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 that was 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 involvement in public service, has elevated them to iconic status over the past half-century, with the Kennedys sometimes referred to as 'America's Royal Family'.
Soon after the 1960 election of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, he and his younger brothers, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, all held prominent positions in the federal government. They received intense publicity, often emphasizing their relative youth, allure, education, and future in politics. From 1947, when John F. Kennedy became a member of Congress, to 2011, when Patrick J. Kennedy departed Congress, there were 64 years with a Kennedy in elective office in Washington (excluding a short gap of less then a month in between John F. Kennedy resigning his Senate seat prior to his inauguration as President). This spans more than a quarter of the nation's existence. There was only a brief hiatus following Patrick J. Kennedy's retirement from Congress in 2011, and the 2013 swearing in of Joseph P. Kennedy III.
The family has suffered numerous tragedies, contributing to the idea of "the Kennedy curse". Rosemary Kennedy suffered a failed lobotomy, John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated, Ted Kennedy was involved in the Chappaquiddick incident, and four family members were in airplane crashes: Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Kathleen Cavendish, Ted Kennedy, and John F. Kennedy, Jr.. All of these plane crashes were fatal except for Ted Kennedy's.