The great Kennedy legacy began with Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr. Joseph Kennedy, the father of President John F. Kennedy, was born in Boston on September 6, 1888 to a family of Catholic, Irish immigrants (Encarta. Joseph…).After completing his studies at Harvard University he began his career as a small businessman, and local politics. He came to be one of the richest men in American through his work in making motion pictures, shipbuilding, and real estate and stock market speculations. Joseph Kennedy had nine children with wife, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, the daughter of the former mayor of Boston John Francis “ Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald (Encarta).
Rose Kennedy was proud Irish woman and true and devoted Catholic unlike her husband who was never zealous to speak about his heritage or faith. At one point when a Boston newspaper referred to him as an “Irishman”, Kennedy exploded; “I was born in this country! My children were born in this country! What the hell does someone have to do to become an American?” (Collier 21) The mother had big dreams for Robert Kennedy, the third son, to become a priest. Bobby Kennedy was very religious as a little boy, he always served as an altar boy and he loved to learn Latin. On the other hand his father would not hear of having his son become a priest. The five female children, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, and Jean Ann all attended catholic schools given that their father had no private ambitions for them. However the four boys under their father’s orders were not permitted to attend catholic schools. They had to attend high-quality private schools (Martin17). Joseph Kennedy has been portrayed as a strict parent and that is exactly the way he was. He made sure that his children knew exactly what was politically correct. He had great ambitions that at least one if not all of his boys would one day become president. After the birth of their eldest son Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the boy’s maternal grandfather was quickly quoted saying “Well, of coarse, he is going to be President of the United States…his mother and father have already decided” (Martin 1). Kennedy Sr. was the driving force that made the boys all go into politics. If it hadn’t been for him they may have become teachers or doctors.
Joseph Patrick Kennedy could be analyzed as a strange mix. “He had a hot heart and a cold head, which created a special animal vigor, a boundless self-confidence, and an awesome ego” (Martin 2). The Kennedy looked to their father for emotional support. Many of the Kennedy children accused their mother for leaving them for long periods of time and for not giving them any real warmth (Martin 24). Joe Kennedy had one piece of advice for his sons that he hoped would one day win them an election, “It’s not what you are that counts, but what people think you are” (Courier 30)
The Kennedy clan (like their father liked to call them) was very close even though the children attended different schools, the mother was often shopping in Paris, and the father on “business” trips with his showgirls. “They almost didn’t need anyone else,” said Dave Powers, a long time family friend. “When they were together they seemed all the same. You had to get them apart to see how different they were. They lived on each other. Each of them would rather have another Kennedy say, ‘Nice play!’ than get a compliment from the Pope or a President” (Martin 13) all throughout their lives the children lean toward each other for support.
Throughout high school and college John F. Kennedy always felt like he was behind the shadow of his brother. He always had to work hard to compete with his brother‘s accomplishments. Joe Kennedy Jr. was an excellent student, football star, the one their father had the biggest dream for, and the one that their mother loved the most. When Rose Kennedy was told that John Kennedy had scored higher on an IQ test than his brother Joe had, Rose refused to believe it, she said that it was impossible. The first time that John was able to step in front of his older brother was during World War II. JFK received a Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. After his boat was rammed and sunk by the Japanese, JFK was thrown across the deck. He was then able to help the survivors and get them onto the island. He was stuck on the island for several days and several times in swam into dangerous waters hoping to find a rescue ship (“John F. Kennedy 3”).
In WWII John Kennedy became a hero and then a couple of months later his brother became the first of the “Kennedy tragedies.” On August 12, 1944 Joe Kennedy was killed in a plane explosion while conducting a secret and special assignment that involved the most dangerous type of flying (“Joseph Kennedy Jr.”). The son that Joe Kennedy Sr. pushed the most to do better was dead. Therefore Jack Kennedy had to take his place and his father now transferred the dreams he had for Joe Jr. to JFK.
Joseph Kennedy Sr. had a great influence over his children, especially the boys. They learned a lot from him. The thing that they all seemed to pick up the most from their father was his love for women. “Rose Kennedy believed in God and in children but not loving making.” (Martin12) Rose and Joe Kennedy slept in different bedrooms and she strongly showed that she wanted minimal sexual relations. Therefore all throughout his life Joseph Kennedy was a notorious playboy. He took many business trips for long periods of time and spent much time with his showgirls during these trips. Joe was not afraid to bring home his girls for he did it often even when his wife was around. His most famous affair was with Gloria Swanson, the most famous actress of her time (Martin 23).
All of the Kennedy sons seemed to have followed the father’s example. John F. Kennedy was greatly fascinated with women. His best friend, Lem Billings, exchanged many letters and in most of those letters JFK would describe some type of sexual affair he had. On September 12, 1953 John Kennedy married a woman 12 years younger then him, Jacqueline Lee Bouvier (“Jacky Kennedy” 4). She was the daughter of Janet Lee and John “Black Jack” Bouvier III (“The First Ladies…” 1). Americans believed that it was great love story. Many girls were heartbroken all over the country when they heard about Mr. Kennedy’s wedding. Joseph Kennedy had put great pressure on JFK to get married. He had just become a senator and they were already thinking presidency. His father believed that the American public would never elect an Irish, catholic bachelor for president. His father encouraged him to ask Jackie Bouvier in marriage. Joseph Kennedy had taken a special liking to Jackie, “…she’s a perfect hostess; she’s got the background; and she’s catholic” (Martin 189). None of JFK’s close friends could imagine him married nor with the ability to love. Congresswoman Lindy Boggs described what she thought about Jacky and Jack Kennedy, “Full of love and full of heart…. When she really loved something she gave herself completely…. But I don’t think he could love anyone to deeply”(Martin190).
Yet, they captured Americans and made one of the greatest weddings in American history. When Jackie arrived at the church three thousand onlookers had been patiently waiting for suddenly nearly crushed the bride. Jackie had requested a simple and very small wedding but Joseph Kennedy arranged an extravagant, large, and “very catholic wedding” performed by Cardinal Cushing. (Anderson10). After the ceremony they held a great banquet for over six hundred guests.
JFK was a married man nevertheless he did not stop with his sexual encounters with other women. In August 1956 suffered a miscarriage from her first pregnancy. The next day when she awoke in the hospital she found her brother-in-law, Bobby, standing by her side because her husband could not be found. Marquis Childs commented about the miscarriage, “ One thing that I’ve heard often in Boston, is the story about how Jack and brother Teddy were on a ship in the Rivera with two whores just about the time Jackie was having a miscarriage of their first child” (Martin209). When Jack was finally contacted he was reluctant to go home since the miscarriage had already happened. He finally agreed to come home only because he was because he planned on running for president.
Similar to his father’s affair with Gloria Swanson, John F. Kennedy had prolonged affair with the actress Marilyn Monroe, the most famous actress of her time. After John broke it off with Marilyn Monroe she began to have an affair with his brother Robert Kennedy. She even said that Robert had told her that he was going to divorce Ethel for her. She died of a drug over dose the day after Bobby Kennedy broke their affair (Anderson 309).
As a freshman at Harvard University Edward Kennedy, the youngest f the Kennedy clan was suspended from Harvard. He was caught having one of his friends taking the final exam in Spanish for him (Collier 216). His father later had him readmitted to Harvard. His father forgave Ted Kennedy very quickly; his major concern was that he had been caught. His father was impressed with the fact that his sons would do anything to win. He later even hired the student who had taken the test for Ted Kennedy.
On November 5, 1960 John Fitzgerald Kennedy was officially elected president of the United States. It was a very close election; he only won by 115,000 votes (Collier 249). It was also a very controversial election from the beginning. Joseph Kennedy made arrangements to buy the support from much of the mafia. He had alliances with the top gangster since Prohibition. FBI wiretap was found discussing donations that Joseph Kennedy had made to Sam Giancana, one of the top gangsters of West Virginia. Ironically John Kennedy had a long-time affair with Judith Campbell who was also the mistress of Sam Giancana (Colleir 245). Also political facts have shown that Boss Daley of Chicago manipulated many of the votes in Chicago to assure that Illinois would be a Kennedy victory. Boss Daley had been a long-time friend of Joseph Kennedy and needed his support for he was planning on running for governor in the future (Martin275). That was one of the major reasons John F. Kennedy entered the White House on January 20, 1961.
The first child of the Jack and Jackie Kennedy was Caroline Bouvier Kennedy born in 1957. Their second child John F. Kennedy Jr. was born in 1960. A third child, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy was born on August7, 1963, 39 hours after it’s birth little Patrick died. It was that moment that Jack and Jackie Kennedy were the closet. He held on to her arms and she held on to him tightly and they both cried. They were together to support each other. This was a very rare occasion since they were both such private people (Klein 334).
The Kennedy family brought beauty and elegance to the White House. Jackie Kennedy spent much of her time trying to make the White House a museum for American History (“The First Ladies…”2). Jackie Kennedy knew how to deal with the media and how to handle her husband. By this time Americans had already fallen in love with Kennedy family.
The worst tragedy of all happened at 12:30 in the after noon on November 22, 1963 while riding in a blue Lincoln convertible next to his wife President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. “President Kennedy died at approximately 1 PM, Central Standard Time, today here in Dallas. He died of a gunshot wound in the brain” (MArtin454). The strength that Jacky Kennedy showed at the death of her husband captured America. On Air Force One The body of the president was sent back to Washington. It was Jacky Kennedy that opened the door of the ambulance to put in the casket. She insisted on riding in the ambulance with her dead husband.
Jacky Kennedy made all the plans for the funeral of her husband; she tried to replicate the funeral of President Lincoln. Americans who had been following the Kennedy’s for two years were heartbroken. A line three miles long was form outside the nation’s Capitol. Two hundred and fifty thousand people lined up to see Kennedy’s body. A six-mile procession with the dead president Kennedy went past a crowd of two million people. It was one of the few times that Americans were breaking down with tears. The Secret Service man that was with Joseph Kennedy watching the procession on television brook down in tears. Jacky Kennedy started sobbing at the mass before the cemetery, and tears rolled down the eyes of not only Americans but people all over the world when little john-john lifted his hand to salute his father (Anderson 267).
Before his death JFK was less popular with the American public then he had ever been before. Yet today According to NBC News/ Wall street Journal poll, Kennedy is still the face most American want to see added to Mount Rushmore (Martin 471).
Ralph Martin in his book Seeds of Destruction comments on the tragedy of President Kennedy’s death, “The most terrible part of his brutal murder was the death of his political promise and potential. That’s why American people wept — not just for him but for themselves…. It was the history of what might have been, the death of a brilliant maybe” (472).
The Kennedy’s aren’t exactly a role-model family, yet we all up to them for they way they carried such, charm, charisma, and class wherever they went. Clare Boothe Luce best put the idea of the great Kennedy family,
Where else but in Gothic fiction, where else but among real people, could one encounter such triumphs and tragedies, such as beauty and charm and ambition and pride and human wreckage, such dedication to the best and the lapses into the mere life; such vulgar, noble, driven, generous, self-centered, loving, suspicious, devious, honorable, vulnerable, indomitable people…No wonder the American public, – for that matter much of the world – has been fascinated by them (Martin xviii).
America did truly fall in love with Kennedy’s, the accepted all their faults.
“John F. Kennedy.” http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Senate/1968/jfk.htm 6 Dec. 2000
Kennedy, John F. Encyclopedia Encarta. CD-ROM. 1995
Kennedy, Joseph P. Encyclopedia Encarta. CD-ROM. 1995
Klein, Edward. All Too Human. New York: Pocket Books,1996.
Martin, Ralph. Seeds of Destruction. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995.
“The First Ladies of the United States.” Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. http://www2.whitehouse.gov/WH/glimpse/firstladies/html/jk33.htm