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On Your Radar: ETHEL
by Karen Pecota

The Emmy Award-winning independent documentary filmmaker, Rory Kennedy, made a film about the only parent she ever knew, her mother, ETHEL. Rory is the youngest sibling of the eleven children born to former U.S. Senator, Robert and Ethel Kennedy. Ethel was four months pregnant with Rory when her husband was assassinated while on the campaign trail. Rory never knew her father but has lived her life under his influence describing it as, "...of moral courage and strength of purpose", Rory makes it very clear that though she is a product of her parents love, it is her mother, Ethel who raised her. It is the admiration that Rory has for her mother and the reason she can devote a feature film documentary narrative to her mother's life. Rory captures Ethel expressing a deep commitment and love for her husband, her faith in God, her sense of humor and her drive to serve her family, mankind and her country.

Rory felt it important to portray Ethel for who she is so what better way than for her story to be told from her own words and those of her children. Rory describes, “My documentary ETHEL is truly an intimate portrayal that is not just a film about my family (which are many) but from my family". Ethel and her children together share in the memoir.

Ethel's accomplishments are many the most important bringing her children into the world and raising an amazing troupe of individuals. Aside from her role as a mother, she is very excited to have been able to continue her high level of public service. This includes work that she carried on in place of her late husband, Robert. She founded the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights and Justice. Today many of her children are involved in social justice work that Ethel attributes to Robert's influence on their children but in reality it is Ethel's example that most of the children intensely commend. Robert began a good work in their children's lives by being a father who loved to have the children around him as much as possible. He wanted the family to travel with him whenever possible and wanted the children to be exposed to his work. For example: the older children sat in on the infamous Jimmy Hoffa public hearing trial and other such historical events where children were not necessarily subject to appearing. Wow! Can you imagine their dinner table conversations? This example of hands-on parenting was common place in the Robert and Ethel Kennedy household--rituals the children cherish to this day.

Ethel was a fun social butterfly you could say and loved parties. Robert and Ethel enjoyed entertaining. They were a couple who loved people! Ethel was famous for her women's tea parties that usually had an agenda aimed at encouraging women to vote. Ethel had a knack for knowing how best to use her talents to help any family campaign needing manpower. She campaigned effortlessly for her brother-in-law, Jack Kennedy for the U.S. Presidency. Robert once told the media on his campaign trail, "If I were to win at anything it would be because of Ethel".

Ethel Kennedy is a remarkable lady with a fascinating life journey to be esteemed. The highest honor of all is to be revered by her children and what a wonderful tribute Rory Kennedy and her siblings have given to the world in ETHEL.*

*ETHEL premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. On thick snowy sidewalks that were very slippery...I unknowingly had passed Ethel Kennedy and a favorite niece as I tried to maneuver going up the hilly slippery sidewalks. We were gingerly meandering the slanted, snow laden sidewalks of Park City (Home of the Sundance Film Festival), on the festival's opening day. Observing the two was delightful. I had the time to observe because our slow pace. While in passing, I remember thinking that they both looked so firmilar and thought that this adorable elderly lady was crazy to be out in such snowy, stormy weather. She could easily fall and break a hip or something. I also remember smiling because they were having so much fun laughing and joking just trying to make it to their next destination. At the days end and recalled that Rory Kennedy was showing her film dawned on me who I had witnessed on the snowy sidewalk that day. A delightful memory for sure!

HBO Documentary to be aired on the HBO channel October 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm.