Joe Kennedy Makes a Wake-Up Call to the Powers That Be at JFK Library

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Somewhere the ghost of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., the founding father of the Kennedy dynasty, is smiling.

Old Joe was as tough and driven as they come. He had to succeed, in business and in politics. He had to win.

And he hammered that competitive spirit into his children. Second place was never good enough. He wouldn't pat his kids on the head when they lost and say, "It's OK, you did your best."

That's why he'd understand what his grandson and namesake, Joseph P. Kennedy, II, is up to now.

In a story that broke today in the New York Times, ("Family of Robert F. Kennedy Rethinks His Place at Library"), Young Joe went public with his family's disappointment that the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston has not done enough to honor the legacy of his late father, Robert F. Kennedy.

Apparently, the family of RFK has felt for a long time that the man and his deeds have not been properly recognized at the JFK Library, as they have refused to sign the final documents handing RFK's papers over to the library.

Now, with plans barreling forward to construct the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate on a parcel adjoining the library, those qualms have worsened. Listen to what Joe Kennedy, a former Congressman and now head of Citizens Energy Corp., told the New York Times:

"There is a very large building, and there is a remembrance of President Kennedy and there's one for Senator Edward Kennedy. But there is nothing out there (the JFK Library) for Robert Kennedy."

Hints were dropped that RFK's widow, Ethel, and children could remove his papers from the JFK Library and place them with another institution that would give them their due -- although Kennedy emphasized that the family's "ultimate hope and desire" is to have them housed permanently at the library.

So you can chalk this up to the family wanting to make a wake-up call to the library's board and management. Petulant?

I don't think so.

Bobby Kennedy managed his brother John's campaign for President in 1960 and was the pivotal figure, as Attorney General, in his administration. In 1964, he got himself elected Senator from New York, no mean feat, and was well on his way to the Democratic nomination for President in 1968 when he was killed the night he won the California primary. He was only 42 years old.

Forty-three years have passed since RFK's death. He is fading a bit, as almost all historical figures do. If he were my father, I'd be fighting for his place in the spotlight of history, too.

Many years ago, I heard a story of how President Kennedy expressed some initial reluctance when his father discussed with him the likelihood that his brother Ted would seek the President's former Senate seat in Massachusetts in 1962.

"Is that really a good idea?" the President supposedly asked, worried that the public would balk at another Kennedy in politics

The father brushed aside his doubts.

"You got yours," he basically said. "Now Ted's going to get his."

That's not the kind of man who would have been bothered by a squabble at the JFK Library.

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