Kennedy was born at St. Margaret's Hospital in the Dorchester section of Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest of nine children of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Fitzgerald, who were both members of prominent Irish-American families in Boston. His elder siblings include John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver. John asked to be the newborn's godfather, a request his parents honored, though they did not agree to his request to name the baby George Washington Kennedy.
In the United States, the phrase Kennedy family commonly refers to the family descending from the marriage of the Irish-Americans Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, and is prominent in American politics and government. Their political involvement has revolved around the Democratic Party. Harvard University educations have been common among them, and they have contributed heavily to that university's John F. Kennedy School of Government. The wealth, glamour, and photogenic quality of the family members, as well as their extensive and continuing commitment to public service, has elevated them to iconic status over the past half-century.
With the 1960 election of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, he and his two then-surviving brothers, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, all held prominent positions in the federal government, and received intensive publicity, often emphasizing their youth (relative to comparably influential politicians), allure, education and collective future in politics.
The family has undergone (then, before, and since) a series of deaths and other reverses that could not be fully remedied by wealth, sometimes called "the Kennedy curse"; it has included the John F. Kennedy assassination; the Robert F. Kennedy assassination; four aircraft crashes (Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Kathleen Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy, Jr.); a fatal skiing accident (Michael LeMoyne Kennedy); a failed prefrontal lobotomy on Rosemary Kennedy, carried out in the hope of calming the young woman's violent outbursts but resulting in more severe mental retardation; and at least three sets of allegations against individual family members and their relatives by marriage, including a murder conviction (Michael Skakel) and a controversial fatal single-car crash (Chappaquiddick incident). Most recently, US Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, the last surviving brother of the Kennedy family, died at age 77 after battling brain cancer.