This year marks the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. On June 7, his daughter (and Westchester resident) Kerry Kennedy visited the newly renovated Bedford Playhouse to join guests for a screening of Robert F. Kennedy Remembered, the Academy Award-winning documentary that was filmed in four weeks and released just two months after RFK was killed at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
Kerry Kennedy, who heads the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, held a Q&A after the screening to speak about her father’s legacy and her new book, Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope. Published by Center Street, Ripples of Hope includes interviews with Bono, Barack Obama, John Lewis, George Clooney, and others. We had the chance to speak with Kerry recently regarding her father’s influence on America, her experience writing her book, and about living in Westchester.
KK: My father spent much of his presidential campaign focused on two issues: healing divisions and addressing poverty and injustice. Both of those issues are at the forefront of the wrenching divide we face as a nation today. I grew up in a political family, and I am well aware that the easiest way to win an election is by playing on people’s fear, and appealing to their anger and hatred. That’s how too many powerful political leaders have won office in our country. But my father sought a different path. He said, “Justice, and peace and compassion towards those who suffer, that’s what the United States should stand for, and that’s what I’ll do if I’m elected president.” I think Americans are yearning for that message today.
Even today, 50 years later, we see young people carrying forward his message of hope and activism on issues as diverse as racial justice, gun safety and alleviating the crushing weight of poverty across the country. This year we honored the Parkland students of March For Our Lives, the Standing Rock students who led the #NoDAPL at the International Indigenous Youth Council, the DACA recipients defending DREAMers at United We Dream, and the racial justice activists at Color of Change. My father would have been proud to stand with them.
Throughout my life people have told me that RFK was their hero. I sought to speak with a wide range of people, all whom have had an outsized influence on our country, all whom consider RFK their lodestar. They are rich and poor; African American, Latina, Native American, white and more; they are 17 years old to 90 years old; they are presidents, leaders of industry, entertainers, and social justice activists — Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Bono, George Clooney, Gloria Steinem, Tim Cook, and Howard Schultz. It was inspiring to learn about how my father changed the lives of everyone I spoke to — whether they knew Daddy personally or not. Hillary Clinton once described herself as a Rorschach test, that when you ask how someone sees her, you learn a lot about the person answering the question — and I think my father was the same way. People saw their hopes and ambitions in him, and that shaped how they viewed my father. So it’s a fun read; you gain deep insight into people most of us think we know.
Everyone can take action in his or her own way. These stories are so different and personal, but each one emphasizes the power of standing up, speaking truth to power and being part of a positive change in the world.
For me, Westchester is primarily about community, and the ability to enjoy nature.