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Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reports: Patrick Kennedy, Coming Clean

Aired May 22, 2011 - 19:00   ET



JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ask not what your country can do for you.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN HOST (voice-over): It was the dawn for a new hopeful age.

J. KENNEDY: The problems are not our fault and the battles are not all us and we stand today on the edge of a new frontier.

GUPTA: President John F. Kennedy, JFK. And then, there was Bobby.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY (D), FORMER SENATOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: We have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond or go beyond these rather difficult times.

GUPTA: And Teddy, the third to reach the U.S. Senate. The three handsome brothers carved a legend in the stone of national politics.

EDWARD KENNEDY (D), FORMER SENATOR OF MASSACHUSETTS: Too many of our senior citizens are being forced to choose between neglecting their ailments or being pulverized by them.

GUPTA: At home, there was Ted and his wife, Joan, Teddy Jr., Kara, and Patrick who was the youngest by six years.

There were many bright days to remember and dark ones too. By the time Patrick was born, his uncle, the President, had been murdered. And before he was 2, his Uncle Robert had been murdered as well.

E. KENNEDY: We saw a wrong and tried to right it. We saw suffering and tried to heal it. We saw war and tried to stop it.

GUPTA: It was July of 1967, Patrick's birth made headlines. Just five days old, and people wondered if he would run for president.

(on camera): Did you sit around the dinner table -- I mean the same issues that he would talk about in public I mean, were those part of the dinner time as well?

PATRICK KENNEDY (D), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE, RHODE ISLAND: My dad as well as my uncles always included all of our family in anything that he was doing. And I was often following him everywhere when I was a child. I would go to the office with him. When I was at home, he would bring the office to me because he had briefings all the time in his office. And of course I probably caught less than 10 percent of what was actually being said, but I -- I caught the sense that there was something being discussed that was big and important. I felt like I had a front row seat to American history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I admire their spirit and their ability to get along with it is really something.

GUPTA (voice-over): In the pictures, there's glamour, ease and beauty. But life wasn't always easy. Not for Patrick.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, FORMER REPORTER, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Well you know, he was -- he was sickly. He had asthma and he would talk about how his father would stay up with him at night.

GUPTA: Susan Milligan, a reporter for the hometown paper, "The Boston Globe", came to know Senator Kennedy pretty well, later in the 1980s.

MILLIGAN: And even when was having people over the house for dinner it was -- you know, to talk about the mystery (ph) where you get to know some of the other members or some staffers and so forth and it was just his -- his life, it really was.

GUPTA: And as we now know, for Patrick, home wasn't always a refuge.

MILLIGAN: He had a mother with a very severe alcohol problem. His brother had cancer and had his leg removed. I mean, that's very stressful. You know the parents divorced, there's father's difficulties. It's a lot to deal with.

DARRELL WEST, AUTHOR, "PATRICK KENNEDY: THE RISE TO POWER": His father traveled a lot. His mother was an alcoholic. And so he was lonely a lot.

GUPTA: Political science professor, Darrell West literally wrote the book on Patrick Kennedy and he says that Patrick's troubles got worse once he went off to boarding school.

WEST: He experienced his first issues with substance abuse as a high school student and actually as a senior had to check into substance abuse clinics.

GUPTA: It was cocaine and Patrick was just 17 years old. None of it would keep him out of the family business.

P. KENNEDY: I've been taking my campaign door to door and that's been the only way to campaign.

GUPTA: At age 21, still a student at Providence College, he made his first run for office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He looked like a college kid when he was first running. He was socially awkward. He was kind of tall and gangly. And it was very difficult for him. He didn't really have those polished political skills that people expect of a Kennedy.

GUPTA: Even so, he won. Six years later, he made it to Congress. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Patrick Kennedy, the next Congressman from the second district of Rhode Island --

GUPTA: He made his mark as a fund-raiser. He showed fire on issues like gun control.

P. KENNEDY: Families like mine all across this country know all too well what the damage of weapons can do.

GUPTA: But his personal problems kept intruding.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Congressman Patrick Kennedy reveals he's re-entering rehab.

GUPTA: And the hits -- the kind that most people would like to forget -- they just kept coming. Shoving an airport security guard, a fight on his yacht that caught the attention of the Coast Guard and then the one that really made waves.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, "AC 360": The story involves a car, allegations of intoxication and special treatment and a Kennedy.

GUPTA: Crashing his car just down the street from the U.S. Capitol at 2:30 in the morning.

P. KENNEDY: I'm traveling to Minnesota to seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic to ensure that I can continue on my road to recovery.

GUPTA: This time Patrick blamed the crash on sleeping pills.

JIM RAMSTAD, PATRICK KENNEDY'S AA SPONSOR: Well as soon as the offices opened, I called over to Patrick's office to offer any help I could be as a recovering alcoholic myself. That I was there for him if that was the problem.

GUPTA: At the time, Jim Ramstad was a Republican Congressman from Minnesota. He became Patrick's sponsor at AA.

RAMSTAD: We really got -- got to know each other after that so-called barricade incident. That's when we became very, very close friends.

GUPTA: Kennedy didn't exactly keep his problems hidden. It might have been impossible anyway. But instead of running away, he made addiction treatment and mental healthcare a central issue.

P. KENNEDY: I have an addiction. I have a mental illness.

GUPTA: But I have never heard Patrick or any politician for that matter, as candid as he was now.

(on camera): How much of this is personal for you.

P. KENNEDY: Well I am a recovering addict and alcoholic. I've suffered depression in my life. I have seen in my own life friends of mine including family members, suffer the ultimate in losing their lives because of this illness. GUPTA: What was your family's response when -- when -- when you told them you had addiction; you had been addicted to pain killers.


GUPTA: You talked about cocaine at a very young age.


GUPTA: You talked about bipolar. You were diagnosed with it, may or may not have it now, depression. What was their reaction?

P. KENNEDY: Their reaction was informed by open minds. So they weren't so set.

GUPTA: They don't want to -- they don't want to just staunch you off or put you in the corner?

P. KENNEDY: No. There was -- those immediate inclinations as there is in every family but ultimately I mean my family was the family that was part of the civil rights fight, was part of de-stigmatizing developmental stabilities with Special Olympics.

GUPTA: When you first talked about it --

P. KENNEDY: You know, the Kennedy family is known for being persevering on the football field, active, winners. So of course, how did I feel? I felt like a loser. I felt like oh, God I'm not living up. What a shame. You know, I'm a shame -- you know I'm a shame on my family by needing treatment for getting mental health treatment.

But I, luckily, had help, you know. And I also am lucky because that help made a difference in the quality of life that I have today.

GUPTA: Just ahead, more of Patrick Kennedy coming clean and his controversial theory of addiction. I'll be right back.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the nation's greatest senator in history, he made sure that there was access to opportunity for every child.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When my husband was a young teen, he went to Washington, D.C. and Teddy was mesmerized.

GUPTA: The day I met with Patrick Kennedy that was a special day for the Kennedys, ground-breaking, tor the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute.

(on camera): How significant is today for you? P. KENNEDY: It's obviously great to see my father's legacy still so alive and well and see so many people turn out to honor him in this way and to keep his legacy alive.

On the other hand, it's just a reminder that I don't have him in person anymore and that it has to come through this building and memories in order for me to, you know, think of him.

He isn't just in front of me and/or by my side or able to share a conversation.

GUPTA: You think about him every day?

P. KENNEDY: It depends on the situation and clearly, I just took my fiance to meet my aunt. And it was moving to me because I hadn't realized that I didn't get to introduce her to my dad. So yes, he is with me every day.

GUPTA: Yes, yes that would have -- that would have meant a lot.

(voice-over): On this bitter sweet day, Kennedy wanted to talk about a new campaign. He calls it "moon shot", ramping up for research on the brain and on all kinds of brain disease. The cancer that killed his father but also the things that Patrick has struggled with, like mental illness and addiction.

(on camera): But when was the first time you ever had a drink?

P. KENNEDY: Well, I can't really determine, you know, which of it seems like many different kinds of, you know, opportunities that I had when as a teenager to drink and so forth. And so I --


GUPTA: It's hard to know exactly when.

P. KENNEDY: I mean just to pin down the exact date, sure.

GUPTA: Was there drinking was it just around, available? Was it part of every evening at the house?

P. KENNEDY: Well, Sanjay, I think that the key to this is that whether it was alcohol, whether it was a stimulant, whether it was a narcotic, whatever it was, I was using it to run away from feeling what I was feeling. I was self-medicating. And the key to understanding neuroscience is to understand what it is that's giving those pervasive feelings that drive someone to feel they have to self- medicate in order to get relief.

GUPTA: Is addiction a moral failure or is it a disease of the brain?

P. KENNEDY: It's a disease of the brain. Clearly.

GUPTA: Absolutely. Clearly.

P. KENNEDY: Clearly. Yes. This is totally a neurological disorder. And, of course, we so shame this illness that if you have a person, who is in their right mind, why would anybody subject themselves to the shame of being out of control alcoholic, addict? Who wants those as pejorative terms to describe them? Because no one that I know would have subjected themselves to the kinds of ridicule and shame that these diseases subject someone to.

GUPTA: What was the worst ridicule and shame you got?

P. KENNEDY: No, I mean, it's nothing different for me than it is for anyone else who has this. But I'm just saying in general, in society, I think that everybody knows what people say about someone with a chemical addiction and alcoholism.


GUPTA: For anyone who has known an alcoholic or a drug addict -- and that is most of us frankly -- this is a loaded topic. We will be getting back to Patrick Kennedy in just a moment.

But first I want to talk with these two psychiatrists right here. Dr. Bankole Johnson, an addiction specialist at the University of Virginia, he also consults with pharmaceutical companies developing medications to treat addiction; and also Dr. Sally Satel, a psychiatrist at Yale University. Thanks to you both for being with us.

He is a fascinating guy and I really enjoyed speaking to him. But this really gets to the heart of the issue. Let me start with you Dr. Johnson, is addiction a brain disease.


GUPTA: What do you say? Do you agree with that? Is it a brain disease?

DR. SALLY SATEL, YALE UNIVERSITY: I don't call it that. I'm a clinician and it doesn't help me very much when I'm talking to my patients to tell them that they are victims of their brain chemistry.


GUPTA: Well, regardless of what you're saying to your patients though, from a scientific perspective, is addiction a brain disease?

SATEL: To me it is more of a -- almost a practical question. What is the most useful way to think about addiction if you're trying to get someone into recovery?

GUPTA: I want you to listen to something along this point. I want you to listen to something Patrick Kennedy said specifically about this and we will come back.


P. KENNEDY: Why would anybody voluntarily choose to put themselves in these situations once someone already identified them as an alcoholic? Why would they go out there and drink again?


GUPTA: The reason I thought what he said there was so interesting, because it really gets at this idea, does he have a choice? Is he in control?

SATEL: Right. Well, that person is not choosing to be an alcoholic. That person is choosing to feel better momentarily. And that is fundamentally what drives so much of drug use and addiction?

GUPTA: Do you think they have a choice?

JOHNSON: I think as Patrick said no one actually wakes up in the morning and says gosh, you know, the thing I would like to do is become an addict. A person who is not addicted to a disease, not addicted to alcohol can have a drink and make that choice. Once that individual has actually become addicted to the disease, their ability to make a choice changes.

SATEL: You know everyone who has come into my clinic has made a decision. They made a decision, today is the day I'm going to get help. Or they say, today is the day I am going to stop using.

Now as a clinician we welcome everyone into the clinic. You don't get a prize for white-knuckling it. But the truth is, believe it or not, most people actually do quit on their own.

GUPTA: We're going to leave it there for right now. We will have much more in just a minute.

Next, Patrick Kennedy's surprising take on the shooting of his friend, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.




GUPTA (voice-over): Patrick Kennedy spent half his life in public office even as he wrestled publicly with addiction and depression. That year, 2008, it was Kennedy and Kennedy, father and son; Ted on the Senate side, Patrick in the House pushing key legislation to require that insurance companies cover mental illness as well as physical problems.

The term they use is "parity". President Bush signed it into law.

(on camera): When you describe parity to the average person who knows nothing about this, what does that mean?

Treating mental health the same as physical health, right?

P. KENNEDY: In this case, equality of insurance reimbursement for the brain just as for every other organ in the body. If you have diabetes and have a chemical imbalance that you need more insulin, you know, you don't have any question about it. But if you need some more serotonin or dopamine, you need a neurotransmitter, then they look at that as something askew, as if the brain isn't part of the rest of the body.

We are in modern times but people are still treating this illness as if it is back in the Dark Ages. Civil Rights didn't pass until '64 and '65 and the voting rights act, we had to go through a great deal before America finally came to the realization, "Hey, why don't we treat everybody the same?"

I mean it seems to me hard it believe that even within the last century we had Holocaust, not only in Europe but in Rwanda and Burundi. We have genocide as we speak around the world. And we're thinking we live in modern ages. It just brings home the fact that, you know, basic justice is not always something we can take for granted.

GUPTA: And you think with regard to mental illness the way that people are discriminated against, still stigmatized despite this bill is on that level? Civil rights?

P. KENNEDY: You know, it's -- when we look back in history and see how populations in our country were persistently discriminated against and segregated and marginalized, you think of minority groups of all colors and stripes, gender, you name it. The most persistent stigma in discrimination and prejudice really exists still, to this day, towards people with mental illnesses.

There is that sense like Jarrod Loughner out in Arizona. He is crazy. They look the other way. Not thinking that this is someone who is sick and needs healthcare. Instead, because we look the other way, and he goes untreated, he shoots and kills people including a good friend of mine, Gabby Giffords.

GUPTA (voice-over): Jarrod Loughner is the 22-year-old accused of shooting Congresswoman Giffords. He is a man with a history of alarming erratic behavior.

P. KENNEDY: And now our attention is on Gabby and her recovery of her brain. And he is being jailed for his brain, not being recovered. It is an irony but we think nothing of, no stigma towards Gabby and her brain injury but he has a brain injury as well because clearly his brain was not working properly when he picked up that gun and shot all those people and in every picture you saw, you clearly -- and story that you read, it is clear that this is someone who is mentally, physically challenged with these psychotic breaks that he was suffering from.

And yet like millions of other Americans, we're going to put him in jail, as in the case of most people in our prison system, who are in jail because of an untreated mental illness.

GUPTA (on camera): Did someone or something fail Jarrod Loughner?

P. KENNEDY: Clearly we all failed. We failed as society because every time we see someone who's -- and we use the pejorative words "crazy", you know, "psycho", "nuts", we look the other way. We say oh, well we're not going to help them.

But if you or I saw someone who fell down in the middle of the street and they bruised themselves or are bleeding we would go and help them out. That is everyone's natural instinct.

GUPTA: Let's talk a little bit about you. People obviously want to -- people are fascinated by you. You are completely clean now.


GUPTA: When was the last time you had a drink?

P. KENNEDY: Well I do it for today because if I think about my sobriety as anything but within today then either I'm complacent because I think I have strung too many days together to worry about it or I'm not thinking about what I need to do today.

GUPTA: People hit rock bottom before they get diagnosed. When did you know? When did you hit rock bottom and say ok I've got to get the treatment now that I know potentially can work and maybe even devote my life to this?

P. KENNEDY: Well I've struggled and I haven't had perfect sobriety over the long-term but I have put certain days together and managed effectively just to live and fight for another day legislatively. I'm looking to live more than just surviving. I'm looking to live a life that's fuller in sobriety. I could function but that's not all I want to do. I want to live.


GUPTA: Still to come, more with Patrick Kennedy.


GUPTA: How many times did you need go to rehab?




DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon. Here are your headlines this hour.

Police have arrested a suspect for the March 31 beating of a San Francisco Giant's fan at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles. The victim, Brian Stow was in a coma and is now listed in critical condition. Investigators have been looking for two men in the beating but officials told reporters at a news conference a short time ago that there are still two suspects at large.

Even the dead can't escape the flooded Mississippi. You can barely see the head stones in this cemetery in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Several caskets actually floated out of the ground but were recovered as the cresting river slowly winds south towards New Orleans. Residents are warned the high water will stick around for weeks. Health officials also warn the floodwaters are full of dangerous microbes and bacteria.

Those are your headlines this hour. I'm Don Lemon. We now return you to a Sanjay Gupta special report on Patrick Kennedy after the break.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And welcome back. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Talking with Patrick Kennedy, among other things, about his 25-year struggle with alcohol and drugs.


GUPTA (on camera): How many times did you need to go to rehab?

PATRICK KENNEDY: I would say I've been to rehab easily over half a dozen times.

GUPTA: Was there a time when you said this isn't working? And this just doesn't work?

KENNEDY: Well, one of the things that I knew I needed to do was to live a life that could support my recovery in a way that was more conducive to long-term recovery. And that's why I chose not to run for re-election, because frankly, living in the public eye and a political life was not conducive to really getting that kind of long- term steady recovery that, you know, is absolutely got to be the number one priority in my life.

GUPTA: People say that if someone is an addict they usually have an enabler. Someone who is enabling them or groups of people who are enabling them. Who is enabling you to do this?

KENNEDY: Well, obviously, when you're an elected official, you have lots of people want to endear themselves to you. And not always in the most healthy way. So clearly, as I said, the stress of the job but also the attendant enabling that allows you to try to continue your job in the short run often compromises your long-term recovery. Because you think "Oh, I need help now, or I need someone to give me a pill. If you're not going to give it to me, I will find someone who can."

GUPTA: So someone might think of it opposite, thinking that because you are under so much public scrutiny and in the public eye, that it would be hard to find enablers. But you say that it's, you know, staff, people, I mean, giving pills, giving drinks.

KENNEDY: You have people all over the country who want to do you a favor. And if they think that they're doing you a favor if they do what you ask them to do then, you know, you'll be able to go anywhere you want in order to get drinking and to get any kind of medication you think you need in order to - anything to get through. GUPTA: Did this happen in the office? Were you doing this in the office?

KENNEDY: Sanjay, I think the point of this is that I clearly had treatment while I was a member of Congress.

GUPTA: And when I ask you these questions, even now, in fairness, part of it is because it can be destigmatising to have someone actually talk about it candidly.

KENNEDY: It can. And you know, but you know, it just reminded me of other reporters have asked me, well, which drugs did you use? Did you use alcohol? Did you use cocaine? Did you use narcotics? I said it is like strapping sneakers, who cares what colors those sneakers are. You are using the same sneakers to run away from your problem, whether it's alcohol, whether it's cocaine, whether it's narcotics. You're using something to run away. That's the operative issue here.

GUPTA: People will say, so we heard Mr. Kennedy likening mental illness in some way to diabetes. Diabetes, you give them insulin, make the pancreas work. We know how to fix this. Are we going to get to that point with mental illness? It is the lack of serotonin, it is too much of this? Let's fix that.

KENNEDY: You hit the nail on the head, Sanjay. Because if I went out and had an extra couple pieces of chocolate cake because I had diabetes, no one would be writing about me in the paper tomorrow. Do we treat people with diabetes who are obese because they are not following compliance with their doctor to eat properly? Do we treat them with the same stigma we treat someone who has an illness like alcohol or something? No. And you nailed it because it's not the same. But it is the same. I mean, it's behavioral.

Sure, you take your insulin but you're supposed to not also eat too much chocolate cake.

GUPTA: Good point.

KENNEDY: And if someone eats a bunch of chocolate cake, they're not going to call up and say, "Hey, Patrick Kennedy was out there eating a lot of chocolate cake last night because he has diabetes and you know, he's going to get into a diabetic shock, you know, that's the story.


GUPTA: Joining me again, two psychiatrists, Dr. Bankole Johnson, an addiction specialist at the University of Virginia and Dr. Sally Satel, at Yale University.

You know, again, it was just fascinating to talk to him, Dr. Satel, just like a diabetic eating chocolate cake. That's sort of the analogy that he uses. When you hear that, first of all, just your immediate impression.

DR. SALLY SATEL, YALE UNIVERSITY: Well, I work in a methadone clinic. And a lot of folks refer to methadone as almost insulin. They say a diabetic would take its insulin and the heroin addict should take methadone. I work in that clinic. I think methadone is an excellent therapy. But I should tell you about half of the people in our clinic still use cocaine and still use heroin. Congressman mentioned stress, he's running. This is what people do, they self-medicate.

GUPTA: Let me ask real quickly - can anybody, in your opinion, be treated then for substance addiction?


GUPTA: Anybody can be treated?

JOHNSON: Anyone can be treated and that's what we are trying to get to.

GUPTA: But if you think in fact this is a disease of the brain, you think this is a natural disease, the way Patrick Kennedy describes it, being akin to diabetes, it does change the way everyone perceives us. It changes the way it's probably going to be treated and how quickly this treatments come.

SATEL: Well, in that case, there could be a down side to that actually. Because the extent that you take the disease model in a very concrete way, then we might decide we shouldn't hold people accountable.


GUPTA (voice-over): And it's easy to see, even with respected psychiatrists, addiction specialists, do not see eye to eye on this.

Here is more of what Patrick had to say.

(on camera): If addiction is more of a brain disease than it is a moral failure, should or would programs like AA work?

KENNEDY: What I do know, myself, is that this is a multi-pronged approach. It's, you know, physical. It's spiritual. It's moral in the sense that, you know, people who feel as if they have no place in the world, they're clearly not going to have the same interest in recovery as if they felt they have a stake in the world.

GUPTA (voice-over): Coming up, Patrick Kennedy's new passion.

As a neurosurgeon, I was eager to hear about this moon shot to the mind. What is it? That's next.



PRES. JOHN F. KENNEDY, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.


GUPTA (voice-over): It was 50 years ago that President Kennedy launched the space program. Within two years, there were Americans in orbit. Within eight, there were men on the moon. Now the late president's nephew, Patrick Kennedy, out of Congress, out of public office for the first time since college, he's launching a moon program for brain research. Hunting cures for addiction, mental illness, traumatic brain injury and other problems with the mind.

(on camera): 50 years. It has been, May of 1961.

That was an event that, you know, will define this country and it sticks in the memory of everyone who lived through it and everyone told about it. But here we are talking about a broad thing, neuroscience, really trying to address neurodegenerative diseases, mental illness, post traumatic stress. All these various things seems pretty ambitious. Patrick, is it too audacious?

KENNEDY: Neil Armstrong "One small step for man, one giant step for mankind." Imagine that applying to a disabled veteran paralyzed because of an IED, stepping for the first time ever since their injury out of a wheelchair. Tell me that a paralyzed person because neuroscience reconnected the spinal cord, allowing someone to walk for the first time again is not as powerful as putting a man on the moon and letting them step that first step.

GUPTA: Take a look at that long speech from '61, and there are those lines that stick out, including again that one that says "We're going to put a man on the moon" and return him safely. What is that, when you say "it" now, what is "it" that equates to that putting a man on the moon. What are we going to look at and say "We did it," what is it?

KENNEDY: We helped our loved ones and our family members live a better life. Because this isn't about neuroscience. It's about finding a way to take care of the people we love. It is about keeping the people like my dad around longer because a neurosurgeon was able to give him an additional year of life because that neurosurgeon knew the brain so well, and gave me the most important year that I ever had with my father. That's as personal as it gets.

And if you have someone like my Uncle Sarge who suffered from Alzheimer's, you have my Aunt Rosemary with mental retardation, the fact is, we can help our family members by better understanding the brain.

GUPTA (voice-over): It isn't the first time a Kennedy has taken on a project so ambitious regarding the brain. Patrick's aunt, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started the Special Olympics. Inspired by her sister, Rosemary, and today, Maria Shriver is a leading voice on Alzheimer's. And of course, there's the final struggle of Patrick's father, died of brain cancer.

(on camera): How much of what you are talking about right now is inspired by your father and what happened to him over the last, you know, year, 14 months of his life?

KENNEDY: Well, it's very much inspired by it. Because my dad got the best care. And you know, that's what informs me just as he was informed in his fight for healthcare by my brother's struggle. Again, it's personal. It's you know, the laboratory person doing this research is a hero to me.

GUPTA (voice-over): This is one of Patrick's heroes, Col. Kit Parker, a bioengineer at Harvard who happens to be an explosive expert. He has done two tours of duty in Afghanistan.

COL. KIT PARKER, BIOENGINEER, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: You know, I've got about 16 years in the infantry in the army, so I know a little bit about what happens when things blow up.

GUPTA: Back home, he began to study how an explosion rattles the brain and can damage it permanently.

PARKER: What happens when the brain gets hit by a blast wave and it slams up against the inside of the skull.

GUPTA: With colleagues at Northeastern University, he has found ingenious ways to simulate the mechanics of the injury.

PARKER: You can imagine that when you drop a rock in a puddle, and you see this wave propagating now, that's what happens when this blast wave pushes through the brain.

GUPTA: Kennedy says this kind of new approach to an old problem could translate to other fields of brain research.

GAREN STAGLIN, CO-CHAIR, ONE MIND FOR RESEARCH: If you talk to (INAUDIBLE) say what we really need to do is study and get all of the basic circuits of the brain, identified and understood.

GUPTA: Garen Staglin agreed to help run Moon shot after seeing Kennedy's work on mental illness. Just like it is for Kennedy, his fight is personal for him.

STAGLIN: Our son had a typical first incident of schizophrenia between his freshman and sophomore year at Dartmouth College.

GUPTA: Unlike most schizophrenics, Brandon Staglin did find effective treatment for his mental illness. Today he is able to work on mental health causes. In 2009, he got married.

STAGLIN: Yes, we don't yet have the cures but people can lead a very productive life with medication and compliance and unconditional love and support from their families.

GUPTA: The ambition is simply staggering. A detailed map of the brain in 10 years with better treatments for just about every brain disease you can think of.

KENNEDY: If we don't have neuroscientists working together, if they're not all working together, you're never going to find the answers to get us to that proverbial landing that we all want to see. Whether that landing is Michael J. Fox getting well or someone with Alzheimer's not suffering from dementia. This is a thousand moon shots in order of complexity, Sanjay, but that makes it all the more challenging and for our generation, this is our chance to make the difference.

GUPTA: Coming up, Patrick Kennedy on losing his father. And finding a new family.

You're watching "Patrick Kennedy, Coming Clean."


GUPTA: Welcome back. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. There's another thing you should know about Patrick Kennedy. He's getting married to a sixth grade history teacher with a three-year-old daughter. The wedding is set for the second week in July.


GUPTA (on camera): What are your days like?

KENNEDY: I make sure I try to get all my e-mails and phone calls out of the way during the day so that by 3:00, when my fiancee comes home and brings her daughter, we're able to play, have an early dinner and then get her to bed. We have a long bedtime routine that involves sharing stories, and I'll read "Curious George" one night or "Fancy Nancy" the other night. That's the best therapy I've ever had.

GUPTA: What's it like being a dad? Almost a dad.

KENNEDY: Well, I'm just right now loving on this amazing little girl, is the daughter of my fiancee. And looking forward to the opportunity to just providing that kind of support and family structure to them that they are to me, because really, in a way, I would not be living, breathing, smiling, eyes sparkling if it weren't for them in my life.

GUPTA: So being able to have someone in Amy and her three-year-old daughter to be able to talk to about this.

KENNEDY: Just to share life with, because the greatest determinant of you not recovering is not having love and connectedness in your life.

GUPTA: So, how did you meet her?

KENNEDY: I met her at an arc event. I was talking about my Aunt Eunice and Special Olympics and developmental disabilities. Her father happened to be a special ed teacher but unable to make it that night, so he gave her his ticket. Hence, I met her. And the rest is history.

GUPTA: How did you pop the question? KENNEDY: I got on my knees.

GUPTA: Did you?


GUPTA: Old school?

KENNEDY: Old school. I even went to her parents beforehand and asked their permission.

GUPTA: Did you really?

KENNEDY: Oh yes.

GUPTA: Good for you.


GUPTA: Do you think you own, about the way you were raised, your father's parenting when you're dealing with Harper or teaching her or reading to her? I mean, do you try to remember any of those specific parenting skills?

KENNEDY: I remember my father telling me a story about his father scolding my uncle when he was president of the United States, because my cousin, Caroline, was crying and someone came to my uncle and said, "Here, take this call, it's important." He went and took the call. When he got back, my father told me that my grandfather took him aside and said, "Just remember one thing, the most important job you'll ever have in your entire life is being father to that child."

The illustration that, you know, his father wanted to make sure it wasn't a lost on my uncle is the most - at the time, powerful in the world, that the true power was being a parent and the influence that parent has on a child.

And my dad illustrated through his life, because he always made time, as much time as he could, to spend with me. But always made sure he made clear to me how much he loved me, which at the end of the day, was something I'll never forget and always love him for.

GUPTA: Say, you know what, I'm going to demonstrate -

(voice-over): After finishing the interview, I asked Patrick to go with me to the JFK library. I wanted to try and see it through the eyes of another Kennedy, still looking to make his mark.

(on camera): Where are we here?

KENNEDY: Right here at the front of the presidential library dedicated to my uncle and his presidency. It's obviously not only reflective of a time but an attitude. And it's that attitude that we're invoking with this "Moonshot" campaign.

GUPTA: I get goosebumps when I come in front of the John F. Kennedy presidential library? I mean, do you still? Every time I go in this place. I don't think there's a person who can't be inspired by something that is going on in here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mental disability, you know, Sanjay Gupta.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you. How have you been?

KENNEDY: Welcome, everybody. I hope you have a great tour at the library.


KENNEDY: We're saying we need to go to inner space of brain research for our "Moonshot" for today.

GUPTA (voice-over): And just like that, I was reminded what it must be like to be a Kennedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the land of the free and the home of the brave.

GUPTA: What do you think he would say he were here right now and you describe "Moonshot" to him?

(voice-over): As we walked through this monument to the president who sent men soaring to the moon, Patrick got back to his father.

KENNEDY: He gave me an implicit message when he asked me to be around him at the end of this life. To spend time with him. At the end of the day, that's the only thing that mattered. He could have all the laws in the world, he could have all the accolades and awards, but the only thing that ultimately mattered to him when he was alone at the end of his life was not being alone, and being surrounded by the people he loved the most, whom he knew loved him the most. Not because he was a senator, but because he was a famous guy, but because he was our dad.

GUPTA: It was obvious the pain was still there, but then -

Shall we see -

KENNEDY: More than that, you can meet my fiancee right here. Amy.

GUPTA: Hi. How are you? Sanjay Gupta.

AMY: Amy. Nice to meet you.

KENNEDY: Amy is not only a school teacher but, I mean, she cares so much about childhood development, which is all about understanding these things, too. So, we're a real team in the effort.

GUPTA: So what do you think about "Moonshot"?

AMY: It's so exciting.

GUPTA: It's going to take your future husband away a lot of the time. I can tell you that. It's pretty ambitious.

AMY: Absolutely. Hopefully, not too much because-

KENNEDY: She gets me back in time for bedtime stories.

GUPTA: "Curious George" and "Fancy Nancy," I heard?

KENNEDY: Yes, so he has to be home by 7:00.

GUPTA (voice-over): And as we talked, Patrick was smiling, ear to ear. He was happy.


JOHN F. KENNEDY: Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.


GUPTA: You know, I can't help but marvel what a time this has been for Patrick Kennedy, losing his father, stepping down from Congress, now about to get married and taking on this staggering new mission. The next chapter, of course, still to be written but really this is a new beginning more than any of us could hope for.