Kennedy mystique lives on

“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice. He sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance.” – Robert Francis Kennedy, 1966.

Fifty years ago Friday, President John F. Kennedy passed from this world at the hands of an assassin, entering into legend and the American consciousness for all time.

Four years, six months and 15 days later, the late president’s brother, Robert, also was felled by an assassin’s bullet.

Borne from these tragedies, the Kennedy mystique grew and has endured for decades.

The charismatic politicians truly had a knack for capturing the imaginations and building the hopes of Americans in a time when this nation needed inspiration and assurance.

Despite many well-documented indiscretions, tragedies and scandals, the Kennedy family has persevered well into the 21st


The family’s collective contributions span more than a century and easily and undisputably rank them among the most influential in our nation’s history.

Although I wasn’t even thought of at the time of either Kennedy assassination, I long have held a respect for JFK’s accomplishments and his ability to motivate the masses.

Over the last several years of their lives, though, I was fortunate enough on many occasions to sit down with not only Eunice Kennedy and Sargent Shriver, but U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

I first met Eunice and Sargent after a Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Both were extremely unassuming and took the time to talk with me, a small-town young man from West Virginia. Over the years, we shared occasional letters and phone calls, always talking about the events of the day and sharing stories of family and friends.

Several years later, I was visiting U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd in Washington, D.C., when an exuberant – and slightly frustrated – Ted Kennedy approached Byrd. The details of Kennedy’s initial annoyance escapes me, as the events and conversations of that day linger more heavily. For several hours, the two elder statesmen regaled me with tales of the Washington of old, sharing amusing stories about everyone from Jennings Randolph and Richard Nixon to J. Edgar Hoover and Ronald Reagan.

For years following that encounter, Teddy and I would keep in touch until shortly before his passing in 2009.

What always struck me about Eunice, Sargent and Teddy was that they were regular, unostentatious people that were going through the same trials and tribulations as every other American.

Sure, they obviously were wealthy, but as the old saying goes, money can’t always buy happiness.

Through tragedies and the passing of time, the Kennedy legend has grown, in part because of said misfortunes and mostly because of their ability to touch lives and inspire so many – even me.

Contact Matthew Burdette at 304-636-2121, ext. 120 or via email at Follow him on Twitter at IMT_Burdette.