Ted Sorensen, Kennedy speechwriter, and prominent Democrat, died at the age of 82. The New York Times gives a fascinating obituary of the man. A native of Nebraska, he came to Washington at the age of 23 with a law degree from Lincoln with apparently no connections (although his father was Nebraska's attorney general for a time) and then landed himself a job with then Senator Kennedy in 1953. Hitching his wagon to this star, he ghostwrote the Pulitzer prize winning Profiles in Courage and came to the White House as part of Camelot in 1961. He was President Kennedy's speechwriter and aide, helping negotiate during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He remained a prominent Democrat throughout his life, though not in a public capacity. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1970 (Bobby's seat), and was taken out of the running for Director of Central Intelligence when it was found out that he was a conscientious objector to the draft (can't have that).
I do wonder whether in this day and age one can go to Washington without connections and find oneself in the middle of the seat of power just by dint of initiative and talent.