Remembering the Lion: Communications Lessons from a Kennedy

The Kennedy Brothers (L-R): John, Robert & Ted

For some people, Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy will always be remembered as a tarnished aristocratic drunk who drove off of the Chappaquidick Bridge. For others, he will be remembered as the baby brother of Jack and Bobby. While, he never followed their direct footsteps, he still did very great things — as great men do. This is how I will remember him. There is so much he can teach us, love him or hate him he did have a special spark to share with the world.

His hands were all over every major Democratic legislative initiative of the past 45 years and a large number of bipartisan ones too. For his son, Ted Kennedy Jr., and others will disabilities, he was a part of the 1980 Americans With Disabilities Act.

Kennedy believed even the greatest of losses are survivable.
To do a job effectively required time and effort.

Below are some lessons we can learn from Mr. Kennedy, public relations and otherwise:-

  • Know your stuff.

Senator Ted Kennedy had a reputation on Capitol Hill for being one of the most prepared senators. He was never afraid to say what was on his mind and he always had his own set of facts to back up this thoughts and ideas. There is a reason John McCain called him one of the greatest Senators in the history of our country and justified Kennedy’s nickname as “The Lion.”

  • You are defined by those who you surround yourself with.

Sometimes, we cannot help who we work with but, regardless, Ted Kennedy made sure to have a well prepared staff. His people  did their research and took the time necessary to create effective legislation. Be confident in yourself, your staff and your peers.

  • Pay attention.

Kennedy was always known for being accessible to his constituents and pro-active in their community. No matter who you are or what you do, understanding the value of those who helped mold you into what you have become, can aid in the path to where you are going.

  • Earn trust.

While, it is no secret that many people have a hard time trusting people in politics, regardless of whether they elected them to office or not, Kennedy was able to bridge this gap in his own sphere. He was a senator for 45 years and his community valued their relationship with him. It says a lot when those who were on the “opposing team” aka Republicans, shed a tear or ten in his passing. Transparency builds trust.

  • Network and reach out.

Regardless of the fact that Kennedy came from the epitome of the Democratic political family, he often “crossed the aisle” to craft and promote those impossible and important bills. He rarely promised what he could not do and most importantly, he engaged everyone.

Ted Kennedy Jr., his son, said at his father’s funeral on August 29 that on a family vacation his father once left an ample amount of money in the bathroom of one of the hotels they had been staying at. He promptly went to his father and told him that he forgot his money. Ted Kennedy turned to his son and said, no he didn’t forget. That it must be a hard job to clean up after people, one after the other. It’s labor intensive and after, those cleaning people have families too. They go home and they have a life.

This was his mentality.

  • Stand your ground.

Some may disagree with you, while others happily stand next to you. But no matter what, if you truly believe in something, stand your ground. Love him or hate him, we always knew where Ted Kennedy stood on every single issue. It was never a question. More importantly, Kennedy was comfortable with his ideas and his point-of-view. This confidence could be the instrumental breaking point or tipping point on the scale between good and great, success and failure.

  • Know your brand.

A brand is a reputation and  Kennedy knew this well. He knew that some people would forever see him as the man who drove off a cliff and plummeted into what could have been a watery grave. But he never let that stop him.  I can think of at least two dozen other people who endured the same press calls and public cries of outrage. But of those, only a fair few survived, and of those, even fewer were survivors. Kennedy was one of them. He understood that he had to acknowledge his flaws and his challenges. By doing so he could move forward and capitalize on what he was good at, thus taking himself from good to great.

  • Not dynasty, but destiny

Kennedy was one of those people who did not rely on his bloodline to pave the path of his destiny. He rolled up his sleeves, learned details, learned issues and created change. Back in 1980 he was “the candidate for change.” Sound familiar?  Kennedy knew his job and knew that it was up to him, to make his own destiny — his clan was just details.

  • Humility

It was never about ego with Kennedy. Those who knew him and those who didn’t, to anyone who simply paid attention, he was a man of graciousness and goals. Things he embedded into his daily life and worked towards. Negotiating his principles were never an option. When his successes came, he took him, enjoyed them and continued to persevere forward.

That’s what made him great. And if we could gain anything from his life, it would be that. He was the soul of the Democratic party and the Lion of the Senate. He was a part of over 1000 laws, penned over 300 himself and was a part of over 2,500 pieces of legislation.

Don’t sell yourself short, believe you can do it and keep moving forward for the change. Don’t ever look back.

Thank you, Mr. Kennedy, thank you.

Image via the Globe Library. Kennedy at age 37.

Rest In Peace.



Sasha Muradali runs the ‘Little Pink Book’ . She holds a B.S. in Public Relations from the University of Florida (’07) and an M.A. in International Administration from the University of Miami(’08). She loves Twitter and all things social media, so you should find her @SashaHalima.

Copyright © 2009 Sasha H. Muradali. All Rights Reserved.