It's been 10 years since Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy died of brain cancer at age 77. Kennedy held his Senate seat for nearly 50 years and over that time saw some high highs and some very low lows. Scott Ferson is the founder of the Liberty Square Group, a local public relations firm. Before that, he was Kennedy’s press secretary. He spoke with WGBH Radio’s Jeb Sharp about Kennedy’s legacy. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Jeb Sharp: Ted Kennedy’s life, of course, isn't easily summed up. It's not something you can just tie a neat bow around. But what would you say was his signature accomplishment in the Senate?

Scott Ferson: It's hard to pick one signature accomplishment. It might be all of the work he did setting up for the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which happened, unfortunately, after he died.

I think comprehensively, there were two things when I think about Ted Kennedy. One was just that fierce advocate for equality in the things that he believed in, but also the rare ability to be able to get things done, to work across the aisle. When you look at the arc of his Senate trajectory, he came in very early in the 60s trying to comprehensively work on health care. I think probably looking back, he regretted and learned a lot from some of the fits and starts, especially in the Nixon administration. And then he decided that he would just power through, that if it wasn't going to be a bold comprehensive plan, he would work across the aisle, chiefly with Orrin Hatch, to be able to get it for different constituencies: children, drug issues, seniors. If he wasn't going to be able to get health care — solve it all at the same time — he would solve it in pieces. And I think when the Affordable Care Act was finally passed after his death, that set it all up to be able to make it happen in part because a lot of the pieces in terms of coverage had been in place that he had worked on for so many years.

Sharp: Do you know what actually drove his passion for the health care issue?

Ferson: Certainly we remember the cancer that his son had in the 70s. Having a child go through it and seeing the costs that would cripple a normal family and that inequity, that certainly drove it. But there were significant health issues for him as a child growing up, seeing the childhood illnesses of his brother, President Kennedy, and certainly his sister Rosemary.

Sharp: How would you say Ted Kennedy changed Massachusetts?

Ferson: I think we got quite used to having a powerhouse in the Senate for so many years. You drive around Massachusetts and his fingerprints are everywhere, most noticeably with the Big Dig and just how that has transformed the city of Boston. Also, keeping open Devens as long as it was open, Hanscom Air Force Base, the investments that came into the hospitals and the educational institutions all had Ted Kennedy’s fingerprints on it. It's literally baked into the landscape in Massachusetts.

Sharp: So one can't look back on his career and ignore the Chappaquiddick incident. That happened in 1969. A young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned inside Kennedy's car after he drove it off a bridge on Martha's Vineyard. But he chose not to resign, and he was re-elected easily to term after term, never winning with less than 58 percent of the vote. You know, this is speculative, but I wonder — do you think his career would have survived something like that today, in this political day and age?

Ferson: It's a good question. You might think that scandals that plague elected official or politicians are not survivable, and then you might look at the landscape in Washington now and think that they’re ultimately survivable to any magnitude. But you know, I think Ted Kennedy has to be viewed in the time that he was alive and served. Having been on his staff and seeing him up close for five years, he believed in redemption. He believed in an arc of someone's life. I think he always saw himself as sort of a work in progress.

Sharp: And how would you say things have changed in the Senate since his death?

Ferson: I've run into a lot people who say, 'Maybe I didn't agree with Ted Kennedy, but I wish he were around.' Now, I don't know what's going on down there, and I think that ultimately the Senate hasn't really changed. It was meant constitutionally to be a very deliberative, checks and balances body, and I think right now, we're seeing great frustration with that. The Senate is supposed to slow things down. Kennedy loved the Senate, he was able to both understand it as an institution and be able to use that deliberative aspect to make really great, sweeping changes. I think a lot of things have changed since he died 10 years ago, but ultimately I think the Senate probably hasn't.

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Scott Ferson's last name. It is Ferson, not Ferguson.