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1967_08_26--028_SP At Home with Heir Apparent

ROBERT F KENNEDY At home with the heir apparent Many Americans are convinced that he will become President someday, but he is not so sure. Here the senator talks informally about his future plans, the younger generation and what he wants for his own children. By Robert S. Bird Photographs by Philippe Haisman It was early on a grand morning at Hickory Hill. Robert Kennedy's house in Virginia, and the senator was not long out of bed. His hair was uncombed, shaggy as a yak's. He had pulled on a faded, blue-striped jersey and an old pair of khaki shorts for the stroll down the lawn to the pool, and he looked at least 10 years younger than his actual 41 years. He seemed lost in thought, his shoulders a little hunched, his blue eyes caught by some inner vision. Seeing him like this, it was hard to believe that uncounted multitudes, including not only his admirers but also many who dislike him. have long tended to think of him as a future President of the United States. Not just as a favored candidate but as an actual, de facto, future President. This is an unprecedented position in American political history. In the case of Bobby Kennedy it is, of course, a direct reflection of the power of dynasty. a power which the Kennedy family has been able to build up. maintain and enhance in the span of just two generations. Arriving a little earlier than the hour appointed for our meeting. I had found the Kennedy home in the same state of morning uproar that prevails in thousands of other American households with 10 youngsters. One of the older Kennedy children whizzed out the front door with a school bag just as I was approaching. Since he left the door wide open, I simply walked in and announced myself. A maid seemed to be directing traffic at the foot of the stairs in the main hall, steering the unfed ones in to breakfast and pointing the fed ones toward the door. To me she said a pleasant good morning and explained, "The senator just this very minute went on down to the pool. You go out that door and down the hill and you'll find him there." A ragamuffin tot, wearing a tiny bathrobe, came up to me and asked. "Are you the man who's going to fix the cars?" I said no. and hurried out. Whatever the senator's thoughts may have been, they vanished when he caught sight of this visitor approaching. He called out a friendly "Hi !" in that familiar flat accent of his, and waved an invitation to join him across the pool. "I'll be with you in a minute." he said, and ducked into the cabana. A couple of minutes later he emerged in khaki trunks and promptly lowered himself into the water. I asked him if it was cold. He said, "No. it's fine. I began my morning swims back in March and I had to heat the water up a little then because it was pretty cold." He swam around for five minutes or so. mostly on his back, and I discovered to my surprise that the rather thick mat of hair on his chest is almost completely gray. While he was enjoying himself in the water. I made another surprising discovery. From the many stories I had read about the Kennedy swimming pool, I had tended to think of it as belonging to grown-ups—a fun place for dunking famous people wearing full evening dress on summer nights of champagne, laughter and moonlight. But now I saw that it was designed primarily for the kids. The most attractive nook in the whole complex was a kind of sheltered patio between two cabana structures at the side of the pool. It contained a great round conference table surrounded by a half dozen chairs upholstered in a gay yellow fabric. But the size of the chairs showed that this was a meeting place for children, not for senators. Harvard professors, or the like. I remarked to the senator when he pulled himself out of the water that I was surprised to see that. society gossip columns to the contrary notwithstanding. the Kennedy pool was really for the youngsters. He grinned. "That's because we grown-ups are outnumbered." The accent on youth—and the sense of dynasty— are, of course, even more pronounced at the 28


1967_08_26--028_SP At Home with Heir Apparent
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