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 and has led to their reputation as America's Royal Family.

Following the 1960 election of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, he and his two younger brothers, Robert F. Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy, soon all held prominent positions in the federal government, and received intensive publicity, often emphasizing their youth, allure, education and collective future in politics. From 1947, when John F. Kennedy was first elected to Congress, to 2011, when Patrick J. Kennedy departed Congress, there was a 64-year run of a Kennedy family member holding an elective office in Washington. This spans more than a quarter of the nation's existence.

The family has suffered numerous tragedies known as the Kennedy curse, including Rosemary's tragically failed lobotomy, the assassination of brothers John and Robert, the controversial Chappaquiddick incident, and four airplane crashes (Joe, Jr., Kathleen, Ted and John, Jr., all but Ted's were fatal).