JFK Eulogy, by Senator Edward Kennedy

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For those of you who never got a chance to read this in the media, here is Senator Kennedy's eulogy of JFK Jr., taken from the internet.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy said of his nephew: "He had only just begun. There was in him a great promise of things to come."

Text of eulogy for JFK Jr. by Sen. Kennedy

Read at Friday's service in N.Y.

July 23 - Here is the complete text of the eulogy for John F. Kennedy Jr., delivered at Friday's Mass in New York by Kennedy's uncle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

THANK YOU, President and Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea, for being here today. You've shown extraordinary kindness throughout the course of this week. Once, when they asked John what he would do if he went into politics and was elected president, he said: "I guess the first thing is call up Uncle Teddy and gloat." I loved that. It was so like his father. From the first day of his life, John seemed to belong not only to our family, but to the American family. The whole world knew his name before he did. A famous photograph showed John racing across the lawn as his father landed in the White House helicopter and swept up John in his arms. When my brother saw that photo, he exclaimed, "Every mother in the United States is saying, 'Isn't it wonderful to see that love between a son and his father, the way that John races to be with his father.' Little do they know - that son would have raced right by his father to get to that helicopter." 'SO MUCH MORE' But John was so much more than those long-ago images emblazoned in our minds. He was a boy who grew into a man with a zest for life and a love of adventure. He was a pied piper who brought us all along. He was blessed with a father and mother who never thought anything mattered more than their children.

When they left the White House, Jackie's soft and gentle voice and unbreakable strength of spirit guided him surely and securely to the future. He had a legacy, and he learned to treasure it. He was part of a legend, and he learned to live with it. Above all, Jackie gave him a place to be himself, to grow up, to laugh and cry, to dream and strive on his own. John learned that lesson well. He had amazing grace. He accepted who he was, but he cared more about what he could and should become. He saw things that could be lost in the glare of the spotlight. And he could laugh at the absurdity of too much pomp and circumstance. 'KING OF HIS DOMAIN' He loved to travel across this city by subway, bicycle and roller blade. He lived as if he were unrecognizable - although he was known by everyone he encountered. He always introduced himself, rather than take anything for granted. He drove his car and flew his own plane, which is how he wanted it. He was the king of his domain.

He thought politics should be an integral part of our popular culture, and that popular culture should be an integral part of politics. He transformed that belief into the creation of "George." John shaped and honed a fresh, often irreverent journal. His new political magazine attracted a new generation, many of whom had never read about politics before. John also brought to "George" a wit that was quick and sure. The premier issue of "George" caused a stir with a cover photograph of Cindy Crawford dressed as George Washington with a bare belly button. The "Reliable Sources" in the Washington Post printed a mock cover of "George" showing not Cindy Crawford, but me dressed as George Washington, with my belly button exposed. I suggested to John that perhaps I should have been the model for the first cover of his magazine. Without missing a beat, John told me that he stood by his original editorial decision. 'PLAYFUL WIT' John brought this same playful wit to other aspects of his life. He campaigned for me during my 1994 election and always caused a stir when he arrived in Massachusetts. Before one of his trips to Boston, John told the campaign he was bringing along a companion, but would need only one hotel room. Interested, but discreet, a senior campaign worker picked John up at the airport and prepared to handle any media barrage that might accompany John's arrival and his mystery companion. John landed with the companion alright - an enormous German shepherd dog named Sam he had just rescued from the pound. He loved to talk about the expression on the campaign worker's face and the reaction of the clerk at the Charles Hotel when John and Sam checked in. 'DISTINCTIVE INSIGHT' I think now not only of these wonderful adventures, but of the kind of person John was. He was the son who quietly gave extraordinary time and ideas to the Institute of Politics at Harvard that bears his father's name. He brought to the Institute his distinctive insight that politics could have a broader appeal, that it was not just about elections, but about the larger forces that shape our whole society. John was also the son who was once protected by his mother. He went on to become her pride - and then her protector in her final days. He was the Kennedy who loved us all, but who especially cherished his sister Caroline, celebrated her brilliance, and took strength and joy from their lifelong mutual admiration society. 'PERFECT SOUL MATE' And for a thousand days, he was a husband who adored the wife who became his perfect soul mate. John's father taught us all to reach for the moon and stars. John did that in all he did - and he found his shining star when he married Carolyn Bessette. How often our family will think of the two of them, cuddling affectionately on a boat - surrounded by family, aunts, uncles, Caroline and Ed and their children, Rose, Tatiana, and Jack - Kennedy cousins - Radziwill cousins - Shriver cousins - Smith cousins - Lawford cousins - as we sailed Nantucket Sound. Then we would come home - and before dinner, on the lawn where his father had played, John would lead a spirited game of touch football - and his beautiful young wife, the new pride of the Kennedys, would cheer for John's team and delight her nieces and nephews with her somersaults. We loved Carolyn. She and her sister Lauren were young extraordinary women of high accomplishment - and their own limitless possibilities. We mourn their loss and honor their lives. The Bessette and Freeman families will always be a part of ours. 'BRIGHTENED OUR LIVES' John was a serious man who brightened our lives with his smile and his grace. He was a son of privilege who founded a program called "Reaching Up," to train better care-givers for the mentally disabled. He joined Wall Street executives on the Robin Hood Foundation to help the city's impoverished children. And he did it all so quietly, without ever calling attention to himself. John was one of Jackie's two miracles. He was still becoming the person he would be, and doing it by the beat of his own drummer. He had only just begun. There was in him a great promise of things to come. The Irish Ambassador recited a poem to John's father and mother soon after John was born. I can hear it again now, at this different and difficult moment: We wish to the new child A heart that can be beguiled By a flower That the wind lifts As it passes. If the storms break for him may the trees shake for him Their blossoms down. In the night that he is troubled May a friend wake for him So that his time be doubled, And at the end of all loving and love, May the Man above Give him a crown. We thank the millions who have rained blossoms down on John's memory. He and his bride have gone to be with his mother and father, where there will never be an end to love. He was lost on that troubled night - but we will always wake for him, so that his time, which was not doubled, but cut in half, will live forever in our memory, and in our beguiled and broken hearts. We dared to think, in that other Irish phrase, that this John Kennedy would live to comb gray hair, with his beloved Carolyn by his side. But like his father, he had every gift but length of years. We who have loved him from the day he was born, and watched the remarkable man he became, now bid him farewell. God bless you, John and Carolyn. We love you, and we always wil

-- Michael Berney (mberney@tmn.com), July 29, 1999


I am extremely saddened by this horrible accident, and I have been soaking up as much media coverage, TV, radio, and print, that I can. Prager (KABC Talk Radio, Los Angeles, CA) has discussed this repeatedly on his program, I've been listening. His response is predictable, coming from him: that this is a personal tragedy, for the Kennedy family, but he does not see it as a national tragedy, nor does he understand the outpouring of grief from Americans. He keeps citing that JFK Jr. didn't "do" anything for the country, unlike his father (for whom Prager, somewhat surprisingly to me, expresses deep reverence, having been deeply inspired by him as a youngster).

Prager's reaction angers me somewhat, seeming somewhat cold, but at least he has been open to and appealing to his listeners to call in and explain the phenomenon of this national grief. Yesterday or the day before (I forget), I was walking on an open field, listening to Dennis when he said one of his assistants at KABC "IM'd" (internet-mail?) him a possible explanation for the outpouring of public grief. That the passing of this young man truly delineates the end of Camelot. That JFK Jr. represented a possible (hoped for?) reincarnation of his father politically (JFK Jr. had apparently not ruled out politics, despite his not having entered it, unlike his numerous cousins). That the country has never stopped yearning for that youthful idealism and grace and optimism and all those positive, inspiring "Ask not..." feelings that JFK Sr. embodied. Do you remember (from film, perhaps) the JFK innaugural, the bright sunny cold day, Jan. 20, 1961. I so admired his speaking ability, his passion, his style, his commitment.

FLASH: My wife Bonnie just informs me that the news reported that burial at sea, of JFK Jr.'s ashes, just occurred a few minutes ago. Why does this go right through me, like a knife? Why is it further painful to know that he has already been cremated. Why is death not death to me? I suffer a lot of denial about that. I guess we all do. Somewhere I read someone criticizing the Kennedys for selecting burial at sea (cremation), saying that it violates the preferences of Catholicism (is it not also verboten in Judaism as well?) I somehow feel more pain, knowing that he is now ashes in the water, than if there had been a burial. I suppose I am in line with the feelings of many people.

Prager is his usual super-practical self about all of this. Oh, I didn't finish the explanation given to him by one of his KABC people: that the grief may be a final outpouring of grief for the demise of Camelot; that with the passing of the son, Camelot truly is over. I think there may be a lot of truth in that.

I also have heard the sentiments of obvious 'anti-Kennedy' types calling in to radio shows and bemoaning all the hoopla over this 'young playboy.' I suppose I'm just an oversentimental Kennedy-worshiper, but I make no apologies for it. I found them, and always will remember them, as awe-inspiring. I have even, in considering the possible switch into teaching with its accompanying compromise in salary, remembered those immortal words, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." And what better way for me to honor that challenge by the President I so loved than to devote my efforts to the education of our young people, even if it involves personal sacrifice. Noble words. Can I do it?

Anyway, I wanted to share my emotions. I know that JFK Jr. is being criticized by pilot-types and others as having been irresponsible and perhaps even selfish (the inclusion of the two women as passengers) in his decision to fly under those ominous conditions with his limited flight experience. What's the language in the Air Force about this accident? Very critical and unsympathetic, I'll bet.

I've also heard people call up programs and raise a stink about the expense (authorized by President Clinton) and extensive effort gone to to recover the bodies and the wreckage; that this would never have been done for John Q. Privatecitizen under similar circumstances. Clinton has actually responded publicly to this challenge, citing the great contributions of the Kennedy family to our country as support for his authorizations to utilize all these agencies in the exhaustive search.

One lady called up "John & Ken" on KABC and was going on and on about how little JFK Jr. accomplished and then had the gaul (sp?) to contrast his "nothingness" with her accomplishments as a single mom, having worked multiple jobs to successfully raise two kids on her own, yaddayaddayadda. I couldn't believe someone would call a radio station, not only to put down JFK Jr., but to somehow use that as a contrast by which to toot her own horn about what a wonderful human being she is.

What do these people need to respect the magnitude and the horror of this tragedy?????

Anway, you can see how I feel. I suppose I harbored (vague, deep, unarticulated) feelings that JFK Jr. would one day run for office and give us another shot at those wonderful feelings from the early sixties which his dad embodied.

I just hope Caroline Kennedy is strong enough to weather this. She is a lawyer, married, with three children, so at least she has a good support group. Long ago, I used to fantasize (since she was about my age and beautiful (I thought)) of meeting Caroline Kennedy and dating her and marrying her and thereby linking up with the family I so admired. This admiration is very deep seated for me, and therefore probably for many other Americans as well.

I would much appreciate hearing other comments.

Gary Sparage

"Let the word go forth, from th

-- Gary Sparage (gsparage@earthlink.net), July 29, 1999.


I know you've had a long-time emotional connection with what might be called Kennedy-ism; though I've experienced your link mostly via the Vaughan Meader (sp?) comedy material and your fascination with the assassination. I don't remember hearing you speak of your fantasy about Caroline.

I suppose that most of our generation remembers where we were when we heard the news of JFK's death, much as we remember where we were, a few years later, when the Eagle landed: both were not only huge news but represented some sort of basic shift in the national emotional landscape.

To me, the Camelot fantasy ended not with the death of any member of the star-crossed Kennedy clan, but, paradoxically, with the end of Richard Nixon's presidency. Watergate, I believe, shattered our national belief, inspired most recently by JFK, that the presidency could ever function as a force for redemption.

For me, this Camelot dream does not connect in any important way with the Kennedy family. Camelot is simply yearning for a kind, wise ruler who can be relied upon not only to do good but also to embody the best of the human spirit. This recurring dream dates back a long way. It has, I believe, tight links to the messianic fervor (madness?) so prominent in Jewish and Christian thinking a special man will be born who will save us from ourselves.

God knows we need good, wise, kind leadership. But there is great danger in elevating one person or one family to demi-godhood. The cult of personality scares me because it empowers mere mortals in ways that often (usually? always?) backfire badly.

As to JFK Jr., specifically: you can probably guess where I'm at. The loss to the family is hard to grasp, especially the cumulative weight of loss. The national response is predictable; but like Prager (with whom I don't believe I'm acquainted) and, it seems, like many younger folks born after the tragedies of the '60s, I don't share the depth of national feeling reflected in your remarks.

A great many people died last week. I suppose there's a certain coldness in my response, a bit like my response to the utterly dissimilar events leading to the O.J. trial. I refused to be swept up in the national fascination with that tragedy too: lots of brutal, nasty murders occur and I refuse to make an emotional connection with them just because a famous person was implicated. Please forgive me for mentioning these two events together: of course, the Kennedy tragedies have nothing in common with OJ or his alleged victims; the overlap is in my personal reaction (or lack thereof).

Whatever the psychic connection each of us experiences to the Kennedy family, its contributions, failings and losses, the latest tragedy surely provides an opportunity for reflection on the meaning of Camelot. I ask that we consider the underlying meaning of this sense of connection with famous folks we'll never meet. What, in us, do they represent? What part

-- Stephen Sibelman (Stephen_Sibelman@ord.uscourts.gov), July 29, 1999.

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