The Kennedy family has long been plagued by tragedy and scandal. The patriarch of the Kennedy’s, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, outlived five of his own children. Many Kennedy offspring grew up not knowing their father. Kennedy administrations have long been wracked with scandal. Despite all of this, the Kennedy’s have long been thought of as America’s “royal family”. What is it about the many misdeeds and tragedies of this particular family that has drawn America towards them? Why it is that America has been fascinated by the royal status of the Kennedy, and just what is it about this beleaguered dynasty that has mesmerized generations?
The patriarch of the Kennedy political dynasty, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, better known as Joe, came from very humble beginnings. His father, Patrick Joseph Kennedy, came to America during the great potato famine in Ireland. He was in the U.S. only nine years when he died of tuberculosis. After the death of his father, Joseph’s mother Bridget began working at a saloon and was eventually able to earn enough money to buy her own saloon, which was quite prosperous. The money from this saloon went to support Joseph’s education at Harvard. After graduating from Harvard, Joe went into the liquor business, and from the liquor business he got into the movie business, all the while racking up large sums of money and making himself a very rich man. On October 7, 1914, Joe married Rose Fitzgerald and began the greatest political dynasty in American history.
Joe used his fabulous wealth to further his own ambitious political career. He was able to earn favors from powerful politicians, and even formed a relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt by being one of his major supporters during his first bid for president. After FDR was in office Joe expected to be rewarded for his large contributions by being nominated for either Secretary of Treasury or Ambassador to England. Although it was the Secretary of Treasury position that he really wanted, he was barely able to finagle the Ambassador position out of Roosevelt, and he only managed this by using his powerful influence in the media.
Joe was a horrible politician, and many of the comments he made prior to World War II prevented him from ever holding a high public office, (The Kennedy Curse; page 43) including the one that was his ultimate goal, president. While ambassador to England, Joe made comments indicating that he sympathized with Nazi Germany and supported their extermination of the Jewish people. He also said that democratic countries should bribe dictator countries in order to avoid war, and also made many other statements that indicated that he did not support democracy. Soon after the war started Joe returned to the United States where he was relieved of his title and banished from all aspects of going-ons’ in Washington, D.C.
After his aspirations of holding high office were dashed, Joe Kennedy placed all his expectations on his eldest son, Joseph Kennedy Jr. Born on July 15, 1915, Joe Jr. received all the benefits of coming from a wealthy and influential family. He graduated from the best schools, and was almost through with law school when World War II broke out, which prompted him to drop out, join the navy and become a pilot. He was awarded his wings in May of 1942, and was sent to England in September of 1943. He flew many missions and collected many accolades. He was on the verge of being offered leave when his younger brother, John F. Kennedy won a heroic battle in the Pacific and stole his limelight. This upset Joe Jr. more than many people realized (The Kennedy Curse; page 36). Instead of accepting his offered leave and going home, Joe Jr. stayed in Europe and continued to fly, often taking more and more risks. In 1944 he volunteered for a top-secret mission, in which the odds of him living were only 50-50. His mission was to take a bomber loaded with 21,170 pounds of explosives and fly over England to...
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