On Friday night at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and his sister Rory spoke to legendary newsman Charlie Rose about their family before a spellbound audience as a year of observances begins to mark the 50th anniversary of the president John F. Kennedy’s death. Their uncle, JFK, was killed on Nov. 22, 1963, while riding in a motorcade through downtown Dallas. Five years later, their father was assassinated in a Los Angeles hotel during the celebration of his win in the California Democratic presidential primary.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. told the audience that his father spent a year striving to come to terms with his brother’s death by reading the work of Greek philosophers, Catholic scholars, Henry David Thoreau, poets and others by trying to figure out the existential implications of why a just God would allow injustice to happen of the magnitude he was seeing.
He went on to say that he is convinced that a lone gunman wasn’t solely responsible for the assassination of his uncle, President John F. Kennedy and added that his father thought the Warren Commission, which concluded Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president, was a ‘shoddy piece of craftsmanship,’ and that he, too, questioned the report.
“The evidence at this point I think is very, very convincing that it was not a lone gunman,” he said but not go on to share his theories of whom else might have been involved.
When Rose asked if he believed his father, the U.S. attorney general at the time of his brother’s death, might have felt a sense of guilt because of the possible link between his very aggressive efforts against organized crime and the assassination Kennedy replied:
“I think that’s true. He talked about that. He publicly supported the Warren Commission report but privately he was dismissive of it.”
He went on to say that his father had investigators do heir own research into the assassination and found that phone records of Oswald and nightclub owner Jack Ruby, who killed Oswald two days after the president’s assassination, were “like an inventory” of mafia leaders the government had been investigating and that his father was fairly convinced that others were involved.
Robert F. Kennedy is a noted attorney and well-known environmentalist and also shared light-hearted stories with the audience Friday evening about his memories of his uncle such as the time when he was a young child and he made an appointment with his uncle to speak with him in the Oval Office about pollution.
Rory Kennedy, a respected documentary filmmaker whose recent film ‘Ethel’ looks at the life of her mother, also focused on the happier memories. She shared that their family grew up in a culture where it was important to give back.
“In all of the tragedy and challenge, when you try to make sense of it and understand it, it’s very difficult to fully make sense of it,” she said. “But I do feel that in everything that I’ve experienced that has been difficult and that has been hard and that has been loss, that I’ve gained something in it.”
The city of Dallas will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy this year with a ceremony featuring the tolling of church bells, a moment of silence and readings by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough from the president’s speeches.
“I think what we want to do is focus on the life and legacy and leadership of President Kennedy,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said. “The tone is going to be serious, simple, respectful, and it’s going to be about his life.”
The commemoration on November 22, 2013, will take place in Dealey Plaza, where Kennedy’s motorcade through downtown Dallas was passing as shots rang out. It will be free and open to the public.
© Raine Devries 2013