WTVM Editorial 3/13/18: Lessons from 1969 Tragedy

(WTVM) - On July 20, 1969, Astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

That was on a Monday. Two days before that historic Apollo 11 lunar landing, something else happened and it came to be called Chappaquiddick.

Senator Ted Kennedy, by then the sole surviving Kennedy brother, drove his car off a short bridge on part of Chappaquiddick Island on Martha's Vineyard. He managed to surface and save himself.

The problem was, the married Massachusetts senator had a passenger named Mary Jo Kopechne, and Kennedy left her in the upside-down car to drown.

A movie called "Chappaquiddick" is coming out soon that tells this mostly forgotten story, which seems especially relevant now.

Kennedy hoped to be president one day, but never was, due to his disastrous decisions.

Kennedy left the scene and didn't alert authorities until almost twelve hours later.

He claimed it was an accident and waited so long to report it, that any proof he was driving drunk had since long passed through his system.

In the current "Me Too" movement against inappropriate and often criminal sexual behavior, Ted Kennedy, if he were still alive, would most certainly have been driven out of office.

But back then, the Kennedy political machine rallied around Ted Kennedy and he ended up serving in the Senate for almost forty years.

Ironically, he came to be known as a champion of women's rights. Not many remember Mary Jo Kopechne now, but her story deserves to be told.

The central lesson of Chappaquiddick is that bad choices can and will ruin lives forever.

What Ted Kennedy did – and didn't do - 49 years ago, has just as much, if not more meaning today. The powerful always need to be held accountable even if it takes decades.

General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to hsteuart@wtvm.com or write to:

WTVM Editorial Committee

1909 Wynnton Road

Columbus, GA 31906

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