BOSTON (AP) — John F. Kennedy didn’t make it even halfway to 100 — a milestone he might have celebrated next week — but the slain U.S. president’s legacy is being lived out by his descendants.
The nation’s 35th president was born on May 29, 1917, in the leafy Boston suburb of Brookline. Before he was felled at age 46 by an assassin’s bullets in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, the charismatic Kennedy cast a broad vision of America as a global force for peace — and challenged citizens to play active roles in making it the kind of democracy they wanted it to be.
That rallying cry from his inaugural address — “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” — is etched both in stone and in the minds of generations of Americans.
Like the Kennedys no longer with us — U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Robert F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr. — many members of the political dynasty living today say their public service is inspired by JFK.
In their own words, culled from public appearances and interviews with The Associated Press, they explain how:
JOE KENNEDY III
Relation: JFK’s great-nephew
Occupation: Democratic U.S. representative from Massachusetts
Inspiration: “I hear every day from people who stop me in the street — my colleagues in Washington: Democrats and Republicans alike — who say they were inspired into public service because of President Kennedy and how he challenged America. And I think you’ve seen particularly with the generation coming of age now, folks who are ready to be challenged, ready to answer a call.” — to AP on May 7
Relation: JFK’s daughter
Occupation: Attorney; author; former U.S. ambassador to Japan
Inspiration: “My father put the full force of the federal government on the side of those seeking the rights to which they were entitled. That willingness to face history — to include everyone in the American Dream regardless of race, religion, gender or disability — is a legacy that I’m proud of. … As his family, we are proud of what he stood for, and its continuing power.” — at May 7 Profile in Courage Award ceremony
Relation: JFK’s nephew
Occupation: Mental health advocate; former U.S. representative from Rhode Island
Inspiration: “I would say the thing that inspired me the most about President Kennedy’s sense of public service is what I’ve seen it inspire in other people. … Everyone that I meet over the course of my life all told me stories of how their lives were transformed because they decide to go into the Peace Corps, because they decided to be involved in civic action, civil rights, social justice causes.” — to AP on May 15
JOSEPH P. KENNEDY II
Relation: JFK’s nephew
Occupation: President and CEO, Citizens Energy Corp.; ex-U.S. congressman
Inspiration: “In my younger years, when I thought of President Kennedy, I thought of him as my Uncle Jack. He was looked up to by everyone — all our family and all who surrounded him. The only person he would be different around was my father. Somehow my father changed the atmosphere when he entered the room. I remember the two of them going through this unbelievable campaign, and then President Kennedy giving that extraordinary inaugural address, which my father made me memorize. He made everyone feel so good about our country. He created a spirit that allowed us to launch a war on poverty, to believe that we could get to the moon, that we could eliminate the scourge of hunger in America. So many wonderful things were going to happen — and did happen — because he showed us what we could stand for as a people. It was a time when everything seemed possible in this great country.” — to AP on May 23
Relation: JFK’s nephew
Occupation: Businessman; candidate for governor of Illinois
Inspiration: “People will know what is in my heart. They will know what my family taught me — they will know my values and my goals.” — on Feb. 8, announcing bid for governor
Relation: JFK’s niece
Occupation: NBC journalist, author
Inspiration: “As a young girl growing up in our family, I think we were all raised with the idea that you’d better do something. … I’m also a big believer that government isn’t the only place to ask yourself what you can do. … I still believe that politics is a really great place to make an impact, but I also believe that that message is bigger than just elected office. I think you can make an impact in business, in nonprofits, as journalists, as filmmakers.” — at Harvard symposium on April 21
Relation: JFK’s grandson
Inspiration: “My grandfather believed that at its best, politics and public service can be a noble profession. … As a young person living in the world today, wondering what I can and should do to build a future that I can be proud of, I often feel overwhelmed or dismayed or angry or some combination of the three. It’s helpful, I find in these moments, to remember that the world of the 1960s was challenging and complicated, as well.” — at May 7 Profile in Courage Award ceremony.
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