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Guest column | Jerry Blizin

Caroline Kennedy would have served in U.S. Senate with grace

There has been a lot of columnist bloviation going on about Caroline Kennedy's withdrawal from consideration for an appointment to the U.S. Senate from New York. Some pundits saw it as the end of the Kennedy dynasty.

I don't. I just think of it as a decision by an extraordinarily shy and private woman to simply shuck the whole mess.

Now, I am no intimate of Caroline (more properly Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg), but I used to observe her on a regular basis many years ago when she was a teen intern in U.S. Sen. Claiborne Pell's office.

My best friend on Capitol Hill was the late Steve Wexler, Pell's top staffer on the Senate Education Committee, and Orlando Potter, another Pell assistant, was my neighbor. So, when business took me to the Hill, I hung around the patrician Rhode Islander's office quite a bit.

Pell came from a family of great wealth. He recently died, but in his day he was a great benefactor to education. The Pell grants he established have enabled many who would have otherwise been financially unable to get degrees to do so.

He was also a great believer in getting the children of the high-born immersed in the political process. (The Capitol joke of the day was that his real name was Wellborn Pell, not Claiborne.) The interns in his Senate office thus were always at the top of the name-recognition ladder. And most of them seemed imbued with a genuine desire to learn about public service.

When I was on the scene, the interns included Caroline Kennedy, one son of actor Gregory Peck, and Prince Adam, then heir to the throne of Leichtenstein.

Caroline was always blushing. She darted here and there with a demure air and gave off no aroma of entitlement whatsoever. The first time I saw her in Pell's office she was trying to collate a pile of papers and dropped them all, blushed mightily, and started picking them up again.

Wexler noted that she was just a regular young kid, unspoiled and willing to work. I chatted with her a couple of times and never once detected that she was addicted to the terrible habit of injecting "you know"' into her sentences (something she unfortunately did while she was being considered to succeed Sen. Hillary Clinton.)

In fact, had I not been told at the time who she was, I would have guessed she was just another ordinary constituent's daughter, of which there were hundreds, trying to make her way on Capitol Hill. I was formerly an intern myself at the advanced age of 35, when I spent a year working in Congress on an American Political Science Association fellowship. (So did a guy named Dick Cheney, but that's another story.)

In any case, the opinion I formed of Caroline Kennedy back then remains on my hard drive. She was never possessed by political ambition. Prior to her support of Barack Obama, she worked for many good causes, invariably in a manner secondary to her role as a wife and mother.

Maybe she would not have been tough enough to be a senator from a contentious state, but I somehow feel that grace would have been her salvation. Call me a romantic, if you will, but it's too bad she didn't get the job.

Jerry Blizin is a retired journalist living in Tarpon Springs.

Caroline Kennedy would have served in U.S. Senate with grace 02/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 5:56pm]
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