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Sunday
Jan022011

For the Kennedys: The End of an Era

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The sun has set on the Kennedy era. When Congress reconvenes next week, it will be the first time in 64 years that there has not been a Kennedy in office.

The last Kennedy -- Patrick, a congressman from Rhode Island -- has officially left the building, saying, "my life is taking a new direction and I will not be a candidate for reelection."

His father, Sen. Edward Kennedy, the liberal lion of the Senate, died in 2009. Now, the new frontier on Capitol Hill has a distinctly Republican flavor. Replacing the Kennedys as the only father-son team on the Hill are Rep. Ron Paul and Senator-elect Rand Paul, both Tea Party Republicans.

John F. Kennedy launched the family franchise in 1947 when, at age 30, he joined the U.S. Congress. He spent six years as a congressman and eight years as a senator, fighting for civil rights and social welfare. In 1961, he moved to the White House, famously calling on Americans to, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." He brought with him his two brothers in to the political fray: Robert became attorney general and then senator, and Ted would be elected to the Senate too.

The attention attracted to the family's glamour, intellect and occasional scandal would last decades and help propel Ted Kennedy to serve almost 47 years in Congress. He championed Medicare, rights for the disabled, and health care reform. His son, Patrick, and Robert's son, Joe, also followed in the Kennedy footsteps serving as Congressmen.

It's a legacy of triumph, tragedy and a national fascination with Democratic Party's first family. John and Robert were both assassinated, and Ted Kennedy famously pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a deadly car accident at Chappaquiddick.

Still, there is a new generation of young Kennedys who have yet to pick up the torch of public service. It's possible the sun has not set on Camelot for good.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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