The Kennedy Legacy

Not just politics as usual

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Kathleen Kennedy Townsend: Beyond Tragedy

Death has been ever present in my life. I was named for my aunt Kathleen, who died in a plane crash three years before I was born. My brother Joe was named for our uncle Joe, who had been killed in World War II, as had Kathleen’s husband, Billy Hartington. My parents, Robert and Ethel, often talked about these three young people, each dead before the age of 30.

My aunt Kick was beautiful, lively, and giving. She had gone to England during the war to help and to be with the man she loved. My uncle Joe was smart, athletic, brave. They were in my thoughts daily. We prayed for them by name at every Sunday Mass, at the daily Mass we attended during the summers, and during nightly prayers. So while I didn’t know my aunt and uncles and had never actually met them in the flesh, remembering them and honouring their memory was part of our daily ritual. I knew from the youngest age that death would take the vivacious and the brave. Immunity was not possible.

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Joe and Kick Kennedy

When I was just four years old, my mother’s parents were killed in a plane crash. Now death was even more present. I had known my grandparents, George and Ann. I had hugged them, sat on their laps, and visited their home in Greenwich, Connecticut, over Christmas. I saw vividly how sad my mother became. I have a memory of my father carrying her up and down the stairs because she was so brokenhearted that she could barely walk. I probably conflated that memory with the birth of my brother David. Still, the fragility that death bred remains fixed in my consciousness.

My grandparents’ names were added to Joe’s and Kick’s as the family members we should pray for.

Then my uncle, President John F. Kennedy, was killed when I was 12. A few years later, another uncle of mine, George Skakel, Jr. – my mother’s brother – and one of my father’s best friends, Dean Markham, were killed in a plane crash. Dean and his wife, Susie, were our neighbours. They had five children. They carpooled with us. Nine months later, George’s wife, the mother of my four cousins, choked on a piece of food and died. My four orphaned cousins were sent to live with an aunt and uncle.

My father was killed in June 1968 when I was 16 and the oldest of ten children. My youngest sister was born in December of that year.

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JFK and RFK

While we were in college, one of my best friends committed suicide.

For my 25th birthday, I asked for a skull and got one. I admit that when I opened that present, the guests at the party, who’d been expecting some lovely trinket, I am sure – bath salts or a beautiful bowl – were shocked. There was momentary silence.

IN COLLEGE, A CLOSE friend told me that she had never been to a funeral. In the late ’50s and early ’60s, her experience wasn’t unique for people our age. The baby boomers grew up with death as a distant thought. But not me. A friend with whom I’d bought a car – a Volks-wagen, for $200 – was beaten up by thugs in 1971 and stayed in a coma for 30 years before he died. My brother David died of a drug overdose; my brother Michael, in a freak skiing accident. My cousin John and his wife and sister-in-law died in a plane crash just before my sister Rory’s wedding.

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Michael Kennedy

Many of these deaths are not news to you. They’re part of the public record.

What remains a mystery is how people cope. How do we go on?

The most straightforward answer I can give is: the same way that generations before have gone on. We acknowledge the pain and the loss. We develop rituals – religious services, music, funerals, and wakes – where friends gather, hug one another, cry together, and share stories and laughs. And we remember.

I don’t like the saying “Time heals all wounds.” It is not true. Years later, people can still be terribly sad and miss their mother, father, child, sibling, friend. Scars remain unhealed.

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Filed under Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

12 notes &

Eric Holder and Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy

By E.J. Dionne Jr

When he announced his leave-taking last week, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke of Robert F. Kennedy as his inspiration for believing that the Justice Department “can – and must – always be a force for that which is right.”

There are many reasons our nation’s first African American attorney general might see Kennedy as his guide, but this one may be the most important: If ever a public figure was exempt from Holder’s much contested depiction of our country as a “nation of cowards” on race,   it was RFK, a man who was in constant struggle with his demons and his conscience.

Few white men were as searing as Kennedy in describing how the world looked to a young black man in the late 1960s. “He is told that the Negro is making progress,” Kennedy wrote, following the racial etiquette of his time. “But what does that mean to him? He cannot experience the progress of others, nor should we seriously expect him to feel grateful because he is no longer a slave, or because he can vote or eat at some lunch counters.”

“How overwhelming must be the frustration of this young man — this young American,” Kennedy continued, “who, desperately wanting to believe and half believing, finds himself locked in the slums, his education second-rate, unable to get a job, confronted by the open prejudice and subtle hostilities of a white world, and seemingly powerless to change his condition or shape his future.”

Yet Kennedy was never one to let individuals escape responsibility for their own fates. So he also spoke of others who would tell this young black man “to work his way up, as other minorities have done; and so he must. For he knows, and we know, that only by his efforts and his own labor will the Negro come to full equality.”

Holder and his friend President Obama have lived both halves of Kennedy’s parable. Like social reformers in every time, they strived to balance their own determination to succeed with their obligations to justice. Doing this is never easy. It can’t be.

Kennedy was not alone among Americans in being tormented by how much racism has scarred our national story. That’s why I was one of many who bristled back in 2009 when Holder called us all cowards. For all our flaws, few nations have faced up to a history of racial subjugation as regularly and comprehensively as we have. And Holder and Obama have both testified to our progress.

Yet rereading Kennedy is to understand why Holder spoke as he did. That the young man Kennedy described is still so present and recognizable tells us that complacency remains a subtle but corrosive sin. One of Holder’s finest hours as attorney general was his visit to Ferguson, Mo., after the killing of Michael Brown. Many young black men still fear they will be shot, a sign that the “open prejudice and subtle hostilities of a white world” have not gone away. We have moved forward, yet we still must overcome.

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Filed under Eric Holder Robert Kennedy Attorney General

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"About 7:15 pm is a good time to call on Daddy. Nearly everybody’s gone home, and you can wear your own bathrobe. He reads a lot of papers, but doesn’t mind if you play quietly under the desk. I call that place "my house," even though my sister Caroline found the secret door first. During the day, I’m pretty busy myself. My nurse Miss Shaw and I go on special trips to the zoo. I love the snakes."  
-LOOK Magazine, ”The President and his Son,” December 1963

 

"About 7:15 pm is a good time to call on Daddy. Nearly everybody’s gone home, and you can wear your own bathrobe. He reads a lot of papers, but doesn’t mind if you play quietly under the desk. I call that place "my house," even though my sister Caroline found the secret door first. During the day, I’m pretty busy myself. My nurse Miss Shaw and I go on special trips to the zoo. I love the snakes."  

-LOOK Magazine, ”The President and his Son,” December 1963

(via jj-kennedy)

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In addition to their place in New York City, they were thinking of moving to the suburbs, a place to have privacy, a backyard. Carolyn always felt that if they had children, it would be tough in the city. Their firstborn would be such a big deal.”

~ Rosemarie Terenzio, Fairy Tale Interrupted

(Source: carolynandjohn)

Filed under JFK Jr Carolyn Bessette

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Never-before-seen wedding photos of John and Jacqueline Kennedy

A previously unseen collection of photos from the wedding of John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline will be auctioned off this month. 

 The unpublished negatives were taken by freelance photographer Arthur Burges, who was asked to be a backup photographer when the Kennedys wed in Newport, Rhode Island, on September 12, 1953.

They were discovered in his darkroom by his family after his death in 1993.

 There are 13 negatives, each with a printout as well, which include four of the newlywed couple, two of the entire wedding party, as well as shots of the cake, reception, and wedding attendees.

The wedding, considered by many to be one of the biggest social events of the decade, if not the century, drew an estimated 700 guests at St. Mary’s Church. 

Almost 1,200 attended the reception that would follow at Hammersmith Farm, Jackie’s childhood home.

And the photos are just the beginning of the Kennedy memorabilia being auctioned off.

Also for sale is  a 1963 John and Jacqueline Kennedy holiday card, signed mere days before the assassination; a John F. Kennedy presidential document from 1962, that appoints an African-American woman to the Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity; and a rare twice-signed 1952 JFK letter on an ‘appointment to the Coast Guard Academy.’

Click here to see more pictures

(Source: Daily Mail)

Filed under JFK John F. Kennedy Jackie Kennedy Jacqueline Bouvier Jacqueline Kennedy Kennedy

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JFK’s scion Jack Schlossberg honored President George H.W. Bush with the Kennedy’s Profile in Courage Award on Monday.
The 21-year-old Yale senior gifted the former President with the honor in person at Bush’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine. The Kennedy grandson also brought along a pair of grey socks, emblazoned with President Kennedy’s face, for the sock loving 42nd President.
The 90-year-old was unable to make the May award ceremony in Boston and so Schlossberg had instead gifted Bush’s model granddaughter, Lauren Bush Lauren, with her gampy’s gift at the affair this spring.
The Democratic dynasty honored the one-term Republican President for his decision to raise taxes in 1990, despite his emphatic campaign promise — “read my lips, no new taxes” two years earlier.
“He had promised Americans no new taxes during the presidential campaign two years earlier and he was voted into office with that promise. But, he had also promised to serve his country, and he decided that was the promise he would keep,” Schlossberg said in May.
More photo’s click here

JFK’s scion Jack Schlossberg honored President George H.W. Bush with the Kennedy’s Profile in Courage Award on Monday.

The 21-year-old Yale senior gifted the former President with the honor in person at Bush’s home in Kennebunkport, Maine. The Kennedy grandson also brought along a pair of grey socks, emblazoned with President Kennedy’s face, for the sock loving 42nd President.

The 90-year-old was unable to make the May award ceremony in Boston and so Schlossberg had instead gifted Bush’s model granddaughter, Lauren Bush Lauren, with her gampy’s gift at the affair this spring.

The Democratic dynasty honored the one-term Republican President for his decision to raise taxes in 1990, despite his emphatic campaign promise — “read my lips, no new taxes” two years earlier.

“He had promised Americans no new taxes during the presidential campaign two years earlier and he was voted into office with that promise. But, he had also promised to serve his country, and he decided that was the promise he would keep,” Schlossberg said in May.

More photo’s click here

Filed under Jack Schlossberg George H.W Bush Bush

2 notes &

Joe Kennedy: “Toured the North Attleborough Fire Department before our office hours over the weekend. Honored to have the chance to thank the station’s fire fighters for working tireless to keep our community safe.”

Joe Kennedy: “Toured the North Attleborough Fire Department before our office hours over the weekend. Honored to have the chance to thank the station’s fire fighters for working tireless to keep our community safe.”

Filed under Joe Kennedy Joseph P. Kennedy

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"He had a child heart," said his friend, filmmaker George Stevens. "A gentleness and playfulness and a trace of innocence." Robert Coles, the child psychiatrist who became a friend of RFK’s through their shared interest in poor children, observed that even as boys, the older Kennedy siblings were expected to behave like men. RFK, on the other hand, was allowed to be a child, and in some ways never grew up. 

Kennedy once engaged Coles in an animated conversation debating the relative virtues of different flavors of ice cream — vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate (RFK’s personal favorite). On the campaign trail, Kennedy liked to end the day by eating a big bowl of ice cream (while at the same time sipping a Heineken beer). Kennedy was not unself-aware. Once, as a crowd pressed in on Kennedy, someone cried, “There’s a little boy there! Watch out!” The person was referring to a small child who had become caught in the crush, but Kennedy felt the identification instantly. Without missing a beat, he remarked, “Yes, he’s a U.S. senator.”

(Source: The New York Times)

Filed under Bobby Kennedy RFK Kennedy

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Conor Kennedy: “Gardens of the Queen: Caribbean’s Last Pristine Coral Reefs”

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Harvard student Conor Kennedy (20) traveled this summer to Cuba to dive one of the most pristine marine environments in the Caribbean—the Gardens of the Queen—to conduct ecological assessments of the coral reef ecosystem with Ocean Doctor.  This article is the first in a five-part series.

 I’m in Havana getting ready for an early morning trip to the Gardens of the Queen,  the archipelago and reef complex 60 miles south of Central Cuba in the rich intersection where the waters of the Gulf of Mexico meet those of the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The expedition sponsors are Ocean Doctor and The Explorers Club. Our mission is to gather data on the Caribbean’s last pristine reef system.

Today we met with former President Fidel Castro, who was an early and passionate advocate for protecting the reef. Castro told us that he had fished and dove the extraordinary reef over its entire 60 mile length. He began by telling us the history of a famous battle that took place on the reef in the War of Independence against Spain when an entire Spanish fleet was sunk by armored American war ships. His father came to Cuba as a Spanish soldier during that conflict.

He also told us about his personal evolution as an environmentalist. He began as an avid marlin and spear fisherman who slaughtered many marine species on the reef, assuming the oceans were infinite and could never be depleted. He next told us of an island rookery covered with Central American pigeons called torcaso palomas which he slaughtered with a shotgun and ate with great relish until he almost died after being poisoned by the toxic bark of the trees in which these pigeons roosted. Shortly after killing the doves he met with marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau. That meeting helped transform Castro into a committed environmentalist. He has committed to preserve 25 percent of Cuba’s waters from extractive fishing as Marine Preserves, while the U.S. lags, preserving less than 2 percent of our coastal waters.

(Source: ecowatch.com)

Filed under Conor Kennedy Gardens of the Queen