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Interview with Senator Edward Kennedy's Sons

Aired September 20, 2009 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, primetime exclusive.

We knew him as Senator Kennedy. They knew him as dad. Patrick and Ted Jr., on the revealing memoir their father didn't live long enough to tell us about, taking us inside America's most famous political dynasty. Intimate insights into a political icon and patriarch: Ted Kennedy, the father, remembered by his still grieving sons.


TEDDY KENNEDY JR., SENATOR TED KENNEDY'S ELDEST SON: I love you, dad. I always will and I miss you already.


KING: Next on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

Good evening.

A great American -- no matter what your politics -- a great American passed away on August 25th. He had written a memoir to be published shortly -- it turned out, shortly after his death. The book is "True Compass" the memoir by Edward M. Kennedy. And I would tell you that over the weekend I have spent time reading this book and it is one of the best biographies-memoirs I have ever read. I commend it to you completely.

Joining us in New York: Congressman Patrick Kennedy -- the youngest son of Senator Ted Kennedy and a Democrat of Rhode Island; and Ted Kennedy Jr., the older son of the senator. Has -- has it all finally set in, Patrick?

REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: No. Frankly, Larry, it's still a blur. After the immense funeral that took place and the outpouring from the American public, which, quite frankly, was just -- just amazing, beyond any expectation any one of us could have ever had. And certainly fitting for our father, we felt, but certainly something that was beyond our wildest expectations.

And then to come back and have the president address the joint session of Congress in which he read a letter from my father, you know, talking about the importance of passing health care during this very difficult time in American history. I mean, it just never ended and -- and frankly, this memoir is an opportunity for us to have something permanently during the long term, for us to keep coming back to my dad and reflecting and thinking about what he meant to us.

KING: Yes.

P. KENNEDY: But, right now, it's still been something that's happened very shortly ago and it's hard for us to really fully absorb right now.

KING: Ted, when your father was diagnosed with the brain cancer, how did he tell you, how did you handle it? Ted?

T. KENNEDY: Well, Larry -- you know, my father was diagnosed, as -- as most of us now know a year ago, May, and at first we thought it was a seizure. It was a seizure. First we thought it was a stroke, and then we of course learned a short while later that he had -- a glioblastoma, a very deadly form of -- of brain cancer.

What -- what is remarkable, though, is that during this year, my dad had amazing accomplishments. He was able to finish this memoir, which he'd been working on for a number of years. He was able to speak at the Democratic National Convention, cast the deciding vote in the Medicare bill in Congress, throw out the first pitch for the Boston Red Sox, and -- and work with my brother, Congressman Kennedy, on passing Mental Health Parity.

So, you know, he also was able to enjoy a lot of accolades, not just from -- obviously -- his natural constituencies in the -- in the Democratic Party, but also here, you know, quite moving testaments from many of his Republican colleagues, people like John McCain and -- and Senator Orrin Hatch, and so many others who spoke about his -- the -- the master of bipartisan compromise, the way he was able to be a -- a legislator without compare over the last hundred years.

And that -- that was really wonderful to see my father actually be able to revel in a lot of those compliments that people had to say about my dad.

KING: How, though -- how, though, Patrick, did you handle the news that your dad was going to die? How did his son handle that?

P. KENNEDY: Well, it was over a period of over a year that, obviously, we knew that his mortality was imminent. But my dad never quit living each day to the fullest and you know, from the likes of it -- as Teddy pointed out -- he lived a very full life all the way to the end.

He made it very impossible for us to sometimes come to grips of the fact that this was somebody who was suffering from a fatal illness because he never really let it on. And that was mostly what he was like most of his life. The suffering that he had, he kept inside.

But the -- the really beautiful part about having that extra year with him where he didn't have to traipse all around the world and all around the country was that he was able to spend time with us and we were able to be there for him emotionally and physically.

You know, when he had weakness because of the cancer he -- you know, when we were able to go out together, he had to lean on us physically a little bit more than he would otherwise. What an amazing connection that was for -- for all of us, for me particularly. I just can't tell you what it meant to me.

KING: Were you there, Teddy, when he passed?

T. KENNEDY: I was there, Larry. And so I was with him when he -- when he died.

KING: What was it like?

T. KENNEDY: It was very peaceful, Larry.

You know, I've never been with somebody who's -- who's died before, but, I have to say, it was -- we were there with a Catholic priest. His time -- he was ready to go, Larry and, you know, because he -- he was suffering in those last few weeks it really did take the sting out of his final passing.

And, you know, when he finally -- when he finally died, it was really, you know, it was something that we were all -- you know, I was happy I was there for -- for that occasion. And it was a very peaceful, extremely spiritual thing, Larry.

It -- it's really hard to explain.

KING: Yes.

T. KENNEDY: And I think one of the things that -- in fact, his book was actually delivered, you know, to him. The -- the publisher actually delivered the book to him the day he died. One of the reasons why my brother...

KING: Wow.

T. KENNEDY: brother, Patrick, and I are -- are -- are sitting with you here today is because obviously he couldn't be here to -- to talk about his memoir.

But his memoir is an incredible gift, Larry. And, you know, I had to read his -- his memoir, you know, the week after he died. And I -- and I have to say, I was -- I was a little worried when I first opened up the pages because even though he'd been talking about it and even though I'd heard many of these stories before, I really didn't know what to expect.

And what I found was that he was really talking to me, and -- and it was a riveting, riveting two day read...

KING: Wow.

T. KENNEDY: ...about explaining so many emotional aspects of so many key events in his life that, quite honestly Larry, he never really was able to reveal during the course of his life. Because of course, you know...

KING: Wow.

T. KENNEDY: ...he had to be the strong guy throughout all of our family's tragedies.

KING: Yes.

T. KENNEDY: He had to be there. Yet we know now, because of this memoir, what a deeply emotional man he was.

KING: Boy, do we.

T. KENNEDY: And as I said, what an incredibly spiritual man he was. You know, people don't think...

KING: Well, I've got to get a break -- let me get a break, we'll pick right up on that.

T. KENNEDY: Thank you.

KING: By the way, the thought that the senator was handed this book on the day he died, just brings it much more to -- you must read it.

Senator Kennedy grew up by the way, with a "no crying" edict in his house. I'm going to ask his sons what effect that had on their dad and if they grew up having to hide their own feelings, what effect it had on them right after this.





KING: Our camera crew, by the way, went out to Arlington Cemetery earlier today to visit Senator Kennedy's gravesite. He was interred near his brothers, John and Robert.

All right, we just showed that scene. And there is the scene we took earlier today, there is the cross, right below the Robert E. Lee House. What a view that is.

We had that edict apparently, as he writes in the book about crying, Patrick? Did you -- were you able, to hold that in? Are you a non-crier?

P. KENNEDY: No, well, it didn't work for very long with me. And I will tell you, as you've had me on a show before talking about my depression and addiction issues, with the work that I did with my father on Mental Health Parity.

You know my father was very good at overcoming his own kind of old traditional sense of not talking about your feelings, not really expressing a lot of emotions. When he came to recognize my challenges and know that this was something that was serious, where 54 million Americans are being discriminated against because of the shame and stigma associated with people with addiction disorders and mental illness, he was there, as open as he could have ever been with his heart. And whatever old fashioned sense a person of his generation brought to it, it changed because of his own experience having -- being a father to me...

KING: Yes.

P. KENNEDY: And I love him to death for it.

KING: Teddy, was there crying when you lost your leg?

T. KENNEDY: Absolutely Larry, I think you know I really -- my father actually Larry, was a very emotional man as he -- the older he got. And what is really amazing about this book Larry is -- and what I was the most surprised about, is how revealing my father was emotionally. Talking about the very difficult things that he had to do, for example telling my grandfather that my uncle Jack had been killed. Or so many other deeply emotional things that, quite honestly Larry, he had never shared with me before.

So I feel like this book was -- is a gift. It's a gift to me and my children who of course, knew him as a grandfather, but never really knew him as a man in the fullest sense of the word. And that's really what my father -- you know, so many books have been written about the Kennedys and I think my dad decided years ago that he really wanted to write a definitive book about -- since so much had been said about these different points in history that he had been involved with and of course about the Kennedy family in general.

KING: Patrick, during one of my many interviews with your dad, I asked him what it was like to be a Kennedy. There's the Kennedy Center, the Kennedy graves, the Kennedy Space Center, the Kennedy International Airport. What is it like Patrick? What's it like to carry that name?

P. Kennedy: Well, I will tell you what it meant to us having my dad as an example.

KING: All right.

P. KENNEDY: My dad made himself a very human person to everybody and that's why he was so approachable. He was known to everybody as a very down-to-earth person who could identify with people from all walks of life.

And he had that empathy, that compassion that was borne from his own personal experience of suffering so much in his own life. And that's what transcended his ability to be able to reach out to anybody, no matter what their station in life and be able to take up their cause if they were being unjustly treated.

He could identify with people suffering and that's what made him such a champion for people who were downtrodden and needed a voice. He took it upon himself to be that person to fight for them.

And you know, frankly, as my uncles were revered in the black and white films and the times when people felt positive about government and believed in their political leaders, my dad was in politics when people are filled with cynicism towards government and politicians. And yet, that didn't deter him from continuing to do the spade work of legislating every single day to help people make their lives better through government intervention.

And you know what?

KING: Yes.

P. KENNEDY: At that the end of his life, you saw the turn out. People knew what a difference he had made in their lives and that was vindication of his belief that no matter whether it's popular or not, he stayed true to his principles and became a hero for it.

Even though during his life...

KING: Yes, true.

P. KENNEDY: ...many people castigated him and attacked him and made him a caricature where he actually was a very real person as we've seen in this book.

KING: We'll be talking about the murders of Senator Kennedy's brothers and how they caused so much suffering. The extent of which was unknown until now and he writes so eloquently about it. Back in 60 seconds.


KING: We're back with Patrick Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, Jr.

Ted brought many people to tears last month when he eulogized his father from the lectern in Boston's Mission Church. Here's part of what he said.


T. KENNEDY: When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with bone cancer. And a few months after I lost my leg, there was a heavy snowfall over my childhood home outside of Washington, D.C. And my father went to the garage to get the old flexible flier and asked me if I wanted to go sledding down the steep driveway.

And I was trying to get used to my new artificial leg and the hill was covered with ice and snow. And it wasn't easy for me to walk. And the hill was very slick.

And as I struggled to walk, I slipped and I fell on the ice and I started to cry. And I said, "I can't do this." I said, "I'll never be able to climb up that hill."

And he lifted me up in his strong gentle arms and said something I will never forget. He said, "I know you can do it. There is nothing that you can't do. We're going to climb that hill together even if it takes us all day." Sure enough, he held me around my waist and we slowly made it to the top.

And, you know, at age 12, losing your leg pretty much seems like the end of the world. But as I climbed onto his back and we flew down the hill that day, I knew he was right. I knew I was going to be OK.

You see, my father taught me that even our most profound losses are survivable. And that is -- it is what we do with that loss -- our ability to transform it into a positive event -- that is one of my father's greatest lessons.


KING: Teddy, how hard was that to do for you -- that speech?

T. KENNEDY: Well I think -- well listen, I'm trying to eulogize my father and trying to sum up this incredible human being in five or ten minutes was probably the most difficult thing that I've ever had to do. And, you know, I think by showing this video on your show Larry, you have proof that yes indeed, Kennedys do cry.

KING: Yes.

T. KENNEDY: And I do get choked up whenever I think about that moment. Because, you know, it really -- he, my father, enabled me to really believe in myself. And yet I've heard, you know, very similar stories -- from many, many people. It's the way he approached his life.

The way he approached his life, he's like yes -- he was the eternal optimist, Larry. He was the most optimistic person that I've ever known. Even in the face of this diagnosis with cancer, he was filled with optimism about what he could do and what he could accomplish. And that is -- and when you read this book, you come away feeling that same optimism, too.

KING: Absolutely.

T. KENNEDY: And that is one of the things I'm really grateful about.

KING: We'll be back with Patrick Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, Jr., right after this.


KING: Your father, boys, grew up with violence totally in his life. He had bulletproof vests in his coat closet. He flinched at 21 gun salutes. Did he, Patrick, ever talk about the assignations of RFK and JFK?

P. KENNEDY: He talked to me about what the implications of that was on, you know, when we were sitting at my cousin David's wake, you know, after he tragically died and he recalled for me how my uncle Bobby had told my dad, shortly before my uncle Bobby's own assassination, how he felt that he needed to spend more time with David. That he had gotten caught in an undertow earlier that day in Los Angeles out in the water when they had gone swimming.

And he felt that it was metaphorical in a sense to his feeling like he needed to reach out to his father even more. And I think that, you know, my dad felt that sense of, you know, trying to make up for the loss of his brothers by being there for their children, you know.

And he actually, in the process, didn't sacrifice time with us so much as he brought our family into a bigger family. And I am so blessed. You know, when we had our family by our side this last week, what a consolation it was to have all my cousins there with us.


In an interview he did shortly before his death, your father said that he and his second wife, Vicki, had been through every word of the book multiple times. Have you read any part of it, Teddy?

T. KENNEDY: Have I read every part of it? Yes, I've read every word, Larry. I have to...

KING: I mean, before he died?

T. KENNEDY: No. Before he died, before he died, you know, like most authors or people who write books, you know, they don't like to share their drafts especially in our family. Because, you know what we would be doing? We would be, you know, telling my father, well, no, you should write another paragraph about me or, you know, no, you shouldn't really say it this way.

So my father was smart in that, you know, we knew that he was -- you know, my father kept contemporaneous notes for over 50 years. I mean no one would believe that my father was that nerdy of a guy who would be -- you know, actually take notes each and every night about significant events that happened to him during the day or dictate into a machine about what his impressions were about meetings with different world leaders and stuff.

But that's exactly what he did. And so he didn't share with me the final product until I saw and read it, again, as I told you earlier in this broadcast, you know, right after his death.

KING: Yes. Patrick, how has this affected your mother? How has she dealt with his passing? They weren't married any more.

P. KENNEDY: No, but, obviously, to my mother, my dad was and remains a central figure in her life. And, obviously, they both shared so much of their lives together, of course, the three of us being their children and my mother still being the grandmother to all of his grandchildren.

The fact is that my dad and Vicki were so gracious. In all of the holidays, my mom was included. There wasn't any of this bitterness and everything. We celebrated family vacations together, family meals together, and I really am so grateful to Vicki for that, to my dad for that.

And, you know, frankly, also, Vicki was such a great sense of support to my dad at the end. And also, as you mentioned, with the copy of this book was such a great sounding board and provided a lot of good, you know, feedback to my father and the compilation of the book. So we're all so grateful to her for that as well.

KING: Is your mom doing well?

P. KENNEDY: My mom has been such an inspiration to me. I love her to death. She has struggled, as we talked about in an earlier program, with this disease called alcoholism, which I suffer from as well. And, frankly, it's one, as I said earlier, that so many Americas suffer from. She's been so public in her fight on this that she's inspired so many people and inspired me.

Part of the reason we were -- I felt like I was able to be successful in passing Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in the last Congress was because of the example my mother set for me. That this was not something out of her own will, it was a biological and chemical problem that she had faced. No one otherwise would have faced what she faced in her life because of this illness.

KING: Ed -- Ted Kennedy writes very succinctly and very emotionally about Chappaquiddick. I'll ask about the effect on the sons after this.


KING: We discussed Chappaquiddick at length on this program. He writes of it in the book, calling it the night -- that night was the most horrible tragedy that haunts him every day of his life. Did he ever talk to you about it, Ted?

T. KENNEDY: Yes, he did, Larry. I mean like, you know, years ago he spoke to me about exactly what happened that night. And I knew how sorry my father has been each and every day of his life for what happened that night. If he could undo that moment, he would give anything to have been able to do so.

And in this book, as you said, Larry, he doesn't make an excuse -- any excuses. He accepts responsibility for what happened. But I think it's what -- again, what I talked about in my eulogy. It's what you do with these tragic events that happen in your life that's really the measure of the person. So that is, I think, one of the things that I think, you know, what I hope is that when people read this book, they really judge the totality of the man and come away with the incredible sense of responsibility that he's had for all the people in our society.

KING: Patrick, do you ever buy anything of this Kennedy curse thing?

P. KENNEDY: No. I mean, obviously there was terrible tragedies. Both my uncles, you know, being assassinated so publicly, I think, are -- make their lives and their tragic deaths so fixed in our nation's collective memory and our nation's history. Frankly, my dad had to live with that. I think that the impact of that is played over and over again, as I mentioned before, with my cousins. They had to grow up without a father.

The impact of violence in our society, which is so prevalent. Thirty--six thousand people killed by guns every year. It's all those families that are also impacted. And that's why, you know, my father strove so hard just to try to minimize the number of people killed by guns in this society.

KING: But you don't buy the idea of a curse?


KING: A kind of a thing around you?

P. KENNEDY: No. No. Obviously my dad had a sense of spirituality that transcended his ability to face these problems, you know, in a way that would have otherwise paralyzed the normal person. He sensed that there was something that made him charge onward in spite of these problems that he faced that anyone else would have just been destroyed by.

T. KENNEDY: And, Larry, if I could just add to that. You know, is -- I think our family, the Kennedy family, has had to endure these things in a very open way. But our family is just like any -- every other family in America in many ways. You know, we've had, you know, individuals facing cancer, addiction disorders, deaths, you know, divorces. All sorts of things that -- and remarriages and, you know, new integrated families that -- you know, that our family now celebrates today. And so, you know, in many ways, our family is like many other families. As Patrick just said, there's 36,000 other families that are impacted by gun violence. And so, I don't believe in this Kennedy curse. I just think that, you know, our family has faced these challenges just like nearly every other American family.

KING: Back with more of the Kennedy boys after this.


TED KENNEDY: For all of those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on. The cause endures.

The hope rises again.

T. KENNEDY JR.: And the dream shall never die. I love you dad. I always will. and I miss you already."


KING: The book is "True Compass," a book by Edward M. Kennedy. You will never forget it, you won't put it down.

Edward Moore Kennedy was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1962, and became one of the longest serving members in American history. In the later years described as the "Liberal Lion" of the Chamber. Take a look at him in action.


TED KENNEDY: What is the price, we ask the other side? What is the price that you want from these working men and women? What cost?

Our goal is to improve public schools, not abandon them.

This administration feels it's above the law and the American people and our Constitution pay the price.

We have not seen such arrogance in a president since Watergate.

The Congress and the American people deserve to know the true risk of war.

When does the greed stop?


KING: Patrick, what did you think of him as a politician?

P. KENNEDY: There wasn't a better politician around. My dad had the ability to just connect with anybody. And no matter what your station in life, dad was able to go out there and rub elbows with anybody. He had, kind of in the sense of his own grandfather, "honey Fitz," that ability to just love people, love what he was doing, and just thoroughly enjoy the give and take of politics. And just the up close and personal part about politics.

Tip O'Neill said "all politics is local," he also said "all politics is personal." And that couldn't have fit dad closer to the T. Dad was about people. He didn't look at policies in a vacuum. He just looked at them as how they affect people in their individual lives.

KING: Teddy, your son professes an interest, when he becomes 45 years old, if that's possible to imagine. What about you?

T. KENNEDY: Well, you know, Larry, I think all of us who grow up in this family, at one point or another, you know, ask ourselves "is this something that I would like to do?" And, you know, I think I learned from my father, and from my brother Patrick, and other members of my family, that, you know, political life is an incredible honor. And it is an incredible opportunity to give back to our country. Maybe one day, you know, I'll make that decision. For now --

KING: Really?

T. KENNEDY: -- I have my -- Maybe, I don't know Larry. I've been pretty busy, you know, raising my two young children, and to me that is my number one responsibility right now. You know, politics is a type of business where you really have to give it your attention every single moment of every day. And I think that, you know, maybe I'll make that decision later on in my life.

But I've also learned that there's a lot of different ways to give back. You know, Larry, I've been very involved in the civil rights movement for people with disabilities. I serve on the Board of the American Association of People With Disabilities, the largest cross--disability civil rights organization for people with disabilities. And, you know, that is my life's work, and that's something that I'll continue to do, whether or not I seek elected office, you know, myself one day. That's a discussion for a different day.

P. KENNEDY: Well, Larry, I can say, as a good Kennedy brother, I'm going to be with him 100 percent whenever he chooses to run for -- whatever he wants to run for.

KING: Well, I have this feeling that that may happen. We'll be right back. The book is "True Compass." Don't go away.


KING: Five months before he passed away, in the midst of his battle with brain cancer, Senator Kennedy video-taped an interview with the editor and publisher of his memoir. And here's part of what he said about his own father.


TED KENNEDY: I had a sit-down with my dad. He said: Now Teddy, you have to make up your mind whether you want to have a constructive and positive attitude and influence on your time. And if you're not interested in a purposeful, useful, constructive life, I just want you to know I have other children that are out there that intend to have a purposeful and constructive life. And so you have to make up your mind about which direction you're going to go.

I remember getting -- climbing into bed and staring at the ceiling for a good time, but the night hadn't been over when it was very clear to me what kind of life I wanted to lead.


KING: Who is the patriarch of the Kennedy family now? We're going to ask right after the break.


KING: Before I ask you about who they think might be the next patriarch of the Kennedy family -- if there's going to be one -- I'd like them each to read a short passage from "True Compass." We'll start with Patrick.

P. KENNEDY: Thanks, Larry. One of the great privileges I had with my dad is he'd take me on a sailing trip, just my dad and I, every summer as I was growing up. And so this -- this passage meant a lot to me because it reflected for me a lot of our times together. "I surrendered myself to the sea and the wind and the sun and the stars on those voyages. I loved sailing in the day, but there's something special about sailing at night, and those nights in particular, my grieving was subsumed into a sense of oneness with the sky and the sea. The darkness help me feel the movement of the sea and help displace the emptiness inside me with an awareness of direction."

And I can recall sitting out with him on Muscegan (ph) Island, which is a small spit of land between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, as we watched the -- this night sky and -- and talk about life and -- this was a passage that he wrote after his brother, Bobby, was killed and how the -- the sea was a source of consolation for him, how he found nature to be the source of spirituality for him.

KING: There's some wonderful writing about the sea in this book. If you liked the sea, you'll love it even more. Teddy, what do you want to read?

T. KENNEDY: Well, one of my favorite sections in this book is what I think really defines my father's purpose and philosophy of life. And he talks about his faith, and many people don't -- I think will be surprised when they read this book about, you know, what a Catholic, how powerful my father's Catholic faith was.

He says, "My own center of belief, as I matured and grew curious about these things, moved towards the great gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25 especially, in which he calls us to care for the least of these among us and feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, visit the imprisoned. It's enormously significant to me that the only description in the Bible about salvation is tied to one's willingness to act on behalf of one's fellow human beings. The ones who will be deprived of salvation, the sinners, are those who've turned away from their fellow men. People responsive to the great condition and who've tried to alleviate the misery -- these will be the ones who join Christ in paradise.

To me, this perspective on my faith has almost literally been a life saver. It has given me the strength and purpose during the greatest challenges I have faced and the toughest roads I have traveled."

And I think that that really -- the idea that, you know, my father dedicated his life to issues like immigration, civil rights, health care for all, refugee policy internationally, human rights around the world really were borne out of what he felt was a moral obligation that he learned from his catechism growing up. And I think that that's one of the interesting things that people will learn about my father from reading this book.

KING: What's next? We'll ask in our remaining moments with the Kennedy boys after this.


KING: Patrick, who's the next patriarch?

P. KENNEDY: Larry, you know, one of the things that we always were brought up to believe is that this notion of this big family machine, this myth, the whole thing is just a real big storyline amongst the press. I can tell you, having been in politics myself, that I don't, you know, find myself fitting into this machine. I'm wondering where it often is. Sometimes it's really overblown in terms of how -- it suits the press very well in terms of how they write about things, but there's not a lot of reality base to it.

My dad, you know, as I said, just marched along unceremoniously, did the work day in and day out, taught us basically it wasn't about the big Hail Mary pass in life. It was about the three yards and a cloud of dust, in football parlance. You know, to get that first down, you just had to work at it, day in and day out.

And, you know, at the end of his life, when people turned out like they did -- I had a lot of my colleagues talk about it to me. They said the reason people turned out for your dad is that he stood for something, and that when these days, when political leaders often find themselves trying to compromise too much -- my dad was a great person of compromise because he wanted to get things done, but he also stood firm with his principles. And that's what people appreciated so much about him, is that there was a guy he could -- they could count on to stand up when no one else was there to stand up for them.

KING: Ted, do you agree there is a -- we can't name a successor?

T. KENNEDY: No, I -- Listen, I think our family, there are -- in my generation of Kennedys, there are -- there are people doing so many amazing things. I mean, you know, all about the work that the Shrivers have done and the work -- the work of Special Olympics and intellectual disability. You know many of my cousins in the Robert Kennedy family who work in international human rights. My cousin Bobby is the, you know -- you know, crusader for the environment. You know --

I could spend another whole program here, Larry, talking about the work. I think what -- what all of us have grown up with is a sense of community service, and we've been all grown up to, you know, use our natural gifts to give something back to this country that has given so much to our family. And I think that is the common thread that my father and his brothers and sisters, you know, brought us up to believe, that all of us have gifts. All of us can make a contribution in the society.

You don't need to become a public official or elected official to give something back. You can start right in your own neighborhood. And I think that I -- I like to--

P. KENNEDY: And that's why they have the Ted Kennedy National Service Act, which allows people -- grandparents to be foster grandparents, young people to go on and help their communities. It just symbolizes what my dad always believed, that patriotism is defined by how you help your fellow American in the broad sense. Not just wearing the uniform of our country in military times, although that's what he truly respected in our veterans. But all types of service as well.

KING: I think we can safely say, and I think our viewers would agree that after watching this program, Ted Kennedy's greatest legacy may be his children. Senator Kennedy's memoir concludes with a story about his grandson and namesake, Edward Moore Kennedy, III. The senator writes that "Little Teddy aimed to embrace the Kennedy family tradition of sailing but had some struggles at the start. Still, he stayed with it and eventually began winning races. He even earned the most improved sailor award."

Senator Kennedy writes, "This is the greatest lesson a child can learn. It is the greatest lesson anyone can learn. It has been the greatest lesson I have learned. If you persevere, stick with it, work at it, you have a real opportunity to achieve something. Sure there will be storms along the way and you might not reach your goal right away, but if you do your best and keep a true compass, you'll get there."

KING: Fellows, thank you so much. The best of luck. Hope to you see a lot of you in the future.

P. KENNEDY: Thanks Larry.

T. KENNEDY: Thank you Larry for having us on your program.

KING: And by the way, if you want additional information on the book, obtaining it, how you can get more involved in helping so many people the way he did, Senator Ted Kennedy's memoir, go to our web site, The book, "True Compass."

Anderson Cooper and AC360 starts right now.