“The Kennedys” Miniseries Disappoints Critics, Viewers

5 04 2011

Television review: ‘The Kennedys’

Despite several strong lead performances, it turns out that even an eight-part miniseries can’t do justice to the story of one of the country’s most dynamic, if flawed, political families.

April 01, 2011|By Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times Television Critic

 

The main problem with “The Kennedys,” the rumor-plagued, eight-part series that was rejected by the History Channel, which had commissioned it, before landing at ReelzChannel, is not one of politics or even accuracy but of scope. It is impossible to tell the story of this iconic family even in eight parts, even by limiting the timeline, as creators Stephen Kronish and Joel Surnow have done, to the years between the beginnings of World War II and the assassination of Robert Kennedy. There is too much back story, too many important events, and too many Kennedys.

Kronish addresses the last of these problems by simply cutting the family in half. “The Kennedys” that the title refers to are Joe Sr. (Tom Wilkinson), Rose (Diana Hardcastle ), John F. (Greg Kinnear) and his wife, Jacqueline (Katie Holmes), Bobby (Barry Pepper) and his wife, Ethel (Kristin Booth). Fourth daughter Patricia is seen briefly in one of the later episodes, married to Peter Lawford and playing hostess to one of his Marilyn Monroe-studded soirees, while Rosemary, the victim of an early lobotomy, appears briefly in flashback. But Kathleen (who died in an airplane crash in 1948); Eunice, who founded the Special Olympics and was married to Kennedy advisor Sargent Shriver; Jean, who eventually became U.S. ambassador to Ireland; and Edward (Teddy), the longtime Massachusetts senator and onetime presidential candidate, are not only not present, they are never even mentioned.

Which is much more troubling than the various scenes of infidelity (Joe’s and Jack’s), election “rigging” (Joe’s), mob connections (Joe’s) and drug use (Jack’s and Jackie’s) that have apparently raised the blood pressure of Kennedy historians, History Channel execs and various industry watchers for reasons that, while watching the actual episodes, is inexplicable. There is nothing in “The Kennedys” that hasn’t appeared before in reputable books, films and articles in the Kennedy-obsessed “Vanity Fair.”

An argument could be made that a channel called “History” might want to avoid docudramas, which rely on artistic interpretation, but if it was the intention of producer Surnow, a political conservative, to sully the Kennedy name, he certainly went about it in a strange manner. Jack and Bobby emerge splendid, smart and heroic despite their flaws, and even Joe, though portrayed as a ruthlessly ambitious father and truly awful husband, appears in the end guilty of little more than old-time campaign tactics and a once-oppressed immigrant’s dream of joining the ruling class.

Casting went a long way toward balancing the script’s inclusion of the unsavory side of being a Kennedy. Wilkinson can do just about anything at this point in his career, and he illuminates equally Joe’s hubris and desperate fear of failure, while, with his perpetually worried eyes, Kinnear plays a JFK in constant pain — from his back, from his father’s expectations, from his own infidelities. Don Draper certainly never felt this guilty about getting a little on the side.

The revelation of “The Kennedys” is Pepper, most recently seen as the snaggletoothed villain in “True Grit,” who delivers an Emmy-deserving performance, slowly building a Bobby who becomes the family’s, and the Kennedy administration’s, spine of steel, aware of the choices and sacrifices he is making and prepared to make them every time. As attorney general, Bobby is the president’s hammer even as he attempts to be his conscience.

The scenes among these three men alone are worth trying to find out if you get ReelzChannel. Unfortunately, they are too often being moved through historical events as if they were chess pieces and are surrounded by a supporting cast not up to their level. Holmes is pretty as Jackie, but her emotions are confined to happy (“I love him”) and sad (“He cheats on me”), with absolutely no nuance and only the occasional flash of spirit, intellect and inner strength that made Jacqueline Kennedy an icon in her own right. As Ethel, Booth is almost unbearably perky in early episodes, although she mellows as the series unfolds; the scenes between Bobby and Ethel are far more poignant and powerful than those between Jackie and Jack. Hardcastle (married to Wilkinson) can’t do much with a Rose who spends most of the series saying her rosary and making pronouncements about God’s will in a broad Eastern accent — it isn’t until the final episode that mention is made of the crucial role Rose played in the political careers of her sons.

But she is just another victim of the genre’s biggest danger. In attempting to be both sprawling and intimate, “The Kennedys” winds up in a narrative no-man’s land. So the tensions of Bobby taking on organized crime, the riots in Mississippi, the Cuban missile crisis and the strained relationship of the brothers with J. Edgar Hoover and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson are treated with the same time constraints and dramatic emphasis as Joe’s endless “recovery” from his stroke and Jackie’s realization that being a first lady is difficult.

While this “greatest-hits” pace does take the potential sting from the more salacious details — Jack’s infidelities are few and far between, Frank Sinatra is blamed for any mob-related fallout, the pep-me-up shots Jack and Jackie receive do little more than pep them up — it also buries the fine performances of its leading men, who too often seem to be simply marching toward their characters’ inevitable doom.

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

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RFK Jr.’s Wife Found Guilty of DWI Charge

23 07 2010
FILE – In this Sept. 18, 2008 file photo, Mary Richardson Kennedy, the wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., is shown. The wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has resolved her New York drunken-driving case by pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Mary Kennedy pleaded guilty Thursday, July 22, 2010 to driving with ability impaired. She was arrested in May after a police officer reported seeing her drive over a curb outside a school in Bedford, 30 miles north of New York City. (AP Photo/Andy Kropa, File)

RFK Jr.’s wife guilty of driving impaired in NY

By JIM FITZGERALD (AP) – 8 hours ago

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. — The wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. settled her drunken-driving case without jail time Thursday night by pleading guilty to a minor charge. 

Mary Kennedy admitted in court that her driving ability was impaired when she drove over a curb outside a school in Bedford, 30 miles north of New York City, in May. 

Robert Kennedy, who has reportedly filed for divorce, was not in court. He also was not among the many relatives and friends who wrote supportive letters to Town Judge Kevin Quaranta. 

“He was not asked,” said Mary Kennedy’s lawyer, Kerry Lawrence. 

Robert Kennedy’s mother, Ethel Kennedy, and his sister Kerry Kennedy wrote letters, with Ethel Kennedy telling the judge her daughter-in-law is “kind, loving, gentle and generous.” 

Mary Kennedy, 50, would not comment after the court session. Her lawyer said she was “pleased to get some closure.” 

The charge of driving while ability impaired is a violation and carries no jail time. The judge fined Kennedy $500, suspended her driver’s license for 90 days and ordered her to attend two drunken-driving programs. 

The judge also said Kennedy’s psychiatrist must submit quarterly reports about her progress. 

“You’re going to have to live up to the continuation of your treatment,” he told Kennedy. 

“Absolutely,” she replied. 

The judge told Kennedy the letters from family and friends, including actor Dan Aykroyd and environmentalist Alex Matthiessen, praised “your life, your role as a parent.” 

“I hope we don’t see you here again,” he added. 

Kennedy was arrested May 15 on a charge of driving while intoxicated after a police officer reported seeing her drive over the curb. Her only passenger was a dog. 

Police said her blood-alcohol level was 0.11 percent; the legal limit is 0.08 percent. 

The arrest came three days after Robert Kennedy filed a matrimonial action with the Westchester County clerk’s office, naming his wife as defendant. Several news reports said he had filed for divorce, and most such filings are divorce suits, but the papers are sealed and both Kennedys have refused to comment. Lawrence would not comment Thursday night. 

Robert Kennedy, a prominent environmental lawyer, is the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy, both assassinated in the 1960s. Mary Kennedy is his second wife. They have four children. 

Robert Kennedy had two children with his first wife, whom he divorced in 1994. 

Bedford police said in May that they had responded to the Kennedy home twice in the week before Mary Kennedy’s arrest but no crimes had been committed. 





Kerry Kennedy on “Being Catholic Now”

18 09 2008

Kerry Kennedy with her mom, Ethel Kennedy, at a recent benefit for Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s Riverkeeper

Kerry with her mom Ethel Kennedy at a recent benefit for the Riverkeeper organization, headed by Kerrys brother, Bobby Kennedy, Jr.)

Kerry Kennedy, the seventh child of Robert F. Kennedy and a human rights lawyer, spoke to Boston Globe religion reporter Michael Paulson about her new book, “Being Catholic Now.” The interview took place Aug. 22 in Hyannis Port. Below is an edited transcript of the interview:

Q&A WITH KERRY KENNEDY

Q: What inspired this?
A: So, what happened is that I was feeling conflicted because my Catholicism is so deeply important to me — it was my sense of connection to the almighty, to humanity, to my heritage, my upbringing. And my Catholicism informed my view of the world, and the work that I do every day on social justice issues. And yet, so often when I went to church, I was confronted with words and symbols that were anathema to my values. I was in a, for many years, in a northern Virginia parish which didn’t allow girls as altar servers, and in which every Sunday, in the midst of horrendous poverty, and living in a world where a billion people live on less than a dollar a day, the only thing we seemed to be praying for was that women would stop having abortions, and it just didn’t seem right. And then there was the whole pedophile scandal, and the mishandling of that by the bishops. So this was all sort of brewing. It wasn’t something that I was very conscious of, or focused on, particularly, but at a certain point I thought, I need to resolve this issue. And I looked at my three daughters, and the way I was raising them, and I wanted them to have this tremendous gift of faith that I really do view as a gift, but I also want to feel comfortable with saying they ought to be catholic. So I thought it was time to take some time and reflect more deeply on these issues.

Q: This was recently, that a parish allowed no girl altar servers?
A: This is now. There is only two bishops in the country which did not allow girls as altar servers, and one of them is northern Virginia.

Q: I have a sense of you parents as very devotional. Where does your Catholicism come from? What role did it play in your upbringing?
A: Well, it was central to my upbringing. I mean, we woke up in the morning and we were down on our knees consecrating the day to Lord Jesus. Then we’d go down for breakfast, and we’d say prayers before breakfast. Then we’d finish breakfast, we’d say prayers after breakfast. Prayers before and after lunch. Prayers before and after dinner. Read the Bible after dinner out loud. And then before bed spend about 20 minutes with the entire family saying prayers together. Church every Sunday. After my father died, we went to church for a long time every day, and then every other day during the summer. And we said prayers in between those times. Prayers for things, to St. Anthony to help find something that was lost. Prayers to St. Christopher when we got on a boat or in a car or in a plane to go someplace. There were St. Christopher medals around all of our necks. There were statues of Our Mother, and in every room of our house were a cross, the Bible, and then all sorts of religious books. And in the dining room, in the kitchen, and on every single bedside in my mother’s house, there is not one but two Mass schedules. So this is very present. And Bobby (Robert F. Kennedy Jr.) probably told you this, but his entire bedroom was decorated with the life of St. Francis, with a book that had been cut out and had been framed — the life of St. Francis. So it was very, very present.

Q: Was this from your mother or your father?
A: Both. You know, my father thought about being a priest. And my mother — and I think everyone who spends 12 years in Catholic school thinks about being a nun — actually more than that because she went to Manhattanville College as well. My mother goes — she’s a daily communicant. So I think on both sides.

Q: What was your relationship to Catholicism as you grew up?
A: I went to the Convent of the Sacred Heart for four years. It was interesting to me because, in a family where men were clearly favored over women, this was an atmosphere, a world, run by strong, determined, smart women in leadership, who had high expectations of the girls, and this tremendous sense of love and commitment to the wider world. We had a nun — the head of the order there, was the reverend mother, was called mother Mouton, and she was this wonderful French woman, and there was a rule at Sacred Heart that you weren’t allowed to talk in the halls, and I was forever talking in the hall and always being sent to her, and she always did the same thing, which was that she would wrap her arm around me, give me a lollipop, and said, ‘Jesus loves you, no matter how you misbehave,’ which was pretty wonderful, and then she would talk about the war in Vietnam. And it was a very different form of discipline and sort of vision of the world, and one that was full of love and outrage at injustice, and that had a great influence on me. This was fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grade, and then I went to Putney School in Vermont.

Q: Did you go to a Catholic college?
A: No, I went to Brown and then I went to Boston College Law School.

Q: And did you continue, once you were not living at home, practicing Catholicism?
A: No, when I was in high school I went to Mass every once in a while, and certainly anytime I was at home, but on my own, every once in a while. My roommate in high school was also very, came from a very traditional Catholic family, so we would go off together to church on occasion. And then when I was in college, I went through confirmation, and then when I got married I really went to church every Sunday, and have basically done that since then, which was 1990, when I was 30.

Q: And why did you return?
A: I returned because I wanted to have a stronger relationship with God, and a deeper sense of spirituality.

Q: And did you find that at church?
A: Sometimes. As I say, I was conflicted, and increasingly conflicted, because sometimes I would leave church feeling elated, and sometimes I would leave church feeling very angry and frustrated by the insensitivity to social justice issues that to me are part and parcel of Catholicism, of our faith. On the other hand, that was sort of what was happening on the home front, but my work is in international human rights, so I was in Poland at the height of the Solidarity movement and witnessed the tremendous influence of the Catholic church giving refuge to Solidarity activists, and encouragement, and the tremendous role of the pope in encouraging that movement for freedom. And then I worked in El Salvador and Guatemala, Mexico, all of these places during the 80s when there was so much violence, and when the church again was just this tremendous sanctuary, and where Archbishop Romero, for instance, really led, was the spiritual force behind so much of the movement for freedom. And again, in Korea, South Korea, where the combination of the Catholic church and other Christian churches gave sanctuary, strength to the democracy movement there. And a few years ago, 2003, I went to Liberia. I have to tell you, virtually every country I’ve gone to, the Catholic church is on the cutting edge of social change. Really extraordinary. And I can tell you so many stories about that. But in Liberia, the Catholics account for about 7 percent of that population, and during the 14 year civil war, when Charles Taylor was the dictator, the Catholic church was the only institution that kept schools open and kept hospitals open. And this is in a country that is maybe 70 percent Methodists, and they had a lot of missionaries there, but they weren’t able to keep those institutions open, and the government institutions closed down, but the Catholics kept them open, and so it has just played this enormously important role. And I saw the, you know, I went to the Catholic church program, which was rehabilitating child soldiers, and another Catholic church program, this was so incredibly moving, where they were bringing together people from two communities who had basically slaughtered each another. And that, and the Catholic church there also started their peace and justice program on the Catholic radio station, (which) was really the only voice of opposition throughout the Taylor regime, and the fellow who ran it was a guy called Kofi Woods, he was, because of his work, on those issues, with the Catholic church. He was picked up by the minister of justice and his three thugs during the Doe regime and tortured and left to rot in a prison cell, and then when the Taylor regime came into power…that minister of justice and those three thugs were picked up by Taylor, and thrown into the same prison cell he had been in. And he (Woods) had been freed, and he was a lawyer, and went to visit them, and he said, ‘I’ve come to see if you’ve been mistreated,’ and he said, ‘I will take your case for free,’ because there is no lawyer in the country who would defend them. So he went to defend his own torturers, and that was his sense of faith. So for me, I was witnessing the mighty spirit, and the tremendous capacity of this institution which was so much a part of my history, and my family, and my sense of spirituality and my vision of social justice in the world, and then coming back and hearing bishops who were protecting their turf instead of protecting children and playing three-card monte with the pedophile priests and blaming it on people who are gay. So it was important to me to resolve that.

Q: So when the sex abuse crisis exploded, were you surprised?
A: I guess I wasn’t so surprised that it was going on, because I think so many of us knew, or had heard stories, or had friends who that had happened to. The thing that was surprising to me in the sex abuse scandal was not that children were being abused by priests, but that the bishops were protecting them, and that the bishops were refusing to take responsibility for their own failure to protect. I think that was surprising and enormously disappointing and disturbing. But the thing that I came to realize in writing this book is that the church is not the candles and the robes and the beautiful cathedrals, and it’s not the bishops and what they do or don’t do, or the proclamations that come down from the Vatican on occasion, but it’s all of us. That’s the meaning of Catholicism — universal — and there are a billion Catholics. So it’s the community, a Catholicism based on the idea that we should love God and we should love one another. So, as Robert Drinan in this book pointed out, the pope apologized for 92 things that the Catholic church had done wrong, and he (Drinan) said, ‘These are fallible people and I expect them to do fallible things in the future as well.’ And so I think that that is a source of comfort for me, to view it sort of in that way, that we’re all fallible, and we’ll all make mistakes, but that this is an important institution to be part of.

Q: Did you ever toy with leaving the church?
A: No. Not precisely. There was a time, as I said, in between high school and when I got married, I guess, where it just wasn’t very central to my life, the church itself. But I was still always praying. So it was not, there wasn’t a time when I said, OK, I’m not going to be Catholic anymore. I think that’s a very, very, very difficult thing to do.

Q: Are you raising your daughters in the church?
A: Yeah, and I teach CCD at our local church, St. Patrick’s in Armonk, NY.

Q: You go to Mass?
A: Yeah.

Q: When did you start working on this project?
A: In November 2005.

Q: You could have written a memoir or something more journalistic. How did you think, I’m going to go talk to other people?
A: Well there were two ways that I thought about that. One is I wrote another book, called Speak Truth to Power, and that is interviews with human rights defenders around the world, and I greatly enjoyed that and I learned a lot from talking to other people, and so that’s why I chose to approach it in this particular way.

Q: Do you think you did it because you hungered to do another book, or was there something personally you were hoping to get?
A: I was trying to resolve that issue, of how do people who disagree with what the institutional church is saying to them look themselves in the mirror and say, ‘I am a Catholic.’ And what I found is that absolutely everybody disagrees with the church. The cardinals disagree with the church, and the nuns and the priests, and even Tom Monaghan disagrees with the church, so everybody has a disagreement, which is interesting to me. It’s just not a monolith at all. It’s an enormous organism with a lot of moving parts and people with strong opinions and I think that that’s good. I also think that Catholicism is inherently about contradiction. So much of the New Testament is about Christ arguing with the Pharisees and with the scribes and with the Jewish leaders of the day, and as Pope Benedict said, it’s a quest for the truth. And so if you’re going to have a quest for the truth, you’re going to have a lot of questioning of authority. And we’re taught to have obedience to authority, but we’re also taught to revere saints, so many of whom were burnt at the stake or martyred because they questioned authority. And then we are told that Christ has died but Christ is coming again. And when Catholics say I don’t understand this, how can this really be transformed into the blood of Christ, is this really the body of Christ that we are eating now, they are told, ‘That’s the mystery,’ and ‘Go in peace,’ and that’s sort of it. And so I think that, in a way, I think it’s good, because it prepares us to deal with so many other parts of life, where there are conflicting emotions. At the moment of greatest love, there is greatest fear, and at the moment of enormous repression, there is resistance, and therefore a chance at revolutionary change. And so I think our lives are full of contradictions.

Q: How did you come up with the list of who you wanted to talk to?
A: Well, I wanted a diversity of people, from a lot of different professions, so there’s historians and doctors and comedians, political commentators and politicians, and so a diversity of professions. And I wanted people who are known to have a strong intellectual sensibility on some issue, not necessarily on this one, and then I wanted a mix of men and women.

Q: Were most of them people you already knew?
A: It was a combination, and there’s also people who are conservative, from the conservative side of the church, and more progressive side of the church, and then there are also Democrats and Republicans, you know, Bill O’Reilly to Bill Maher.

Q: Did anybody turn you down?
A: One person.

Q: Do you want to tell me who?
A: No.

Q: And how did people respond when you said, ‘I want to explore with you how you relate to this faith’?
A: They were very open about it, and enthusiastic about talking about it, and it was kind of great, because a lot of the people I talked to are used to interviews — you must find this as well — but they’re not used to interviews about this. And so there’s a kind of raw honesty that you get in discussing this subject with people who don’t discuss it professionally, and insight that you might not otherwise get. And a lot of them were very funny, and wonderful. Nancy Pelosi saying, ‘My mother always wanted me to be a nun,’ and then I said, ‘But did you want to be a nun?’ and she said, ‘No, I wanted to be a priest.’ And Susan Sarandon, who said that during her first days at Catholic school, she was told that she had an overabundance of original sin. And Bill Maher, who is so, basically he said ‘I’m on a mission, I’ve been given this gift, to stop organized religion.’ He’s very funny, in talking about the number of people who God slaughtered in the Old Testament, Sodom and Gomorrah alone…Some of it is kind of funny and ridiculous like that, and then a lot of it was very deep. One of the people who I was surprised by in my interview was Andrew Sullivan, because I disagree with almost everything he’s ever said or written politically, and yet, on this subject, he was so deep and passionate and reflective — it was very, very interesting to me, about what it means to be a devoted Catholic and gay and HIV-positive, and how he grapples with that. And then some of them were deeply moving. Gabriel Byrne talking about being a victim of pedophilia when he was a child, and how he attempted to grapple with that, and Danny McNevin, talking about the same issue, and then of course Anne Burke who led the independent audit committee was fascinating about her frustration with the bishops in trying to get them to take responsibility for the crisis, and yet how that experience really deepened her faith.

Q: How did you choose Cardinal McCarrick?
A: I have always deeply admired him, and it was actually kind of interesting, because I think he’s mentioned in four different interviews in my book as somebody who others admired — John Sweeney and E.J. Dionne and Andrew Sullivan. So there you go — for Cardinal McCarrick to be admired by that diversity of people is pretty extraordinary. So I went to talk to him and you know what’s amazing is he said that he started school in a classroom where they had three kids to a bench and 70 kids in his class — I think that was first grade or kindergarten — can you imagine? How — I mean, if you spend even five minutes with six year olds, trying to imagine organizing 70 of them, it’s pretty incredible.

Q: What surprised you?
A: There were pleasant surprises, moments of laughter in interviews that were unexpected, and moments of insight, for instance, talking to Andrew Sullivan as I just mentioned, or when Bob Drinan was talking about abortion rights, and in the midst of this discussion he was having with me, we were in his office and the phone started to ring, and he said, ‘Oh, that’s the pope, telling me to shut up.’ And so that was kind of funny. And different things were sort of wonderful. Donna Brazile…told a very, very moving story about her wanting as a child, knowing as a child, that she’d grow up to be a priest, and that in her youngest years the black kids, the black families had to stay in the back of the church, and then after Martin Luther King died they could move more and more forward, and then she, at a certain point, would get to the church, she’d make sure she was in the front row, because she had to see what the priest was going to do, because she was going to be a priest, and she had to know what he was doing up there. And how when he would preach, she would listen to what he’d say, and then go back and read the Bible passage and see if she agreed with him or not, and come back and ask him questions. A very active, involved and engaged child. And when her mother asked her in passing one day what she was going to do, and she mentioned she was going to be a priest, (she learned) to her shock, that women couldn’t be priests, it’s just not possible…So there were things like that, that were very moving. And again, I think Danny McNevin’s story about the impact of being a victim of pedophilia, on him and his family, is deeply moving, and his quest to seek justice, and how difficult that has been.

Q: So how did all this affect your faith?
A: You know, it deepened it tremendously. And the sense of spirituality, I think primarily because I started thinking about it. You’re writing a book about something, you start thinking about it a lot more, and talking to people about it a lot more, and learning about it, and that has been a wonderful experience. I also happen to belong to a fantastic parish in Armonk, New York, and I have a great, great, great, great pastor, who is always quoting Dorothy Day, and puts a picture of Gandhi with a halo over his head on the altar.

Q: You say it deepened your faith but also you were confronted by so much injury — these girls who wanted to be priests, these boys who were abused, the gay man — over and over again you ran into people who have conflict with the church in some way. How do you think about that?
A: I think that the church has done enormous harm over the years, and continues to do enormous harm to people in different ways. The institutional church does that. But that is separate and apart from my sense of connection to the Almighty, when I pray. And that is something that I think is part of the mission of being a Catholic is to expose those areas of injustice, and try to confront them, and I hope through this book I have advanced that in some small way.

Q: What is your hope that readers will take away from this?
A: I hope that they’ll feel like they’re not alone…I hope that people will feel that there are a lot of others out there who are grappling with the same issues: Should I raise my children Catholic? What does that mean? Am I a good Catholic? What does it mean to be a good Catholic today? If I’m not following the way I was taught as a child, or that my parents approached the religion, does that mean that I’m somehow missing something, or that I’m bad? And I hope also that others might feel a sense that the essence, the goodness of Catholicism, of that relationship with God, of that sense of love, can be embraced without embracing the parts of the institutional church which are anathema to your values, to one’s values.

Q: You work in the human rights world, you live in the Democratic political orbit, do you find that you have to defend being Catholic?
A: Sometimes, yes. I mean, people aren’t openly aggressive about it, but there is, yes, skepticism, and sort of, sometimes a look of confusion.

Q: How do you think being a Kennedy affects your relationship to the Catholic Church?
A: Traditionally there was a very strong one, I think, in my grandparents era, and in my parents. I don’t have a particular relationship with the hierarchy of the church. I have wonderfully important relationships with people who are at different stages of that hierarchy — some higher and some lower, but it’s not an institutional relationship. But I’m also not in political office, so it’s just a little bit different.





RFK Honored at Democratic Convention

29 08 2008

ROBERT F. KENNEDY MEMORIAL 40TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION IN DENVER

* Those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to make it to Denver for the DNC, here’s what you missed Wednesday. The Kennedy family, friends, and longtime supporters gathered at the Brown Palace Hotel to remember RFK and celebrate his legacy.

We bring you coverage of this star-studded event from local and national sources below. According to all accounts we’ve heard so far, RFK Jr. was the star of the show!

The New York Daily News certainly thought so…check out this glowing review:

Bobby Kennedy Jr. politely dodged questions about his political future now that Hillary Clinton won’t be vacating her U.S. Senate seat. But he gave such a rousing speech at a Denver benefit for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial on Wednesday that admirers urged him to run for something soon.

Building on the emotional appearance of Uncle Ted at the Democratic convention two days earlier, Kennedy departed from his usual environmental concerns to connect his father’s mission with the state of America today.

“When I was 13, I went on a trip to Europe with my father and mother,” he recalled. “We went to Czechoslovakia and Poland and Germany. We were greeted by hundreds of thousands of people, who came to hear an American politician. It wasn’t because [President Kennedy] had been martyred three years before. Even when Eisenhower went to Kabul and Tehran, he was met by thousands of Muslims who carried American flags.

“It took 230 years of discipline and restrained leadership by Republican and Democratic Presidents to build up a reservoir of love for the U.S. In the last seven years, through incompetence, we have drained those reservoirs dry.”

Kennedy went on to indict the Bush administration for “torture, suspending habeas corpus and eavesdropping on hundreds of thousands of people.”

Naturally, the call to arms was cheered by the Democratic crowd, who included New York Gov. David Patterson, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Rev. Al Sharpton, Fran Drescher, Aisha Taylor, Gloria Rubin and Giancarlo Esposito.

Though Ted Kennedy was back in Massachusetts continuing his cancer treatment, 80-year-old Ethel Kennedy came with a flock of children and grandchildren. Her daughter Kerry, who’s been at the front of the RFK Memorial’s human rights crusade, told us she’s thought about running, “but I’m divorced with three kids. Right now, I want to be a mother.”

What about rumors that her increasingly visible cousin, Caroline Kennedy, might run for office?

“I don’t know,” said Kerry, “but she’d be so great. She really has the capacity to bring people together.” Bobby agreed: “We’d all be delighted to see her [run].”

Meanwhile, Gov. Patterson confirmed that the Triborough Bridge would be officially renamed the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge on Nov. 19.

* Here’s what the local Denver CBS affiliate had to say of the RFK Memorial event:

A special tribute to Senator Robert F Kennedy in Denver

A special tribute to Senator Robert F Kennedy in Denver

DENVER (CBS4) ― The Democrats are celebrating their historic nomination this week as Barack Obama becomes the first African American candidate from a major party to run for president. But the party is also celebrating its heritage and the Kennedy family has been the focus of several events.

Many of the Kennedys joined other dignitaries to honor the legacy of another member of the family, Robert F. Kennedy, on Wednesday.

There were Kennedys everywhere: Ethel, Patrick, Robert Jr., Kathleen and Max were all at the event. Also on hand were the Clintons, Gov. Paterson of New York and Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.

“The life he lived was based on hope and bringing the people together,” Max said. “If you look just at that one photograph of my dad with Cesar Chavez breaking bread together … I think that encapsulates the idea of the United States coming together for the first time.”

“He was also one that stepped outside the establishment,” Rev. Al Sharpton said. “To oppose the war in Vietnam he showed courage, he showed vision and ultimately it cost him his life.”

The event was held by the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, an organization that focuses on human rights and social justice.

VIDEO of the event is available on the CBS4Denver website…the link probably won’t be active for long, so check it out while you can!





RFK Jr. Events During DNC Week in Denver

11 08 2008
Will RFK Jr. address the convention? Stay tuned...

Will RFK Jr. address the convention? Stay tuned...

RFK JR. EVENTS ANNOUNCED FOR DNC WEEK, AUG. 25-28, 2008

If you’re headed to Denver for this year’s historic Democratic National Convention, here are a couple of events you won’t want to miss:

On Wednesday, August 27, the Kennedy family hosts a celebration of the RFK Memorial’s 40th Anniversary featuring:

Ethel Kennedy
Beth and Joseph Kennedy, II
Kathleen and David Townsend
Mary and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Senator and Mrs. Edward M. Kennedy
Kerry Kennedy
Vicki and Max Kennedy
Senator Hillary Clinton
Mayor John Hickenlooper
Senator John Kerry
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid

This once-in-a-lifetime affair brings together family and friends to mark 40 years of making a difference and will benefit the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial.

The reception is from 3:30 PM – 5:30 PM on August 27 at Denver’s
Brown Palace Hotel, 321 17th Street.

TICKETS:

Champion: $5,000

Activist: $1,000

Advocate: $500

To RSVP or for more information call: 202-463-7575, ext. 301

Click here to view PDF File of Printable RSVP Card:
http://www.rfkmemorial.org/human_rights/Denver_RSVP.pdf

KENNEDY ALSO ADDRESSES SOLAR ENERGY FESTIVAL

Looks like that Wednesday will be a busy one for Bobby. He’s also slated to give the keynote address at SUNFEST, hosted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) at Coors Field in Denver.

The solar festival will not only feature the speech from RFK Jr. and remarks by national and local elected officials, but the latest in solar energy technology will be on display for the public along with live entertainment by the Chuck McDermott Band (band that performs with Bonnie Raitt) and other celebrity guests.

Certainly sets a good tone for what is being touted as the “greenest” political convention in history.

Here’s the lowdown:

WHAT: SEIA SUNFEST 2008 outdoor concert and solar festival

WHO: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter
U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (CO)
U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (CO-7)
U.S. Representative John Hall (NY-19)
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper
Rhone Resch, president of SEIA

WHEN: Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Noon — 4 p.m. MDT

WHERE: Coors Field
2001 Blake Street
(Entrance on Wynkoop Walkway and 19th Street)

Some of our more observant readers may have already noticed that Kennedy’s engagements seem to overlap that afternoon. Sunfest runs from noon-4 p.m. and the RFK Memorial reception is from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., so a bit of creative scheduling might be required if you plan to attend both events. The good news is – they are just a few blocks apart and shuttles run constantly.

As for the Really Big Question we keep getting asked – “is RFK Jr. going to speak at the convention?” – we ask you to hang in there a little bit longer while details of who’s-speaking-when are being finalized. An announcement will be posted here very, very soon…





Op-Ed: Whoops, They Did It Again

8 06 2008

OK, THIS IS NOT AMUSING ANYMORE

The mainstream media continues to fail us day after day (just ask Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who regularly reports stories establishment media won’t go near) – and here lately their reporting on the Kennedy family in particular has gone from bad to worse to positively abysmal.

If you’ve been reading this blog in recent weeks, you know we’ve been highly critical of the media’s hysterical coverage of Sen. Ted Kennedy’s illness, and the endless, pointless pontificating on Hillary Clinton’s recent comments about the RFK assassination.

We’ve also given `em hell (and rightfully so) when they failed to demonstrate a basic ability to spell and fact-check stories about the Kennedys prior to publication — and then for not printing corrections once the damage was done. 

We’re not complaining about trivial little errors here. We’re talking whoppers, the kind of stuff that makes you scratch your head and wonder what qualifications one needs to become a journalist, or a copy editor, these days.

We’re not talking about small newspapers or independent bloggers making mistakes – oh, no – we’re talking about the biggest names in media: The New York Times, CNN, NBC, CBS, Fox News…you name it, they’ve mucked it up.

Most recently, we tore ABC News a new one for printing perhaps the most absurd wonder blunder we’ve ever seen – a story which asserts that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is, quite incredibly, the son of John F. Kennedy. (See related story, “ABC News Can’t Keep Their Kennedys Straight.”)

And we’re not just bitching about isolated errors popping up every once in a while. What we’ve witnessed over the past month alone in the media sphere of nonstop Kennedy coverage is an epidemic of poor research and reporting, combined with sloppy editing and irresponsible choices at the top levels of these newsroom hierarchies.

To run stories chock full of inaccuracies — when it’s so damned easy to catch and fix these massive screw-ups before they wind up embarrassing you (and your illustrious news organization) in print — is a transgression these great bastions of American journalism should have to answer for. But so far, no one is holding them accountable.

THE BOSTON GLOBE’S BIG BOO-BOO

Latest infuriating case in point: The Boston Globe’s May 11th review of Ted Sorensen’s new White House memoir, “Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History.” (The book itself is a marvelous read, by the way. If you don’t have it, get it!)

The book review was penned by Douglas Brinkley, distinguished author, history professor and “presidential historian.” Not that he doesn’t have the academic cred to back up that fancy pants title – he does – which leaves him absolutely no excuse for the colossal faux pas he committed in his recent Globe article. (Brinkley is a former director of the Theodore Roosevelt Center for American Civilization and taught history at Tulane University before he was “relocated” to Texas by Hurricane Katrina. Now we have to contend with him.)

By far the most astonishing thing about this latest media mistake is that it appeared in the Boston Globe, for crying out loud, the Kennedy clan’s hometown newspaper.

To my mind, and to that of many Americans, no U.S. news publication should bear a greater responsibility than the Boston Globe for accurately reporting All Things Kennedy. Of course, we expect every news organization to do their homework, but the Globe has only to look in their vast archives of Kennedy coverage — or even out their own back door — to get the story straight.

This time, they didn’t even bother. Not only has the Globe damaged its’ credibility among readers in Boston and elsewhere (who do know better) with this foul-up, they have also done a disservice to history; to Theodore Sorensen, and to the memory of President Kennedy.

JFK and Theodore Sorensen in the late 1950s

John F. Kennedy (left) and Ted Sorensen in the late 1950s. Sorensen began working for Kennedy as a research assistant in 1953. (PAUL SCHUTZER)

SAY WHAT?????

Upon reading the lede of the Globe’s book review, a smoking, flaming bomb of a boo-boo flies right up and smacks you in the face. (Hey, if you’re going to goof, do it big. And always make sure to put it in the first paragraph.)

Here’s the intro as originally published. How many of you can spot what’s wrong with this version of events?

When Ted Sorensen first heard the news on Nov. 22, 1963, that President John F. Kennedy had been shot, he fell into a state of zombie-like mourning. Struggling to control his emotions, he rushed to the Fish Room – the lounge across from the Oval Office – to watch CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite grimly report on the tragedy. Earlier that morning Sorensen had chatted with JFK near the White House helipad just before the president left for Dallas. Now, watching TV in a sullen trance, Sorensen doubted whether he would ever laugh again. The assassination had hit the 35-year-old special counsel harder than even his father’s death. “The news kept showing clips of the president delivering a speech earlier that day at a breakfast in Texas,” Sorensen recalled, “the same speech I had gone over with him in the Oval Office on the morning of his departure.”

Anyone who has ever done more than a cursory study of President Kennedy’s last day on earth know that he was not at the White House on the morning of November 22, 1963.

The President of the United States had been in Texas since the previous day on a goodwill tour, working to reunite warring factions of the state Democratic party and raising funds for the `64 campaign. Kennedy awoke that morning in Suite 850 of the Hotel Texas to a steady rain and 5,000 hardy souls standing in the parking lot beneath his window — all of them hoping for a smile; a word; a wave from their president.

Kennedy did brave the weather to address the crowd that morning, uttering that now-famous line: “There are no faint hearts in Ft. Worth!”

Apparently, the Boston Globe editors never heard this story, despite the fact that it is told in every printed account of Kennedy’s Final 24.

Don’t the copy editors up in Beantown at least have a copy of William Manchester’s JFK Assassination primer, The Death of a President, sitting on a reference shelf somewhere? All they had to do was hit the index.

Or maybe they could just read Ted Sorensen’s book. You know, the one they are reviewing here. Had anyone bothered to actually read it, there is no implication whatsoever from Sorensen that he spoke to Kennedy in person on Friday morning. As he describes that awful day in Counselor:

“The news kept showing clips of the president delivering a speech earlier that day at a breakfast in Texas,” Sorensen recalled, “the same speech I had gone over with him in the Oval Office on the morning of his departure.”

The morning of Kennedy’s departure was Thursday, November 21st, the previous day. I’d say that’s a rather important date to Mr. Sorensen. He remembers well the last time he saw the president – his dear friend – alive.

Nope, one doesn’t forget memories like that. But the Boston Globe does.

President Kennedy speaks at the hotel Texas, Fort worth. Nov. 22, 1963

Have no doubt: photographic proof of the President’s whereabouts on the last morning of his life. JFK (with Vice President Lyndon Johnson and Texas Governor John Connally behind him) addresses the crowd at Fort Worth’s Hotel Texas, November 22, 1963.

BUT WAIT…THERE’S MORE

While your head may still be reeling from a goof like that ever making it into print, hang on to your helmet because here comes another one.

Following right on the heels of the first flub, the second paragraph goes on to say:

With a writing style as smooth as ice cream, Sorensen’s “Kennedy” focused on such Cold War flashpoints as Cuba, Laos, Berlin, and Oxford, Miss. It recounted the famous “Ask Not” inaugural address that Sorensen had so brilliantly written.

Oh, brother…do we have to go through that again?

Sorensen did not write JFK’s inaugural address. His role would be best described as that of collaborator (actually, there were several cooks in Kennedy’s literary kitchen whose suggestions made the finished draft). The record on this has been clarified time and time again by none other than Sorensen himself.

For example, in his 1969 book The Kennedy Legacy (guess the Globe editors never read that one, either), Sorensen states that “the final shape of every text was always the President’s decision alone.”

Furthermore, we know that oftentimes throughout their decade-long collaboration, Kennedy would frequently carry a Sorensen speech to the podium only to ignore most of it, delivering instead his own extemporaneous oration. Sorensen was probably the greatest presidential speechwriter of the 20th Century, but his greatest skill lay in channeling Kennedy’s intellect. He himself has admitted this, writing that “in the vast majority of cases” Kennedy did not follow the speech he had prepared.

Sorensen has always loyally affirmed Kennedy’s authorship of the inaugural address. In Kennedy (Sorensen’s 1965 book noted above in the Globe’s review, which no one at the Boston Globe apparently bothered to speed-read), he insists that “the principal architect of the Inaugural Address was John Fitzgerald Kennedy.”

Could the man be any clearer than that? Then why does the mainstream media continue to get it wrong year after year, decade after decade?

JFK's handwritten notes for the 1961 inaugural address

Don’t Believe the Hype: one of JFK’s early drafts of the inaugural address, in his own practically illegible but nonetheless distinctive handwriting. Clearly a work in progress at this point, Kennedy is still toying with the language of “ask not what your country is going to do for you” instead of “can do for you.” (Larger images available for study at the National Archives’ website.)

FOR THE RECORD

If you might be tempted to think all this is much ado about nothing, think again. The issue of whether Kennedy composed his own inaugural address, or simply delivered Sorensen’s beautiful words, is not some arcane historical footnote. The speech is generally acknowledged to have been the greatest oration of any twentieth-century American politician. To deny the rightful author (JFK) full credit for it not only diminishes his legacy and weakens his claim on the hearts and minds of future generations, it also distances him, and us, from a speech that is a distillation of his experiences, philosophy, and character.

Erroneous assertions that Sorensen wrote JFK’s inaugural address have appeared frequently in the popular media through the years. In 1988, for example, Time magazine essayist Lance Morrow described Sorensen as “the author of so many of Kennedy’s speeches, including the inaugural.”

Even as late as 2002, PBS’s Great American Speeches series instructed U.S. schoolchildren everywhere that “John Kennedy’s inaugural address has been praised as one of the best public speeches ever…Kennedy, however, did not write the speech himself. Ted Sorensen did.”

None of these writers — including the illustrious Dr. Brinkley — offer any evidence that Sorensen wrote the Kennedy inaugural (but we offer clear and convincing evidence to the contrary; see image of Kennedy’s handwritten draft above). Instead, one detects the assumption that since speechwriters wrote the inaugural addresses of other presidents, one must have written Kennedy’s too, and that because Sorensen was the author of so many other Kennedy speeches, he must have been the author of this one as well.

But just because so many other media outlets made the same error before you is never an excuse to continue to perpetuate a falsehood, especially when there is clear documentary evidence to the contrary readily available. If a media outlet should do so knowingly, they might be well considered part of some elaborate conspiracy to undermine President Kennedy’s historical importance and intellectual abilities.

Now of course, we know the mainstream media has too much integrity to ever engage in such a thing, let alone an eminent historian like Douglas Brinkley, so therefore we must conclude that errors like these are not made out of any sense of spite or jealousy, but are rather the result of either laziness or ignorance.

That’s no comfort to me. How about you? What does it say about us as a society if our “best and brightest” historians and news editors are so ignorant of basic facts regarding any American president? And what kind of future historians, journalists and editors will we be sending into the workforce of the Fourth Estate in years to come? Isn’t that a scary thought?

Here’s an even scarier one: Douglas Brinkley is not only an esteemed “presidential historian,” he also is a Professor of History at Rice University in Houston. He’s a Senior Fellow at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and was asked by former U.S. Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Warren Christopher to be part of a commission studying Presidential War Powers. Obviously, Professor Brinkley has friends in very high places, and is often called upon to “interpret” history for them.

And if that doesn’t sufficiently frighten you, he’s also the staff historian at CBS News.

Douglas Brinkley charicature from slate

PROFESSOR OF POP HISTORY 101

Now let’s throw another log of irony on this already-searing fire: Brinkley was once a friend of John F. Kennedy Jr.’s and a contributing editor at Kennedy’s George magazine. But in the days immediately following JFK Jr.’s 1999 fatal plane crash, Brinkley quickly became “the William Ginsberg of the Kennedy Death Circus” (so said Slate’s David Plotz), appearing on MSNBC, Late Edition, Meet the Press, Good Morning America, Dateline, Today (twice), and NPR (twice). He also penned columns about his relationship with Kennedy for Newsweek and the New York Times, and was quoted everywhere else ink touches paper.

According to the Washington Post, Brinkley cut a $10,000 deal with NBC for a week of exclusive Kennedy commentary after JFK Jr.’s death, but then agreed to provide it pro bono. Editors at George were reportedly so annoyed about Brinkley’s death punditry that they dropped him from the masthead.

But Brinkley somehow managed to work his way back into the family’s good graces after that, and over the next near-decade became known as some sort of Kennedy authority; the talking head to call for analysis whenever something happened in the Kennedy kingdom.

He even won the prestigious 2007 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for “The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” a work which was highly praised by his fellow presidential historian and Kennedy aide Arthur Schlesinger before his death. 

Brinkley has been touted as one hip history professor, an historian for a new generation of Americans. He believes Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson are the giants of American literature. He quotes Ramones lyrics. He’s an idealist and a Democrat who by all accounts loves the Kennedys. So how could he make such glaring, easily avoidable mistakes in this Globe piece? What kind of reputable historian and “authority on the Kennedys” could let those elephants silp quietly by?

And why on earth didn’t the Boston Globe editors catch them before the story was allowed to be printed?

I’ll leave that question to our readers. I’m quite certain you will have a few thoughts to add on the swift deterioration of our intellectual and journalistic standards in America, of which this is just another shining example.

For those who actually do care about what our children and grandchildren will be taught as “history,” it’s enough to make you want to home school. And for those in the news profession who still care about accuracy, credibility and earning the people’s trust, it’s enough to make you want to go out and start your own media empire, dammit.

With the explosion of independent media and the blogosphere, these new contemporary documentarians often do a better job of reporting the news than their overpaid brethren over at World News Headquarters in New York, Washington D.C. or even Boston.

Perhaps fortunately for Brinkley, the Boston Globe did not open his book review to public comments, or they likely would have been besieged by a rein of rotten virtual tomatoes over the past two weeks. But you can still write a Letter to the Editor through their website if you’d like to let them know of your displeasure.  We heartily encourage you to do so.

THE GOOD NEWS: WE STILL HAVE C-SPAN

If you’re looking for unfiltered coverage of news and events the mainstream media won’t touch (or perhaps because they screw up everything they touch) – such as important testimony before Congress, how your elected reps are voting, or the libertarian party convention, C-SPAN is the only place you’re going to get it. 

And if the mainstream media’s butchering of the Kennedy legacy is starting to get tiresome; if you’re weary of all the nonstop, fawning punditry we’ve had to tolerate lately in the wake of Sen. Kennedy’s cancer diagnosis, Clinton’s “Assassingate,” and the 40th anniversary of RFK’s murder, you might want to keep an eye on C-SPAN over the next couple weeks. They will be broadcasting several programs to remember RFK’s legacy in a low-key, respectful manner.

The first of which we caught live last week; a special symposium and panel discussion on the 1968 campaign of Robert F. Kennedy. Hosted at Washington D.C.’s Newseum, the program featured many of Kennedy’s closest surviving friends sharing their memories of him and was deeply moving to watch.

“To Seek a Newer World: A Symposium on the Life and Legacy of Robert F. Kennedy” was sponsored by the Freedom Forum, Vanderbilt University and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial. Kennedy’s widow Ethel and daughter Kathleen Kennedy-Townsend also attended the panel discussion, and were on hand to present the annual Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards later that evening.

Former Kennedy associates John Doar, Peter Edelman, Frank Mankiewicz, John Nolan, John Seigenthaler, James E. Tolan, William Vanden Heuvel, and Charles McDew spoke at length about RFK’s 1968 campaign and the transformative effect his all-too-brief bid for the presidency had on America.

C-SPAN will most likely rebroadcast this program in the days ahead, so keep an eye out for that. You can also watch the video online for free once it has been added to the C-SPAN Archives website.

And just thank your lucky stars (or your cable/satellite provider) for C-SPAN. In the barren desert wasteland of cable news these days, C-SPAN is an oasis, the only network we have left which still serves the public interest, not corporate interests.

 

* Copyright RFKin2008.com. The opinions expressed in this editorial are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the Kennedy family, or the owners of this website.





NY State Renames Triborough Bridge for RFK

7 06 2008

Former U.S. Attorney General and Senator from New York, Robert F. Kennedy

NEW YORK STATE ASSEMBLY RENAMES TRIBOROUGH BRIDGE THE ROBERT F. KENNEDY BRIDGE

 Albany, New York, — The New York State Assembly approved legislation on June 5 to rename the Triborough Bridge in New York City as the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge.

The bill passed the State Senate on April 8, and now heads to the desk of Governor David Paterson for signing.

Forty years after Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign, the bridge would become the first major public work dedicated to Kennedy in New York State, where he served as U.S. Senator from 1965-1968.

“On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the tragic assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, I commend the NYS Legislature on the passage of this bill which appropriately recognizes the enormous contribution of an exemplary New Yorker. Robert F. Kennedy enriched us all through his efforts to advance civil rights, fight poverty and provide unity during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history. I continue to be inspired by his words, his work and his legacy,” said Governor David A. Paterson.

“Forty years ago, our nation lost one of its most influential sons, Robert F. Kennedy. I can’t think of a more fitting honor than dedicating a bridge after a man who committed his life to bridging the gaps that divided humanity, first as U.S. Attorney General, and then as a Senator from the great State of New York,” said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. “Renaming this bridge after Robert F. Kennedy is more than a symbolic gesture — by doing so, we are ensuring that future generations of New Yorkers, and people from across the world, will remember the remarkable contributions of a great man who devoted his life to making this world a better place.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, “I am proud to sponsor and the People’s House of the State Legislature is proud to pass this historic legislation renaming New York’s majestic Triborough Bridge as the Senator Robert F. Kennedy Bridge. Bobby Kennedy served our state and our nation with courage and compassion. On this the 40th anniversary of his assassination, this renaming is a fitting tribute to a great American leader who gave his life striving to bridge the gaps that divide our people. As we continue striving to transform his vision to reality, let us be guided by Senator Kennedy’s eloquence: ‘Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. The work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, will determine our destiny.’

“This is a tremendous honor. Our family is overjoyed,” said Ethel Kennedy. “I love that the city he knew and cared about returns his devotion. Our family is enormously grateful for this glorious celebration of his life.”

”Robert Kennedy loved New York, he grew up there and considered it his home, dedicating much of his final years to improving the quality of life for its most vulnerable citizens” said his son, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., top environmental lawyer and advocate. “He would be humbled by the symbolism of the structure bearing his name.”

“On the fortieth anniversary of his last campaign, naming the span across three boroughs is a tremendous tribute to Robert Kennedy’s commitment to bridging divides between black and white, rich and poor, young and old, and to his commitment to creating a more just and peaceful world,” said Kerry Kennedy, founder, Robert F Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.

The Triborough Bridge is located on Interstate 278 and is operated by the State of New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. Opened in 1936, the facility now consists of three bridges, a viaduct, and 14 miles of approach roads connecting Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx. The bridge serves as a well traveled connection for those heading to destinations in New York City, Long Island and Upstate New York.

While representing New York, Senator Kennedy initiated numerous projects for the state’s residents, including assistance to underprivileged children and students with disabilities and the establishment of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation to improve living conditions and employment opportunities for residents in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. The cutting-edge program became a model for urban renewal and community development across the nation.

Robert F. Kennedy boldly faced tough problems and challenged the comfortable and complacent. To keep his vision alive, his family and friends founded a living memorial in 1968. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial is a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the human rights movement through providing innovative support to human rights defenders around the world who have won the RFK Human Rights Award. Every year the RFK Memorial honors leading investigative journalists and authors who bring light to injustice through the RFK Book and Journalism Awards. Through the combined power of arts and education, the RFK Memorial’s SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER program seeks to proactively engage the general public by bringing human rights activists and their work into contact with ever-increasing audiences. Over the past four years, SPEAK TRUTH has grown from a book by Kerry Kennedy exploring courage in the words of leading human rights defenders to a moving and inspirational play by Ariel Dorfman, a photographic exhibition by Pulitzer Prize-winner Eddie Adams, a PBS documentary, an educational packet, and a series of public service announcements.

Source: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial (www.rfkmemorial.org)