On the weekend of his inauguration, John F. Kennedy gave his youngest brother a cigarette case engraved with the words, “And the last shall be first.” Fifty years later, that prophesy has come true, writes Richard Lacayo of Time. The "long shadow of Chappaquiddick" may have kept Ted Kennedy out of the White House, but "as the Romans understood, there can be Emperors of no consequence—and Senators whose legacies are carved in stone."
Because he never reached the White House, Kennedy never drifted into a post-presidential twilight. Instead he helped shape America over 46 years in office, leaving his mark on everything from civil rights to health care reform. “Without Ted, the Kennedy legacy would be mostly beautiful afterglow, just mood music and high rhetoric,” writes Lacayo. “He took the mythology and shaped it into something real.”