'He Had Amazing Grace': In a Stirring Eulogy Delivered at the Church of St. Thomas More,Senator Edward M. Kennedy Celebrated the Life of His Nephew, John Jr

Newsweek, August 2, 1999 | Go to article overview
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'He Had Amazing Grace': In a Stirring Eulogy Delivered at the Church of St. Thomas More,Senator Edward M. Kennedy Celebrated the Life of His Nephew, John Jr


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.

After the last eulogy was said, the last tear fell and the last camera clicked off, there remained the painful thought of what might have been. John F. Kennedy Jr. "had only just begun," said his uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy. "There was in him a great promise of things to come." Join us on Wednesday, July 28, at noon EDT for a live talk about the Kennedys and what comes next with Senior Editor Nancy Cooper. 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."

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.

He loved to travel across this city by subway, bicycle and Rollerblade. 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 own 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 premiere issue of George caused a stir with a cover photograph of Cindy Crawford dressed as George Washington with a bare bellybutton. "The Reliable Source" in the Washington Post printed a mock cover of George showing not Cindy Crawford, but me dressed as George Washington, with my bellybutton 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.

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 all right--an enormous German shepherd dog named Sam he had just rescued from the pound.

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'He Had Amazing Grace': In a Stirring Eulogy Delivered at the Church of St. Thomas More,Senator Edward M. Kennedy Celebrated the Life of His Nephew, John Jr
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