To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, Westchester Magazine conducted an exclusive interview with RFK’s daughter Kerry Kennedy. The Bedford resident continues her father’s legacy through her work with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization and through the publication of her new book, Robert F. Kennedy: Ripples of Hope. Recently, Kennedy held a lecture at The Bedford Playhouse, which included a screening of the Oscar-winning 1968 Charles Guggenheim documentary, Robert Kennedy Remembered.
WM: Why do you think your family still captivates Americans after so much time?
KK: My uncles Jack, Teddy, and Joe, and my aunts Kick, Eunice, Rosemary, Pat, and Jean, were raised the same way my father was — to serve our country and the community, to create a more just and peaceful world, to seek out those who are struggling for justice and align oneself with them. I am happy to see my generation and my children’s generation embrace that same vision of a meaningful life. I think it’s a basically optimistic stance, a very American way of approaching life, one that is shared by most people.
WM: Is there anything about your father that you wish readers could know?
KK: I want readers to come away understanding my father’s moral imagination — how he could bring us back from the brink of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis by understanding that both Khrushchev and Uncle Jack were facing their own military-industrial complexes, even though both men wanted to avoid war. Or speaking to a crowd in Indianapolis on the night Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and telling people who were filled with anger that he understood their pain but that we should take that pain and turn away from division and lawlessness, and toward compassion for one another. Imagine that in a leader today.
Photo courtesy of Kennedy Family Collection
WM: What is a childhood memory of yours that is not well known?
KK: I remember going to my dad’s bathroom in the mornings. He was always listening to Shakespeare on the record player. He would remove the blade from a razor, hand me the Noxzema, and we would both spread shaving cream on our faces and “shave” together. It was a little morning routine, one I will always treasure.
WM: Has living in Westchester had an impact on your life in any way? If so, how?
KK: Westchester was an ideal place to raise my three daughters. They spent hours walking in the woods, catching tadpoles, hunting for salamanders, listening to owls at night; they loved participating in community drama, crafts, and arts programs. They enjoyed an enriching sense of faith at St. Patrick’s in Armonk. They volunteered at Neighbor’s Link in Mount Kisco, working with children of day laborers. And they went to top-quality public schools.