The Kennedy Legacy

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The Quiet Work of Ethel Kennedy

"Kennedy" and "quiet" don’t go together in Washington circles. But Ethel Kennedy has spent the last 22 years working quietly with youth from the poorest neighborhoods of Washington, DC to give them a chance to serve their community and save their own lives.

Consider the story of LaShauntya Moore. She recounts, “I was homeless, dropped out of school, and was a teenage mom.” She found an opportunity at the Earth Conservation Corps, which offers a living stipend and education award for a year of national service cleaning up the Anacostia River. She discovered a new mission, could support her young family, and found a path back to a better life. She was part of the effort to bring the national symbol, the Bald Eagle, back to the nation’s capital when fledglings from Wisconsin were raised and released a decade ago. LaShauntya is now the Youth Director of the Earth Conservation Corps, giving hundreds of other young people the same chance she had.

The challenges are severe, the work is hard, and the stories do not always have happy endings. Diamond Teague, a charismatic corps member who completed his service with the ECC and was heading to college with the scholarship he had earned through his service on the Anacostia, was gunned down on his front stoop at the age of 19. The murder remains a mystery, but Diamond’s legacy lives on through the Diamond Teague Memorial Park. It is a stark reminder of the hope and challenge of these young people from the neighborhoods that live in the shadows of Washington.

Ethel Kennedy has stood by these youth for more than two decades and has been a fierce advocate for their futures. In 1992, she waded into Lower Beaver Dam Creek to pull tires from the Anacostia’s most polluted tributary and helped launch the restoration effort. She used her power to engage the city, U.S. Navy Seabees, the National Park Service, Pepco and other businesses to secure facilities that became the staging grounds for Earth Conservation Corps operations, some of which are on the banks of the Anacostia River in plain view of the Washington Nationals Stadium. She fought alongside the residents of Kingman Park, River Terrace, and a coalition of community and environmental groups to overturn the Congressionally mandated transfer of two National Park Islands for commercial development. Earth Conservation Corps members led clean-up efforts.

ECC Founder, Bob Nixon, a Hollywood film producer, witnessed the irony of youth trapped in some of the poorest, violent-ridden neighborhoods and living on the banks of one of America’s most polluted rivers in the shadows of buildings that house our country’s political establishment. In 1989, he organized an effort to enable these forgotten youth to be able to tell a different story about their lives by serving their community and nation.

"When Ethel saw the condition of the river and the young people living there," Nixon said, "it took her one second to say, ‘I’m in,’ and she has worked for more than two decades to give hundreds of youth a chance to give back and unleash their talents."

Last week, the District of Columbia dedicated the historic Benning Road Bridge as the “Ethel Kennedy Bridge,” many years after the legislation was passed quietly by the City Council. It is a fitting and overdue tribute, given that this bridge has been a link from Anacostia to Washington for so many years and Ethel Kennedy has brought her power and prestige to help so many young people.

The quiet work of Ethel Kennedy lives on in the hundreds of young people she has helped find a better life and in the Anacostia River she has helped to restore for the enjoyment of local communities. Imagine what a “service year” could mean for millions of young people across America also ready to give back to their country, and in the process, discover they are not problems to be solved, but potential to be fulfilled.

(Source: The Huffington Post)

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Happy Mother’s Day: Ethel Kennedy still the pillar of strength for her family

A few things to know about dinner with Ethel Kennedy: First, don’t be late.

Be prepared to answer questions. And for goodness sake don’t say anything nice about Richard Nixon.

One of Chris Kennedy’s in-laws learned that the hard way.

Years ago, Thomas Reynolds — then-head of the powerful Winston and Strawn law firm in Chicago and campaign chairman for former Gov. James Thompson — was invited to dinner by his niece, Sheila, and her husband, Chris Kennedy.

Ethel Kennedy was there, too, and the conversation naturally turned to politics. Reynolds mentioned that he felt history had misrepresented President Nixon.

"At which point my mother threw a glass of red wine on him," Chris Kennedy recalled. "He wildly misjudged his audience."

Reynolds just “took it,” he said. “He knew where he was.”

Kennedy, chairman of the UI Board of Trustees, shared a few reflections about one of America’s most famous moms in honor of Mother’s Day.

There’s a lot to tell. Ethel Kennedy has always been a force, he said, focused, funny, inquisitive and full of energy.

At age 86, she still reads three or four newspapers a day, three books a week, and watches the news in the morning and evening. She winters in Palm Beach, Fla., then returns to Cape Cod for the summer. And she still likes to entertain and find out all about her guests.


"Have you ever been deposed? Sitting next to her at dinner is like a deposition," Chris Kennedy said. "Super bright, and very engaging. She’s not standoffish at all, and has boundless energy. She’s great fun."

"Ethel," a 2012 HBO documentary by her youngest daughter, shared similar stories about a woman one review described as "one of those big family moms you are half scared of and half drawn to when you’re a kid who is now a bristly grandmother who can still halt an inappropriate question with the flash of an eye."

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Rory and Ethel for Vogue

Ethel Kennedy at home in Palm Beach with her daughter Rory Kennedy, a documentarian, and her grandchildren Zachary, four; Georgia, nine; and Bridget, seven.

Rory’s children are three of Ethel’s 35 grandchildren.

Portraits of her famous clan line the walls of Ethel’s living room

For anyone suffering Kennedy fatigue, think again. Ethel, a documentary about Bobby Kennedy’s 84-year-old widow made by her eleventh and youngest child, Rory, (who was born after her father’s death) is a grand surprise. What may be lost in objective distance is amply compensated for by the laugh riot of Ethel’s escapades recounted by her children, and illustrated with a treasure trove of archival photographs and family movies. Ethel, who hasn’t given an interview for 35 years, talks bluntly to her daughter about her experiences, beliefs, and times of unspeakable grief, before gamely moving on. Megan O’Grady interviews mother and daughter in Vogue’s July issue. Ethel airs on October 18 at 9:00 p.m. on HBO.

Photographed by Bruce Weber

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RFK feared Mafia would blind his children in acid attack

Robert F Kennedy feared his children would be blinded by the mafia in an acid attack as revenge attack for investigating them, his widow has revealed.

Speaking out for the first time in 30 years, Ethel Kennedy said that her late husband was anxious they would be targeted as retaliation for his probe into mafia racketeering.

He saw a report about an American journalist who had been blinded in an acid attack by the mob and feared they would do the same to him.

The disclosure will add to conspiracy theories that the mafia may have been responsible for Kennedy’s death.

He was shot dead by Sirhan Sirhan in 1968 but speculation has raged that his crusade against the mob whilst serving as U.S. Attorney General may have be the root of his demise.

Mrs Kennedy, 83, said that her husband was scared after New York Post journalist Victor Riesel was blinded in an acid attack because of articles he had written about the mob.

‘We were told they were going to do the same with our children,’ she said.

Eldest daughter Kathleen, one of several siblings also interviewed in the film, recalls, “We couldn’t leave [school] with the other kids at the end of the day. We had to wait in the principal’s office to be picked up.’’

The documentary “Ethel,’’ which will play on HBO later this year, offers an extraordinary look into the private lives of a celebrated family that was at the center of some of the most famous events, triumphant and tragic, of the 20th century.

Asked about her husband’s 1968 assassination, Ethel says to her filmmaker daughter: “When we lost Daddy …” then stops, pain written on her face.

The family credits devout Roman Catholic faith with getting them through almost unendurable losses. Following the assassinations of her brother-in-law, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963, and her husband, Ethel later lost two of her 11 children — one from a drug overdose and the other in a skiing accident.

“I wake up every morning and I think of Daddy [Robert] up there with Jack and [their older brother] Joe and my parents,’’ Ethel tells her daughter Rory, the youngest of her and Bobby Kennedy’s 11 children. A noted documentary filmmaker, Rory was born six months after her father was fatally shot after winning the California Democratic presidential primary.

“When the rest of the world was grieving,’’ her mother told the children their father was in a wonderful place, says Kathleen Kennedy. “Her faith is so strong — that’s caused her to get through everything [including] losing [sons] Michael and David.’’

As Ethel puts it: “Nobody gets a free ride. “You have your wits about you and dig in because it might not last.’’

When JFK appointed his brother as attorney general, his outspoken sister-in-law quickly emerged as one of the more colorful members of the extended Kennedy clan.

At one point, she was charged with horse theft — then a hanging offense in Virginia, where the family lived on a farm — after she rescued a neighbor’s maltreated horses.

Ethel was acquitted, but JFK asked her to tone down her famous parties — after press reports of a soiree where “all the members of his cabinet were thrown in the pool,’’ Ethel’s son Joseph Kennedy recalls.

After JFK was assassinated, Ethel says, “It was like Daddy lost both arms. It was just six months of blackness.’’

The documentary includes extensive home-movie footage of the family that’s never been shown publicly — including a striking image of a stricken Bobby Kennedy sitting in quiet contemplation on the side of a road.

According to Ethel, it was very difficult for her husband to seek office for the first time, successfully capturing a US Senate seat in New York in 1964.

“Whereas Jack was a born orator, nothing came naturally to Daddy, he had to struggle for everything,’’ she says.

Rory Kennedy says HBO, where she’s made films about AIDS and human rights issues for more than a decade, had long urged her to do a film about her family, but she resisted.

“It’s not in my comfort zone, and I assumed my mother wouldn’t want to do it,’’ Rory tells The Post. “But she sat down with me for five days and answered every question in the book.’’

One of her favorite stories is that when Robert was attorney general, Ethel would take the older kids to watch sharpshooters in the basement of the FBI building (the bureau fell under Robert Kennedy’s jurisdiction).

Kathleen says in the documentary, “One day she noticed a suggestion box. She took out her signature red pen, wrote, ‘Get a new director’ and put it in the box.’’

Rory Kennedy — who will be joined by her mother and about 25 other family members for the premiere in Park City, Utah — adds that longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, no fan of his nominal boss Robert Kennedy, quickly discovered what happened.

“By the time [Mom] got to my father’s office with all the kids, Daddy had already gotten the note from an irate Hoover,’’ she says.

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