Caroline Kennedy says a day hasn’t gone by without her thinking about her father, the late President John F. Kennedy.
“I’ve thought about him and miss him every day of my life,” Kennedy, 59, said in a video released on the eve of what would have been his 100th birthday. “But growing up without him was made easier thanks to all the people who kept him in their hearts, who told me that he inspired them to work and fight and believe in a better world, to give something back to this country that has given so much to so many.”
Caroline Kennedy, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Japan during President Barack Obama’s second term, is the only surviving child of President Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. She was just 5 years old when her father was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963.
“I remember hiding under my father’s Oval Office desk when I was little and sitting on his lap on the Honey Fitz,” she said, referring to the presidential yacht. “He would point out the white shark and the purple shark that always followed the boat, although I never could quite see them. He said they especially liked to eat socks and would have his friends throw their socks overboard, which I loved.”
“President Kennedy inspired a generation that inspired America,” she continued. “They marched for justice, they served in the Peace Corps, in the inner cities, in outer space. His brothers carried on that work, fighting against poverty, violence and war, championing human rights, health care and immigration. As my father said in his inaugural address, this work will not be finished in our lifetime. It’s up to us to continue to pass these values on to our children and grandchildren.”
Caroline Kennedy’s three children also appear in the video, which was produced by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
“One of the defining relationships in my life is with someone I’ve never met: my grandfather, President John F. Kennedy,” Tatiana Kennedy Schlossberg said. “It’s a little odd to be connected to someone you don’t know, especially when everyone else has access to much of the same information about him that you do.”
“President Kennedy was elected on a platform of challenges, not promises,” Jack Kennedy Schlossberg, JFK’s only grandson, said. “Not for what he would offer the American people as president, but what he would ask of them. My favorite speech is the one President Kennedy gave at Rice University, where he makes the case for sending a man to the moon. He said that challenge was worthwhile not because it would be easy, but because it would be so hard.”
“My generation will inherit a complicated world with countless unsolved problems,” he continued. “Climate change is just one of them, but it’s the type of challenge I think my grandfather would have been energized about and eager to solve.”
“I’m inspired by my grandfather’s sense of equality, his courage in naming the injustices in American society and his call for action,” Rose Kennedy Schlossberg, JFK’s other granddaughter, said. “His words and his ideals mean so much to me and to the world we live in today. But we are still faced with tremendous inequality and injustice — from voting rights to our criminal justice system and mass incarceration. My grandfather would be proud how far we’ve come as a nation since 1963, but he would have been the first to tell us that we have a long way to go.”
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