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The day we had breakfast at Senator Kennedy’s House

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In the 43 years the Monitor has been hosting breakfasts, there never has been a session like the one with Senator Edward Kennedy on March 16, 1980.

Rather than responding to an invitation, the Senator had asked breakfast founder Godfrey Sperling to assemble the group. Rather than hold the gathering at a hotel, Kennedy wanted to meet with the breakfast group at his McLean, Virginia estate. And rather than hold the session during the work week, he wanted to gather on Sunday morning.

Kennedy had announced on November 7, 1979 that he would oppose incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter. By the following March, Kennedy’s campaign was in trouble. His session with the breakfast group came just two days before the crucial Illinois primary, where Kennedy got crushed. President Carter won 155 of the 169 delegates.

Dog cavorts during questioning

There was no question of turning down Kennedy’s invitation which “was a real coup,” Sperling said Wednesday. And so it was that the session at Kennedy’s was the only one of the 3,630 breakfasts the Monitor has hosted where we met at a private home rather than a hotel. And it was also the only breakfast where the guest brought his dog. Sperling remembers Kennedy being in good spirits at the breakfast as the Senator’s large dog cavorted around the room during the questioning.

In subsequent years, Kennedy was the guest at several more Monitor breakfasts, four of which I was honored to host. When I would go to the door of the St. Regis Hotel to greet the Senator, his two Portuguese Water Dogs could come bounding out of the van carrying Kennedy. Then they would jump back in and wait for him to return after the breakfast.

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