JFK Daughter To Address Convention

Tuesday, August 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Most Democratic delegates here were just children 40 years ago when John F. Kennedy, brash and young, wrested the party's nomination from the old guard and summoned his generation to a new frontier.

Kennedy stood in the open air at the Los Angeles Coliseum, surrounded by his mother and father and the eight men he had defeated for the nomination and asked his country to follow him to ``a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men's minds.''

Kennedy was 43. On Tuesday night, his daughter, Caroline Kennedy, then an infant, now 42, stands at the Democratic podium, the voice of a new generation of Kennedys.

Her cousin, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., said Tuesday on NBC's ``Today Show'', ``I think my cousin Caroline is going to speak to some extent invoking her father's memory about important it is for people to be involved in politics.''

``Both of us realize that the battles that both of our fathers waged are battles that continue to be fought,'' Kennedy, the son of Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., said.

Determinedly private and nonpolitical, Caroline is the intellectual Kennedy, the little-known Kennedy. The old-timers here will remember her as a frolicking girl at play in the White House with her brother John Jr.

Her appearance evokes the still-fresh memory of his death, the latest Kennedy tragedy. He was killed on July 16, 1999 in the crash of his small plane off Martha's Vineyard, Mass.

Caroline, wife of museum interior and theme park designer Edwin Schlossberg and mother of three, is a lawyer and co-author of ``The Right to Privacy'' and another book on the Bill of Rights.

She was given eight minutes in the convention's prime-time schedule, where minutes are parceled out like gems. She will introduce her uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy, whose mission at Democratic conventions has always been to remind the party of its liberal heritage.

``Caroline is very thoughtful, a scholar of American history and particularly constitutional legal history,'' says Bill Carrick, a Democratic consultant who worked on Edward Kennedy's unsuccessful 1980 campaign to wrest the Democratic nomination from President Carter.

``People are going to be taken aback by what a poised and gifted person she is, and not only because of the poignancy of her speaking in the city where her father was nominated,'' he said.

At Monday afternoon's opening, Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., son of Edward, used his moment at the podium to tick off the names of liberal heroes.

``In order to make this country the kind of place that lives up to its principles of fairness and justice for all,'' Patrick Kennedy said, ``we need to carry on the fight of John Kennedy, we need to carry on the fight of Robert Kennedy, we need to carry on the fight of Martin Luther King, we need to carry on the fight of Cesar Chavez.''

Chavez was the farm workers' union leader who died in 1993.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Ethel and Robert Kennedy, is also down for a moment — less than a minute — on Tuesday afternoon. The lieutenant governor of Maryland, she is the early front-runner in the 2002 Maryland gubernatorial race and a favorite of President Clinton. Additionally, Robert Kennedy Jr. speaks Tuesday afternoon about his heartfelt interest, the environment.

The age of the average delegate to this convention is under 41 — too young to have a firm memory of John Kennedy's convention call for a New Frontier, offering ``the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.''

But Erwin Hargrove, a presidential scholar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., said even those born after Kennedy's assassination respond to his eloquence and idealism.

``We need idealism, we, collectively, we Americans,'' he said. ``Despite our cynicism, we do respond to idealism when it is genuine. If one goes into his private life, one loses respect for him, but he did have this capacity to lift us. The memory becomes more important than the man.''

Four years after JFK accepted the party's nomination, a mournful Robert F. Kennedy would go to the Democratic convention in Atlantic City, N.J., dressed in black, to introduce a film tribute to his martyred older brother.

And four years later, it was Edward who led the mourning for Robert Kennedy. He was shot — in Los Angeles — in pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination. This time, the film was a tribute to him. Delegates sang ``The Battle Hymn of the Republic.''