Like many of our families, the House of Kennedy was built at the dinner table. "One of my most vivid memories is of our family gatherings around the table at dinnertime," Ted Kennedy recalled.
The dining room was classroom as much as eating-place. One family friend remembers a map on the wall that Joe Kennedy would unfurl to make points to his children. It was where Joe and Rose Kennedy first engaged their children's minds in politics and current affairs, where the nine siblings all struggled to carve out their unique roles within the family hierarchy, where their competitive instincts were honed, their rivalries were worked out and the ties that bound them so tightly to each other were rewrapped nightly.
It was also where the four Kennedy brothers staked out distinct identities that would stamp them for the rest of their lives. Joe Jr. was the family's star, Jack its wit, Bobby its soul and Ted its laugh. Joe was the most combative of the four, Jack the most reflective, Bobby the most intense and Teddy the most agreeable. Joe lapped up politics; Jack, history; Bobby, religion, and Ted the company of others. Ted, with his easygoing gregariousness, made everyone smile.