The Kennedy Legacy

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John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy letters to be auctioned

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By Matt Viser

WASHINGTON — A 16-year-old Bobby Kennedy, with all four front teeth chipped from playing football, was planning to head home from Milton Academy for the weekend. Writing before the Kennedy family experienced a series of tragic deaths, there was a fatalistic side to his thoughts.

“I’m going home this weekend to see my brother Jack who is now going into PT boats,” Kennedy wrote to one of his friends, “so I’m getting out to see him because he might be killed any minute.”

The letter is part of two separate batches of newly revealed correspondence — one series written by Robert F. Kennedy, the other by John F. Kennedy — that are being made public for the first time and are set to be auctioned next month at the Omni Parker House in Boston. RR Auction said it has authenticated the letters using in-house experts and outside consultants.

The two collections reveal a family in the middle of World War II, just before two members were killed in airplane accidents, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. in 1944 and Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy in 1948

The letters from John F. Kennedy were sent to the family of Harold W. Marney, one of two crew members killed when the PT-109 boat that he commanded was destroyed by a Japanese ship. A 26-year-old Kennedy wrote condolences to a family whose son had died.

“This letter is to offer my deepest sympathy to you for the loss of your son,” he wrote shortly after the August 1943 accident. “I realize that there is nothing that I can say can make your sorrow less; particularly as I know him; and I know what a great loss he must be to you and your family.”

Marney had joined the boat a week earlier to serve as engineer, Kennedy wrote, and he did his job “with great cheerfulness — an invaluable quality out here.”

 “I am truly sorry that I cannot offer you hope that he survived that night,” he wrote. “You do have the consolation of knowing that your son died in the service of his country.”

Several months later, Kennedy wrote another letter, in response to one he had received from the Marneys asking for more information about their son. The telegram they received from the Navy said little more than that their son “is missing following action in the performance of his duty.”

Kennedy again wrote his condolences, and said that all the information he had was included in the previous letter. After the Japanese destroyer hit their ship, they never saw Marney again.

After the crew reunited on a floating bow, Kennedy wrote, “we could find no trace of him, although every effort was made to find him.”

Kennedy’s heroism during the accident, in which two were killed but all the others managed to get to land and were eventually rescued, later helped lay the foundation for his rise as a national politician.

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The Marney family also wrote Kennedy after his older brother, Joe, died in a plane crash. This time the roles were reversed as they offered condolences to him.

“Boys like Harold and my brother Joe can never be replaced,” Kennedy responded in a letter with a Hyannis Port letterhead and postmarked Sept. 1, 1944. “But there is some consolation in knowing that they were doing what they wanted to do — and were doing it well.”

The items being auctioned also include the telegram that the Marneys received informing them that their son was missing, as well as the Purple Heart he was awarded.

The 18 letters to be auctioned that Robert Kennedy wrote between 1941 and 1945 were to a close friend, Peter MacLellan, whom he befriended at the Portsmouth Priory School in Rhode Island. The batch also includes nine letters from Robert’s sister Jean, whom MacLellan dated at one point.

They show Bobby as an adolescent, discussing sports, school, and girls as he mourns that he seemed to lack the charming ways of his brother.

“I am now chasing women madly but it looks as if I lack the Kennedy charm as I have yet to find a girl who likes me but then I don’t quit easily so I’m still in there struggling,” Robert Kennedy wrote to MacLellan in a letter postmarked July 3, 1944. “How’s that love life of yours?”

Kennedy showed a jovial side and a fair amount of teenage braggadocio. He signed one letter, “from your mental & physical superior and your better in football, hockey and baseball, Robert Francis Kennedy.” In another he noted, “I’m still healthy, strong . . . and good looking as ever.”

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But Kennedy also lacked some of the athletic prowess that his family was known for.

“Baseball has started and I decided to go out for it and of course got cut but I expected it so it doesn’t much matter,” he wrote in a letter postmarked March 13, 1943.

At another point, he refers to his younger brother, Teddy, and his football abilities.

“Football is going stinky due to the fact there’s a guy on 2nd team ahead of me who can play ball as well as Teddy my brother and the coach thinks he’s better than me. I guess no one appreciates my true qualities . . . The whole thing can go to Hell.”

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Fisherman who saved JFK’s life during WWII dies

In Solomon Islands, way out in the ocean, far off the coast of northwest Australia, a 93-year-old man died on August 6.

His name was Eroni Kumana and he is the man who, in 1943, rescued a young U.S. Naval Lieutenant who was stranded out in the sea.

That navy man was former President John F. Kennedy.

He and his crew had been on patrol when their boat was broken in half by a Japanese destroyer.

Kennedy and 10 other survivors had to swim three miles to a coral reef.

Kumana just happened to be out in a canoe on that day, more than 70 years ago. He gave the Americans food and Kennedy sent him away with a “help” message etched on a coconut. Kumana helped save all the men.

And on his oval office desk, JFK used that same coconut as a paperweight.

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(Source: wgntv.com)

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Suddenly, everything that had been a liability before—your hair, that you spoke French, you didn’t just adore to campaign… When we got in the White House, all the things that I had always done suddenly became wonderful… and I was so happy for Jack… Because you know, it made him so happy—it made me so happy. So those were our happiest years.
Jacqueline Kennedy on captivating the world


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LIFE With JFK: Classic Portraits of a Political Superstar, 1947-1963

Not many public figures from the middle part of the 20th century are as closely identified with LIFE magazine as John Fitzgerald Kennedy. 
In fact, from his days as a decorated war hero in the late 1940s, through his years as a senator, into the White House and up until the very moment of his assassination, LIFE photographers spent an enormous amount of time (and film) on the ambitious Democrat from Massachusetts.

That he married a woman as magnetic and stylish as the former  Jacqueline Bouvier only further guaranteed that the two young cultural and political icons would never be absent from the weekly’s pages for long.

Here, LIFE.com features a series of photographs — many of which are classics, several of which never ran in LIFE — made during the decade and a half when John Kennedy was on his way to becoming, for a time, the most powerful person on earth.

(Source: TIME)

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Get ready for the JFK centennial

Though no baby boomer will want to face this, in just under three years it is going to be the centennial of President John F. Kennedy. And the country should begin now to prepare for an appropriate celebration, something in proportion to previous grand presidential centennials where observances have lasted at least a year; where Congress, the White House, federal departments, universities, presidential libraries and other educational institutions focus on what the man meant to this nation and to the world.

There is a magnificent tradition in this nation of observing such anniversary moments. Most recently, the country did a first-rate job in 2009 of celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial. And who knew that an African-American senator, also from Illinois, would get inaugurated as the commemorations began?

In the 1980s, there were widespread observances for the centennials of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. These included what was then the second-largest celebration in the Smithsonian’s history, with FDR exhibits in 12 of its museums. A joint meeting of Congress featured the speeches of FDR; another one featured Harry Truman’s former aides.

These observances emphasized two of the great successes of 20th century America, FDR’s standing up to the Axis Powers and Truman’s standing up to the Soviet Empire. Couldn’t we use a reminder of JFK’s successes dealing with nuclear weapons?

As it did for other centennials, Congress now should pass legislation forming a national commission with representatives from both parties, the private sector and academia that could begin to organize official activities. Special one-time appropriations should be made available for the Kennedy Library in Boston, much as Congress did in the mid-1970s by giving Stanford’s Hoover Institution $7 million for Herbert Hoover’s centennial (about $31 million today), and perhaps also for space exploration, the Peace Corps and Washington’s Kennedy Center, JFK’s living cultural memorial.

Think for a moment about how many schools in this nation are named after JFK. Wouldn’t it be great for all of them to use this unique occasion to teach their students the history of that time? Of course, this kind of celebration would include media coverage, encompassing the oldest film footage to online social networks.

All of this would allow the next president to use JFK’s memory to inspire and capture the imagination of today’s young people, as JFK did in his time. People need to be reminded that great world-changing accomplishments begin with individuals — an idea that is particularly important today as more and more citizens grow disenchanted with politics.

Numerous polls show the continuing relevance of John Kennedy. He remains part of our collective memory.

The recent observances of the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination showed there is no shortage of interest in his tragic death. It is time to focus on his life.

Peter Kovler chairs the Center for National Policy and the Kovler Foundations and led the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Centennial Committee in 1982 that was a key factor in the creation of the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. Robert Dallek is a historian specializing in the presidency whose many books include, “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963.”

(Source: post-gazette.com)

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May 29, 1964: Jackie Kennedy’s Return to Arlington

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By Nicolaus Mills, professor of American Studies at Sarah Lawrence College

Fifty years ago on May 29, 1964, Jackie Kennedy, accompanied by her two children, returned to Arlington National Cemetery. There she placed a sprig of lilies of the valley on President Kennedy’s grave.

The occasion was JFK’s 47th birthday, and Mrs. Kennedy’s homage seemed only natural. But today it is possible to see more than a tribute to her husband in Mrs. Kennedy’s actions. It is also possible to see her deciding the time had come for her and the nation to end their period of mourning.

The day, which was intensely covered by the media, began with Mrs. Kennedy attending mass at St. Matthew’s Roman Catholic Cathedral in Washington, where Bishop Phillip M. Hannan, who had eulogized the president following his assassination, gave the requiem sermon. Mrs. Kennedy, who had been so stoic at her husband’s burial six months earlier, wore no veil on this occasion and allowed herself to be seen crying openly.

A crowd of 1,000 people was waiting on the hillside across the Potomac when Mrs. Kennedy visited President Kennedy’s gravesite after the service, but it was as if Mrs. Kennedy looked on this spring day as one in which she was free to express her full range of feelings without worrying about being judged.

She knelt by the president’s grave, then watched as her son took the gold tie clasp in the form of his father’s World War II boat, PT-109, that he had on his coat, and placed it on the pine boughs covering the grave.

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By 4:30 p.m, Mrs. Kennedy was at the Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, home of her father-in-law, Joseph P. Kennedy, for an international telecast on President Kennedy’s life, but the most revealing indication of the specialness the day held for her came in the interview she did for the May 29 Life magazine.

On December 6 Mrs. Kennedy had been the subject of a Life cover story. In a widely remembered interview with journalist Theodore White, she had made a point of comparing the Kennedy administration to King Arthur’s legendary Camelot.  Referencing the popular Lerner and Loewe Broadway musical Camelot, she had told White that the specialness her husband and his administration had achieved was too unique to be duplicated.

“She came back to the idea that transfixed her,” White wrote. “Don’t let it be forgot, that was there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot—and it will never be that way again,” White quoted Mrs. Kennedy as saying.

In her Life interviewof May 29, Mrs. Kennedy was still elegiac about her husband, but this time she was not preoccupied with the idea of the Kennedy administration as mythic. She spoke instead about preparing an exhibit of the president’s mementos that would tour the country and be used to raise funds for the Kennedy Library.

The point of the library, she stressed, was to let the president’s example be a guide to the future, not just evoke nostalgia for the past. The ’60s, Mrs. Kennedy was implicitly saying, needed a fresh start, and she was not going to stand in the way of that fresh start or turn herself into a professional widow.

Two months later, Mrs. Kennedy announced that she was giving up her home in Georgetown and moving to New York. The move freed her from the crowds that gathered daily in Georgetown to watch her comings and goings, but above all, the move let her start a new life on terms of her choosing.

In New York, Mrs. Kennedy became a leading figure in the city’s cultural life. The preservation of St. Bartholomew’s Church on Park Avenue and, most important, the preservation of Grand Central Station, which for a time during the ’70s lost its landmark designation, were among her triumphs.

“Jackie Onassis will save us,” the famed modern architect Philip Johnson commented when she took the lead in the fight to stop a proposed 59-story office tower from being erected over Grand Central Station. Johnson’s praise, made in 1975, captures how dramatically Mrs. Kennedy altered the public’s view of her and how easy it is to forget, living as we do in the age of Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama, that, prior to the ’60s, presidential wives were seen but rarely heard, especially after their husbands left office. 

In deciding what to do after she moved away from Washington, Mrs. Kennedy had before her only the modern example of Eleanor Roosevelt, who, following her husband’s death, took an active role in the United Nations and continued writing her newspaper column. But Mrs. Roosevelt was in her sixties when her husband died after 12 years in office. In 1964 Jackie Kennedy was just 35, the widow of a first-term president, when she began setting historical precedents of her own.

(Source: thedailybeast.com)

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We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light a candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.

John F. Kennedy

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Beach fun: Very rare photos of both John F. Kennedy’s at Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport. A relaxed President Kennedy is wearing nothing but swim trunks - not unusual, but unusual to be photographed. The picture of toddler John John was taken a few years later, August 4, 1964.

Beach fun: Very rare photos of both John F. Kennedy’s at Bailey’s Beach Club in Newport. A relaxed President Kennedy is wearing nothing but swim trunks - not unusual, but unusual to be photographed. The picture of toddler John John was taken a few years later, August 4, 1964.

(Source: newyorksocialdiary.com)

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