values. And those are values that Ted Kennedy fought for freedom, for justice, for equality, for opportunity for all citizens.

CHETRY: And, Donna, you've been watching and taking part in politics for quite a long time.

Do you think that this is the end of the Kennedy political dynasty?

BRAZILE: Absolutely not. You know, the Kennedy family is very large. A wonderful family. His son, Patrick, of course. He had nieces and nephews. And I'm sure one of his grandchildren will likely continue the torch. The dream will never die.

CHETRY: Donna Brazile, great to get your thoughts and your insights this morning.

Thanks for joining us.

BRAZILE: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Good to have her with us this morning. And there are so many people who are remembering Senator Kennedy today for -- regardless of your political stripes, he was just so well respected. You can agree with him; you can disagree with him; you can mildly disagree with him; you can vehemently disagree with him, but still most everyone on Capitol Hill had a tremendous amount of respect for Senator Kennedy.

CHETRY: They talk about him being one of the most popular in the senators.

It was also interesting. You show the picture of Inauguration Day. And you remember... ROBERTS: We bring that back up again. This is something -- this is what that Donna sent to me this morning.

CHETRY: There he is looking vibrant.

John and I were both there. We had been there since the wee hours of the morning. Was that not one of the coldest days that you've ever been to? It was freezing outside. It was cold, and, as we know, the security was enormous. There was a long line getting in.

And I still remember people were watching on monitors anywhere they could in parts of Washington, D.C. -- not everybody could get obviously directly to where it was. And there were even people watching at the Amtrak station.

When they saw the shot of Ted Kennedy come across CNN, rousing cheers, even inside the station.


CHETRY: I think a lot of people were just so thrilled that he could make it there.

ROBERTS: He really wanted to be there. And unfortunately, he didn't last the entire day because we remember that during the luncheon that takes place after the inauguration, he suffered a seizure and had to be taken out of the capital by ambulance. Doctors said that he was probably just exhausted and that's the reason he had that.

But he at least, at the very least, got to see Barack Obama inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. And I know that that was a big dream for him.

CHETRY: Absolutely.

Well, it's 42 minutes past the hour.

We're going to take a quick break. Much more coverage of the unfortunate and sad passing of Senator Ted Kennedy. We are going to be checking with Sanjay Gupta when we come back. A neurosurgeon. He's also at a cancer conference right now in Dublin, Ireland. He's going to talk more about this disease and also whether or not there's hope on the horizon for a cure some day.

Forty-two minutes past the hour.


SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This is the cause of my life, new hope -- that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American, north, south, east, west, young, old, will have decent quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.



ANNOUNCER: This is "CNN Breaking News."

ROBERTS: And good morning. We are covering the passing of Senator Edward Kennedy, 47 years in the Senate, died last night at the age of 77.

There's the flag outside of the Capitol building at half staff this morning in remembrance.

In a statement coming from Senator John Kerry, who now becomes the senior senator from the state of Massachusetts, he said, quote, "We have known for sometime that this day was coming, but nothing makes it easier where you've lost a great light in our lives, in our politics, and it will never be the same again. Ted Kennedy was such an extraordinary force, yes for the issues he cared about, but more importantly for the humanity and caring in our politics. He is at the center of our faith and true public service. No words can ever do justice to this irrepressible larger than life presence who was simply the best -- the best senator, the best advocate you could ever hope for, the best colleague and the best person to stand by your side in the toughest of times."

And from the Capitol building to a live picture in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts outside of the Kennedy compound, still not a whole lot of movement there. There hasn't been overnight. Well, the only thing that we've seen is the coroner's van coming out shortly after 5:00 in the morning.

And again, no word on whether or not that van was carrying the remains of Senator Kennedy. And that really is all we've seen. We hope to see more there from Hyannis Port this morning. Perhaps a spokesperson for the Kennedy family will come out and talk to us. But we're monitoring the situation there all morning.

CHETRY: Certainly a family in mourning there this morning. They did release a statement as well talking about the passing of Senator Kennedy, calling him the "irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our life." They went on to say that "the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance would live on in our hearts forever."

And, you know, Senator Ted Kennedy actually lived with this cancer a lot longer than expected, some would say. It was May of last year when he first got the news, and he actually suffered a seizure, and that's when he was taken to the hospital and they discovered this brain tumor.

Now the time line of his battle with brain cancer from that very first diagnosis through his surgery and his setbacks. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has that part of the story.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Senator Ted Kennedy learned his diagnosis in May 2008, a brain tumor called a malignant glioma.

It's a deadly cancer that strikes about 10,000 Americans a year. It's a cancer with a survival rate often measured in months, not years.

June 2, 2008, the then 76-year-old senator traveled to Duke University Medical Center, where he underwent brain surgery. He was awake during the operation. Afterwards, the surgeon's statement was read on the Senate floor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am pleased to report that Senator Kennedy's surgery was successful and accomplished our goals.

GUPTA: Kennedy returned to Boston for proton-beam radiation and recuperation near the water he loved.

Kennedy returned to the Capitol in July, receiving a standing ovation before casting a decisive vote on stalled Medicare legislation.

QUESTION: What did your doctors think about when you said I want to down there.

KENNEDY: Well, that's another story for another time.

GUPTA: The senator emerged again a month later, in his words, "defying his illness" to deliver a speech at the Democratic National Convention.

KENNEDY: Nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

KENNEDEY: I feel -- I feel well. Once in a while, gets a little tired, but we're doing well.

GUPTA: Kennedy was in the midst of what he later described as many rounds of chemotherapy.

January 20, 2009, the senator suffered a seizure during his post- inauguration lunch honoring President Barack Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went down to where he was taken and was with him up until the time they put him in the ambulance. And he apparently -- I'm not a doctor, so I hate to characterize it. But it looked like a seizure. And it was painful to him.

KENNEDY: I'm doing well.

GUPTA: Kennedy was back at work less than three weeks later, just long enough to cast a single vote on the economic stimulus bill. And arrived to a standing ovation in March at the president's summit on health care reform, which Kennedy called the "cause of my life."

PEOPLE: Happy birthday to you. GUPTA: Days later, a 77th birthday party at the Kennedy Center.

In April of this year, almost a year after his diagnosis, Kennedy threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Boston Red Sox seasonal opener against Tampa Bay.

Senator Ted Kennedy marked the anniversary of his diagnosis out of the public eye.


GUPTA: On August 12, President Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive in the U.S. government, but the senator could not attend because of his health. Kennedy's daughter accepted the award on his behalf.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


CHETRY: All right. Sanjay Gupta for us with a little timeline of the entire situation.

And Sanjay, incidentally or coincidentally enough is at a cancer summit that's taking place now in Dublin, Ireland, where they're looking to find ways, Sanjay, to maybe extend the life past 14, 16 months for people who have this malignant glioma.

Tell us some of the challenges of treating surviving this disease.

GUPTA: You're absolutely right, first of all, Kiran. In fact, I've been here all morning since quite early this morning. And as you might imagine, Kiran, this has been the topic of discussion, Ted Kennedy and his influence, certainly on the global cancer community.

This is a -- this is a diffuse disease. When you think about cancer, typically a brain cancer, you tend to think of it as sort of one disease. But in fact, the type of tumor that Senator Kennedy had, you really have to think of it as several different tumors all wrapped up into one.

And that's important because when you're treating it, you know, no particular therapy sort of works against all those separate diseases. And that -- that in part is why it's so hard to treat, Kiran.

You know, as you've been talking about all morning, that he had an operation after his diagnosis back in May of last year. And then -- and then he had radiation therapy and he had chemotherapy.

That operation was done while he was awake because his tumor was so close to some of the areas in his brain that was responsible for speech and for his strength. And that suggests that they removed as much of the tumor as they could but probably not all of it. And when you have some of the tumor remaining, it can start to grow again. And that's likely what happened.

This 14-month survival number, as you've been talking about, is an abysmal number that unfortunately has not changed a lot over the last several years in terms of overall survival rates.

So, this is something the medical community is working on.

I am here at this global cancer summit. 65 countries are represented. And I can tell you, for the last several days this, this is one of the things that they've been talking about more than anything else.

ROBERTS: In terms, Sanjay, what the medical community is doing to try to pursue longer life, better treatments, where is the therapy going?

GUPTA: You know, it's interesting, John. I think you look at ways to make the existing therapies better. So, for example, radiation therapy make it more targeted. Chemotherapy, make it more personalized. Having said that -- what I've really been gathering talking to scientists here that the idea of vaccination, the idea that you could somehow teach the body's immune system to fight off the tumor is an area of great interest.

Also, the idea that you'll have more targeted therapy, that this sort of target -- these cancer cells alone and touch nothing else in the brain is also very interesting. One of the things that I think people have been excited about, although we're not there yet, is the idea that you might be able to identify a handful of genes that somehow, for some reason, have a glitch in them.

They turn on the production of these cells, and they don't have an off switch, so to speak. And if you can figure out in some way how to sort of flip the switch for -- it's a little bit simplistic, but that's a good way of describing it, that would be a very effective therapy.

Again, you know, these things haven't happened yet. And as a neurosurgeon, it's frustrating because when someone is -- gets his diagnosis of a malignant glioma, you know, we haven't really moved the dial much overall in terms of survival rates on average.

ROBERTS: Yes. I'm sure it is frustrating, Sanjay. Cancers like malignant glioma, pancreatic cancer still the mortality rating continues to be extraordinarily high.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta this morning. He's at the Live Strong Cancer Summit in Dublin, Ireland.

Doc, thanks very much for being with us. Appreciate it.

CHETRY: You know, one of the other things that we were talking about was that therapy. I believe we talked about it with Sanjay, where they could actually put, you know, the treatment into a tiny, tiny little cell, have it directly targeted in the bloodstream where that cancer is. That's also a very fascinating field of research in cancer.

ROBERTS: Yes. I mean, there are so many avenues of exploration out there. It takes a lot of money to do it, though. And, you know, there are so many promising therapies that you can explore. They do them in animal models, they maybe work well in mice, but they don't necessarily work well in humans. And so medical science is trying, but as Sanjay said, it's been frustratingly slow in making progress in certain areas of cancer.

CHETRY: So we will.

If you're just joining us this morning, we're coming up on five minutes before the top of the hour. We're covering the latest right now -- the news broke early -- in the early morning hours that Senator Edward Kennedy lost his battle with brain cancer, dying at the age of 77. We're going to take a quick break here on a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

When we come back, we're going to be speaking with a whole host of reporters who have covered for years, Washington and Senator Edward Kennedy. John King, Dana Bash, and also some of his former colleagues and friends from Boston, from Massachusetts, and several other places around the country.

It's 56 minutes after the hour.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most interest, however, centers around Edward "Ted" Kennedy, the third brother to achieve success in the national political arena. New Congress will face such problems as a tax cut, Medicare, federal aid for education and the $500 million subsidy to aid suburban communities. It's down to business for the new Congress.