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Edward M Kennedy's "Chappaquiddick" Speech

On July 25, 1969, speaking from the library of his father's home in Hyannis Port, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts addressed the voters of Massachusetts--and, by live network television, the American public--on his involvement in an automobile accident that resulted in the death of a woman passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. That accident had taken place on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, six days earlier; Kennedy's ambiguous responsibility for the accident--and his subsequent delay in reporting it---set up a scenario where he faced both criminal charges and public censure. On the morning of July 26, the criminal issues were resolved with a suspended sentence on a plea of guilty to the misdemeanor of "leaving the scene of an accident." The address that evening, henceforth described as the "Chappaquiddick Speech," was a rhetorical act designed to salvage Kennedy's public image. This paper will analyze the speech descriptively, historically and critically.

The purpose of Kennedy's speech was straightforward rehabilitation: "These events, the publicity, innuendo and whispers which have surrounded them . . . raises the question . . . of whether my standing among the people has been so impaired that I should resign my seat in the United States Senate."

Kennedy's speech indicates that he believes the actions he took on the night of July 18, 1969 damaged his standing in both the state and national political arenas. Clearly, he is making this speech to repair his public image, or at least to stop its downward spiral. Since the facts themselves are grim--a quirky accident, a dead woman passenger, abandonment of the victim and the accident site for several hours--the method Kennedy chose to rehabilitate his image combines explanatory admission with exculpatory imagery. The explanatory admission is necessary, as the text of the speech makes clear, because "ugly speculation" has apparently distorted several factual asp...

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Edward M Kennedy's "Chappaquiddick" Speech. (1969, December 31). In LotsofEssays.com. Retrieved 04:33, April 25, 2018, from https://www.lotsofessays.com/viewpaper/1692828.html