First Kennedy family member visits Sixth Floor Museum

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On Memorial Day, Former President John F. Kennedy would have turned 100 years old.

To mark the special milestone, JKF’s nephew did something no other Kennedy had done since the assassination. He made an appearance at the Sixth Floor Museum for a discussion about JFK's legacy.

The museum saw it Tuesday night’s visit as a real landmark since he was the first Kennedy family member to appear at a museum program and possibly the first member to ever set foot in the building.

Stephen Kennedy Smith is the oldest son of JFK's only surviving sibling, Jean Kennedy Smith. He was 6 at the time of the assassination, a contemporary to JFK's children, Caroline and John Jr.

"Caroline and I were close friends, and I went to school in the White House,” Stephen said.

In January of 1963, Stephen appeared on the cover of Look Magazine in a golf cart with President Kennedy. His memories of the assassination on November 22, 1963, consist of little more than being taken out of school.

JFK's closest family, his widow Jaqueline and his brother Ted, never again set foot in Dallas. But Stephen says it's not because the family shunned the city where JFK was killed.

“I'm sure that it was very painful for particular members of my mother's generation to come here. I mean that's probably why they didn't come,” he said. “But I don't think it had anything to do with their feeling about the city at all. It was just their own personal memories associated with that."

“Being here in Dallas, one has the tendency to focus on the tragedy, the death of President Kennedy,” Stephen said. “But the reality is, as Faulkner said, ‘The past is not dead and buried. It's not even past. His memory and his example is still with us.’”

The program honored the centennial of JFK's birth with a conversation with Stephen and Historian Douglas Brinkley, who have compiled a new book called ‘JFK: A Vision for America.’

"We really wanted to bring President Kennedy's ideas into the contemporary context and ask leaders to comment on their relevance now,” Stephen said. “Frankly, I wanted to make it a point to come to Dallas because we want this to be a national centennial. And the people of Dallas have been enormously loving and supportive toward our family.”

Stephen notes that Dallas is the only stop he's making on the book tour outside of the east coast. He appreciates the fact that the Sixth Floor Museum is about more than the assassination and that it seeks to celebrate the life and legacy of JFK.