Had he lived, John F. Kennedy would turn 100 years old on May 29. To commemorate his birth, Kennedy’s daughter and grandchildren put together a video message honoring the former President.
Caroline Kennedy, his only living child and a former ambassador to Japan, said on CNN’s “The Lead with Jake Tapper” that as her father became further embedded in history, she wanted to mark the occasion by celebrating the legacy he left for her and her children, as well as his place in history.
“He is a historical figure,” Kennedy said. “One hundred years is a really long time, but I think his legacy and these values are timeless and they live on.”
In the video, she reminisces about hiding under the Oval Office desk when she was a young girl, and sailing with her father. “I miss him every day of my life. But, growing up without him was made easier thanks to all of the people who kept him in their hearts,” she said.
Kennedy told CNN that she could feel from others that he “was part of everyone’s life,” and she said she has noticed parallels from the issues her father grappled with to this point in time.
“So many of the issues that are now in the headlines, had their roots in the 1960s,” Kennedy said. “Studying history really isn’t just about the past. It’s really about what kind of world we want to create.”
As for what her father would make of politics today, Kennedy left it up for others to interpret.
“I was looking at a speech that he gave right before he became president, and he said, ‘History will judge us by four qualities: Courage, integrity, dedication and judgment,'” Kennedy said. “I think that’s how he would judge politics today, and I think everybody can make up their own mind.”
Passing the baton
Kennedy told CNN that including her children in the video made it easier to share the message — and that they were perhaps more appropriate messengers for her father’s vision to the rising generation.
“They, I think, are the best people to take that message forward into the 21st century,” Kennedy said.
“One of the defining relationships of my life is with someone I’ve never met, my grandfather, President John F. Kennedy,” Tatiana Kennedy Schlossberg said in the video. “But while my grandfather had reverence for the past, and the lessons it could impart, he also knew that America was a country where change was possible. That we aren’t bound solely by tradition if we understand the past with which we are breaking.”
Rose Kennedy Schlossberg said she’s inspired by her grandfather’s sense of equality, “His courage, in naming the injustices in American society, and his call for action.”
“We are still faced with tremendous inequality and injustice — from voting rights to our criminal justice system, and mass incarceration,” Kennedy continued. She said her grandfather would be proud of how far we have come as a nation since the ’60s, “but he would be the first to tell us we have a long way to go.”
She said, “I hope everyone, regardless of age or party, will remember what President Kennedy told America, decades ago: This nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal and the rights of every man are diminished once the rights of one man are threatened.”
Jack Kennedy Schlossberg noted that his favorite speech of his grandfather’s was one from September 12, 1962, at Rice University, where Kennedy made a case for sending a man to the moon, saying this challenge was worthwhile, “not because [it was] easy, but because it [would be] so hard.”
Schlossberg said, “My generation will inherit a complicated world, with countless, unsolved problems. Climate change is just one of them.” He said climate change is the type of challenge his grandfather would have been energized about “and he could have solved.”
Schlossberg continued, “He recognized that only if America leads the world in solving global problems, can we make sure that it’s done right.”