Known as the "Lion of the Senate," Democrat Ted Kennedy was an icon of liberal thought who was elected to Congress nine times, making him one of only six senators in U.S. history to serve more than 40 years. Born in 1932, he was the youngest of nine children in the famous Kennedy family. As a politician, he was a ferocious orator and delivered some of the nation’s best-known speeches, including “The Dream Shall Never Die” on August 12, 1980. He was also one of the most influential politicians and played a role in passing more than 300 bills during his tenure, including landmark legislature such as: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, among many others. Kennedy's 2009 funeral was attended by three former U.S. Presidents. That same year, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the country.
In 1956, Kennedy followed his brother Bobby and enrolled in the University of Virginia School of Law. He was a capable student, but Kennedy felt that he needed to study "four times as hard and four times as long" as other students to keep up with them. This scored him mostly C grades in law school, but he was a popular student on campus. His popularity was further bolstered by Kennedy's willingness to use his family's political connections to rope in famous personalities for UVA events. Meanwhile, despite being ranked in the middle of the class, Kennedy managed to win the famous “Lile Moot Court Competition” and was eventually selected as the head of The Student Legal Forum. On top of this, Kennedy even directed his brother John’s successful 1958 reelection campaign to the U.S. Senate while still in law school. After that, he graduated from UVA Law in 1959.
However, it would take more than half a century after Kennedy graduated for his law diploma to be delivered to his family. In 1959, Kennedy had skipped his graduation ceremony in order to start campaign preparations for his brother, the future President John F. Kennedy. So in 2014, after 55 years, Kennedy's UVA diploma was finally accepted by his grandnephew, U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy, during that year's graduation ceremonies at the Law School. The following year, UVA's Miller Center hosted an event celebrating a project that honored the legendary politician's life and work. The "Edward M. Kennedy Oral History Project" is a release that includes a great collection of material, including 170 interviews with family, friends, colleagues, foreign leaders, journalists, and staffers. "Taken as a whole," said Barbara Perry, director of the project, "this spoken history offers a large piece of the puzzle to provide an understanding of both the senator himself and his family’s historic political dynasty.”