A Kennedy Comes to Maywood

Friday, November 10, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews 

Featured image: Rory Kennedy | Lyndie Benson

Rory Elizabeth Kennedy, the 11th and youngest child of Robert and Ethel Kennedy, was invited to say a few remarks during an Oct. 21 ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Maywood Park District, which was celebrating the renovation of its exterior grounds.

Kennedy — who had been at the event as a guest of Bill Hampton, the Maywood park district commissioner and brother of slain Black Panther leader Fred Hampton — was in from California, campaigning for her older brother, the businessman Chris Kennedy, as he runs for governor in the Illinois Democratic Primary.

Kennedy, 48, spoke briefly about her brother, his vision of private-public collaborations (the park’s grounds had been renovated with the help of a loan they’d retrieved from a bank, as well as a state grant), and her belief in what he’ll do for the state.

And then, quite naturally, she quoted her father’s words from a speech he gave in South Africa in 1966. He was visiting, she said, in order to bring attention to Apartheid.

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, he sets forth a tiny ripple of hope and, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples create a wave,” Rory recalled, “that can wipe down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

During an interview shortly after her comments, Rory, who was described in a 1999 Washington Post article as the “quiet Kennedy,” was asked to recall a moment that elucidated what it was to grow up a Kennedy. She paused, as if taken aback (and for a moment the question felt like a minor trespass).

Then, as if reprogramming her bearing, she recalled the moment she was arrested for protesting Apartheid in her teens. If this seemed like an all too perfect response, it cannot be so easily assumed to have been forced or artificial.

This is, after all, a Kennedy, perhaps the American family whose collective private life has, quite literally, been an open book — the family’s existence less flesh and blood than the material for history texts and archives and tabloids and national monuments and myths and mourning.

So one must give her the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the way she seamlessly stitched together her father’s quote and her recollection of his activism during her apparently preconceived remarks with her improvised answer to an unexpected question comes naturally to someone born six months after her father’s assassination in June 1968.

From then on, her whole life, it would seem, had to have been an act of recreating and remembering (she is a documentary filmmaker by vocation).

“I was just quoting my father in South Africa,” Kennedy said during the Oct. 21 interview. “I remember when I was 13 or 14 years old and I decided I wanted to protest the Apartheid movement myself. I suggested to my mother that I might want to get arrested. She thought that was a brilliant idea. She threw me in the car, took me down there and I got arrested. I think my mother had never been prouder.” VFP 

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2 thoughts on “A Kennedy Comes to Maywood”

  1. I think it’s pretty incredible that she took time out of her schedule to be part of Maywood Park District’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. It speaks volumes of her relationship with Bill Hampton. Very positive article..

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