With death of Senator Edward Kennedy this week and the death of his older sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver earlier this month , I could not help but think of this iconic American family and all they have meant to our country.
Regardless your politics, you cannot say that this family did not make numerous contributions to American history and culture. Personally, I have always been a fan of the mythical family. Especially the generation that's on the verge of being lost with the Senator's passing.
Do I love most of the demonstrated positions on marriage and fidelity from the Kennedy men? No
Do I agree with every political policy they championed? Pretty close.
Do I love their tight-knit loyal family unit? Absolutely.
I actually dreamed of building a "Kennedy" like clan of my own. There was so much support and love to go around as they faced tragedy after tragedy. They banded together when necessary to defend their own in a way that we rarely see in families anymore. My favorite thing about them is their humanness and sense of responsibility out of extreme privilege. Humanitarians and public servants they were and they championed causes that rarely actually touched their lives or the circles with which they were associated.
My quick but powerful brush with the Kennedy legend was in August 1996 - when I was working the Democratic National Convention for MTV News and I had the pleasure to meet and talk to John F. Kennedy Jr. His magazine GEORGE was at the height of its popularity and he was on the verge of marrying his love Carolyn Bessette that fall, unbeknownst to us that hot August afternoon when he walked into the MTV News trailer.
John was as handsome in person as any picture you ever saw. He was humble and gentle as he came by to deliver his new magazine's latest issue and chat with the MTV brass about his big GEORGE party at the Art Institute the next day. I remember like it was yesterday. He opened the door and in khaki shorts and a black t-shirt, he entered the air conditioned trailer with a big smile and a joke about us having the life for being able to sit in the trailer. The girl who was there with me audibly squealed and I kept my cool and walked over to shake his hand and thank him for the delivery
He looked right into my eyes and asked, "Do you read GEORGE? Be honest."
"I'm a subscriber, " I proudly answered so glad I could actually tell John F. Kennedy, Jr. I supported his venture.
"God bless you, what's your name?" he asked
"Denise Wilmer, " I blurted.
"Thank you Denise Wilmer for supporting GEORGE, " he said.
We went on to have a quick conversation about my contract with MTV and how I was a Chicago native and I don't even remember all the topics. But I do remember this.
He was 100% engaged in our conversation.
He did not rush our interaction nor did he look distracted or hurried.
He seemed genuinely delighted to have met me and wished me luck in my career.
I have never forgot that afternoon.
Funny, I had to drive some of the MTV brass to the GEORGE party and of course, I could not go. As I dropped them off - I imagined that someday, I'd be at a party with John F. Kennedy, Jr, not dropping off bratty VJs like I was that night.
I held that dream until July 16, 1999 when I heard the news that his self-piloted plane had gone missing. I watched with earnest every piece of news praying it was all a nightmare and that this man would be found alive and it was all a big scare.
I even "accidently" permitted my stylist, Dany to color my hair plum that next day while I clamored for the stream of news from CNN in his shop during my regular visit.
Alas - it was true. He was gone. So was my dream.
Honestly my view is that John was going to lead the next generation of the Kennedy clan in politics. He was going to help continue the story started by his dad and uncles so many years ago. Upon his death, it was really the beginning of the end of the Kennedy legend for me.
Today, with only Jean Kennedy Smith alive, the Kennedy myth fades a bit more.