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Stay free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. America's fascination with the Kennedy family has been undimmed for over six decades. The store of cold, hard facts about their lives and deaths have long ago been exhausted and have given way to reams of speculation. And then, just when it seemed there were no fresh angles on Camelot, along comes Neil Thompson's The First Kennedy. Author Neil Thompson's story Moonshiners and the Birth of NASCAR told the true story behind NASCAR's hardscrabble moonshine-fueled origins. He's back to share the story from his book The First Kennedys, The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty. This is the first book to explore the inspiring story of the poor Irish refugee couple who escaped famine, created a life together in a city hostile to the Irish immigrants that came here and Catholics, and launched the Kennedy dynasty here in America. This is a story of sacrifice and survival, resistance and reinvention. It's an American story.
My name is Neil Thompson. I'm the author of The First Kennedys, The Humble Roots of an American Dynasty, which is my sixth book of narrative nonfiction. The First Kennedys tells the story of the Irish immigrant Kennedys, refugees really, who came to America in the mid 1800s trying to escape from a crumbling homeland. It tells the story of Patrick and Bridget Kennedy, who left from their respective small poor farms in southeast Ireland in Wexford County. And they both escaped roughly 1847 into 1848, fleeing the great potato famine. The famine was this devastating episode in Irish history where the potato crops across the entire country died. And many Irish relied heavily on potatoes for most of their diets. They were, in most cases, tenant farmers who had to grow other crops and raise farm animals to sell at the market to pay their English landlords.
At the time, Ireland was a colony of England. And so most of the farms across the country, including those where the early Kennedys came from, were owned by these absentee English landlords, most of whom lived elsewhere in England or Scotland or somewhere else. And then the small tenant farmers had to do what they could to make enough money to pay the rent on these farms, otherwise face eviction. So when this potato famine hit, because many of these farms were already in a pretty precarious position and just barely making it, when the potatoes died, so did many of the Irish because they relied so heavily on potatoes for their sustenance. When that crop went away, they faced this terrible choice of whether to dip into the crops that they were growing to pay the rent or continue to sell those crops and pay the rent and keep their farm. Otherwise, they faced eviction, getting kicked into the street. And that happened to tens and tens of thousands of Irish families.
And so at that time, you know, you saw upwards of a million people die of starvation and disease and then upwards of two million people escaping, fleeing the country and trying to escape to other lands. So in the case of the first Kennedys that I write about, they both came from mid-sized families. I mean, these weren't Irish families of 10 plus.
There were a handful of brothers and sisters of Patrick Kennedy and Bridget Murphy Kennedy, who are JFK's, John F. Kennedy's great grandparents, to my story focuses on in the first Kennedys. So they both became the first in their respective families to leave the farm and to try to make their way to America and start a new life for themselves. One of many things I found interesting about this story was that women, Irish women, left in greater numbers than the men. There was this essentially a wave of Irish women escaping Ireland, coming to America to start over. And I think it says a lot about not only those women and sort of the grit and tenacity that they displayed in making their way, often cases alone, on these dangerous ships to a new land. But it says a lot, too, about what life had been like in Ireland for them. It was peasant life. You know, Bridget Murphy Kennedy, again, the main character of the first half of this book, if she had stayed in Ireland, her prospects were dim no matter what, even without the horrors of the potato famine. At best, she would have ended up a farm wife and lived the same way her mother did and her grandmother did before her, just tending to the crops and farm animals and raising kids. And I think for a lot of Irish women, when the potato famine hit, it kind of offered them a way out, a way to escape a land that at that time was very controlled by the church.
And so a lot of women view this as an opportunity to get out and start a life for themselves doing their own thing and making their own money. So Bridget Murphy Kennedy ends up in Boston, settles in Little Island across from downtown Boston, known as East Boston, and starts working as a maid, which is what many Irish women did at that time. Her name was Bridget. There were so many Bridget's.
It was the most common name in Ireland at the time. And so many of them collectively were just known as Bridget's. The maids who worked for these Boston families were just sort of lumped together as Bridget's or Biddy's or Bridie's, all these nicknames for Bridget.
And so Boston families would refer to them as my Bridget or my Biddy. And that was Bridget Murphy Kennedy, you know, started out at literally the lowest rung you could find in the economic ladder in America at that time. And you've been listening to author Neil Thompson tell the story of the first Kennedys, the first to come to America, and how hardship propelled that. The great potato famine, of course, well, it killed a million Irish, and two million fled for better prospects elsewhere.
But the life, even if there hadn't been a potato famine, of a farmer's wife, well, it was drudgery. And this was an opportunity for Bridget Kennedy and for Patrick to start a new life in the city of Boston, in this faraway place called America. More of this remarkable story of the first Kennedys, of the Irish coming to America, and America itself here on Our American Stories. Lee Habib here, the host of Our American Stories. Every day on this show, we're bringing inspiring stories from across this great country, stories from our big cities and small towns.
But we truly can't do the show without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love what you hear, go to our American stories dot com and click the donate button.
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To learn more about the design and innovation at Nissan, visit www.NissanUSA.com And we continue with our American stories. We last left off with Bridget Murphy Kennedy, JFK's great grandmother, leaving Ireland and settling in East Boston, where she began working as a maid. Let's return to author Neil Thompson. She married Patrick Kennedy, who again came from the same county as as her Wexford County County Wexford. They married in 1849. He was a barrel maker, someone who grew up on a farm but kind of made his own way at a youngish age and developed learned a skill for himself learned how to make barrels at a brewery, not far from his family farm. So when Patrick came to America, he had a little bit of an edge on some of the other men pouring into ports like Boston and New York and New Orleans and these other places where Irish famine escapees were coming to. And by ending up in this community in East Boston, which was a very robust shipbuilding community, Patrick Kennedy had a little bit of a leg up from the other men who ended up just working, digging ditches, building railroads, you know, hauling cargo on and off ships, you know, just not getting paid very much.
So Patrick did okay. He and Bridget get married again 1849 they start their family, but pretty quickly run into the hardships that many immigrant families at that time and across all time really ran into which is poverty and disease and ultimately death. So Patrick and Bridget lost their first son, John F. Kennedy, who died in 1855 of disease called cholera and phantom.
This just summer sickness that sometimes came from eating tainted milk drinking tainted milk or or spoiled food or something. And what's interesting about John F. Kennedy's death, he was just less than two years old at the time, is that there was so much hatred for these Irish Catholic immigrants coming to Boston at Boston had enacted laws that prevented the Irish from burying their dead inside the city limits. There was only one Catholic cemetery in Boston, it was known as St. Augustine, but it was always full, or the city was always closing it for various alleged health violations. So the Kennedy's couldn't even bury their own son near where they live, they had to take two ferries to travel a few miles west to the town of Cambridge and buried him at the nearest available Catholic cemetery miles from their home.
So while they buried their first son John they managed to have three other daughters in the mid 1850s. And then in 1858 Bridget gave birth to a second son who did survive and his name was PJ Patrick Joseph but they called him PJ. Sadly though when PJ was 10 months old his father Patrick got sick, he came down with tuberculosis, which was common at that time, many of the neighborhoods where these Irish immigrants live including the Kennedy's were slums, and often the air and the water was was was deadly, you know, full of disease that was easily transmitted in these close quarters. So Patrick Kennedy came down with tuberculosis at the time it was called consumption.
He survived a few months. And then, November 22 1858, same date that John F Kennedy would later be killed, Patrick Kennedy died, leaving Bridget alone with four kids, you know, alone in the slums of East Boston. So, at the time when Bridget and Patrick were starting their family. The prospects were pretty dim for American born kids of Irish immigrants. In fact, there was a health report at that time mid 1850s that said the life expectancy of a first generation kid born of Irish immigrant parents was five years. In the case of Bridget and Patrick their first born son didn't even make it that long. Later, when Bridget's daughter started raising their own families.
Each of them would lose nearly half of their of their children, upwards of a more than a dozen of Bridget's grandchildren would die of various diseases before the age of five or six. And at the time that Patrick Kennedy got sick. Another report that I found said that the expected lifespan of an Irish immigrant male in America was 14 years. And in Patrick's case he didn't even make it that long he made it in America for about 10 years before being felled by tuberculosis or consumption. So the story of the first Kennedy's really not only begins with the hardships that Bridget and Patrick face but mainly begins with what Bridget was up against after losing her husband and having to sort of start over and rethink her life in 1858 as a widowed immigrant made with four kids.
A few years after Patrick died she ended up getting a job as a hairdresser at a department store in downtown Boston called Jordan Marsh. And then incredibly within a couple years of that roughly 1865 she was able to open her own little grocery shop in East Boston at a time when it was extremely rare for women to open a business of any kind let alone a poor widowed immigrant former maid like Bridget. Among the reasons that the life expectancy or lifespan for Irish born men in America was so dismal was you know they faced disease they faced death in the rough jobs that they had to take on. On the flip side the women had better prospects in America and in the case of Bridget and others while they did start out working as maids and often cases you know abused emotionally or sometimes physically by their employers. One thing that job gave them was exposure to the American middle class you know they saw how well off Boston families lived and you know sort of mentally took notes you know this is how things work here in America.
And I think a lot of women made those observations as they were working as maids and then later applied those whatever lessons they learn from those families to taking on new jobs and breaking free of the trap of just working as a as a servant for others. And I think you see that in Bridget's case where she clearly was always watching always learning always figuring out how to get a little bit ahead which is what eventually leads her to being an entrepreneur to starting up her own business and establishing herself as really a community leader someone who not only started her own grocery store and was well known in that community but in time was able to buy the building where grocery store existed. Took out a mortgage bought that building later bought the building next to that and then turned all the rooms above the ground floor shops into apartments and then she would rent those out to other incoming immigrants most of them from Ireland two of whom became her sons in law.
So she really became this community fixture in her grocery store became the hub around which a lot of the family activities later sort of circled she was played this crucial role in the early days and the ultimate success of the Kennedy family in America because without her and none of it would have happened. It could have easily all came to a screeching halt as it did for many poor struggling Irish immigrant families especially those who lost the father at a relatively early stage. And what a story you're listening to the story of the first Irish to come here to this country. There was so much hatred for the Irish. We were told in Boston that there were laws against burying their own dead where they lived. And so the Kennedy family had to bury their first son John in a faraway Catholic Church is they couldn't do it at home. Dozens of Bridget's grandchildren died before the age of six we forget how far we've come, but the Irish had it particularly hard. The average life expectancy of an Irish male was 14 years of age in America at the time. But my goodness what Bridget's response was as a maid was to watch what the middle class of Boston were doing to learn from them, and then to apply those principles to her own life, opening your own grocery store, becoming a landlord, and a quasi real estate developer.
When we come back, more of the story of the first Kennedy's the story of Irish Americans story of Boston to hear on our American story. Nissan is driving the thrill of its vehicles innovative design into the spotlight in thrilling design, the brand's latest campaign. Nissan dares to design what others won't by approaching each project in a completely different way.
They break molds and start each design with a specific customer in mind and how this vehicle will bring a unique sense of thrill to the road. The campaign illustrates how Nissan drives to build an exhilarating experience into each model from initial concept to the last bolt with each design inspired by what moves and thrills you. We get a look into where Nissan draws inspiration for its innovative vehicle lineup and unique models to get a closer look at the thrilling details, features, and silhouettes. The Nissan Z, Ariya, and Rogue models take center stage to show everyday adventures Nissan vehicles can inspire with appearances by the rugged Pathfinder and bold Altima SR as well.
Nissan is driving the thrill of its vehicles innovative design into the spotlight in thrilling design, the brand's latest campaign. To learn more about the design and innovation at Nissan, visit www.NissanUSA.com Mother's Day is just around the corner, and if you're wondering what to get the special mom in your life, the gift of sound is always a winner. Lucky for you, you can get a Vizio V-Series soundbar for less than $200 at Walmart right now. With Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual X technology, this system delivers room-filling sound for all her favorites. Ready for a living room dance party? You know she'll be streaming her favorite music and radio on the iHeartRadio app. This deal won't be around forever, so get yourself to Walmart today.
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Stay free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we continue with our American stories and the story of the first Kennedys. Let's pick up where we last left off with author Neil Thompson. So P.J. Kennedy, born in 1858, who had a rough childhood, you know, raised without a father. His mother was often busy, first working as a maid, then later as a hairdresser, and then very busy working at her grocery store in East Boston.
And P.J. went to a few years of school in East Boston, didn't apparently do very well. He was described as someone who was a little bit of a follower. He liked to sing, he liked to goof off. I found evidence that he spent some time in a juvenile detention center on this place called Deer Island for truancy, which is what happened to many of these kids at that time.
They were just picked up off the streets and sent to juvie for not going to school. But P.J. sort of finds his way over time, I'd argue largely because of the influence of his mother, as well as the other women in his life, you know, being raised without a father figure or a brother or any uncles around.
P.J. was mainly raised by his cousin who came to watch him when he was a little boy, two aunts who came to live with Bridget and the family for a while, and then three older sisters. And so in time he finds a groove.
He settles down, he's less of a troublemaker. Into his late teens he worked on the docks of East Boston as a longshoreman hauling cargo on and off the ships coming in and out of that port. Works for a little while as a brass finisher in a factory in East Boston, but then into his early 20s discovers sort of the same entrepreneurial chops that his mother had and decides to open a saloon for himself. The history of the Kennedys and their relationship with liquor in America, it really starts 1840s when Patrick Kennedy gets here. He was a barrel maker and many of the barrels he made were for whiskey and beer. And then you see Bridget in her grocery store selling liquor on the side.
Then you see her son P.J. get into the liquor business as a saloon keeper and then a retailer, all of which helped fuel and fund his political career. And then later you see his son Joe get involved, although he's been portrayed as sort of this bootlegger. It really wasn't the case that he was a bootlegger during the Prohibition years. He did get involved, though, in liquor importing after Prohibition and made a great success at it. But you see liquor being an important part of that family's rise to success over the course of 50, 60 or more years.
P.J. bought a beat up old saloon in South Boston, paid a couple thousand dollars for it. It seems as if he probably borrowed money from his mother, who was finally doing well enough to help her son out. He did OK with that first saloon, later sold that, but bought another saloon in East Boston, followed by another one, followed by another one and really found his groove.
Also behind the bar, P.J. was was kind of a quiet presence. He often had his nose in a book or flipping through the newspaper. He didn't have much of a formal education or didn't make the most of it.
But later in life seemed to embrace this desire to learn more about the world and about the people around him. You know, he wore wire rimmed glasses and he was known as a teetotaler, not someone like the Irish cliche, someone who got drunk on whiskey. He didn't serve whiskey at the first bar that he opened, and he was described as someone who only on the most festive of occasion would allow himself a single glass of beer. I describe him as a bartender and a saloon keeper, as someone who is really good at listening to others, trying to understand what other people needed. And others described him at that time and then later in life as someone who was really concerned for his neighbors and his community and really went out of his way to help in any way he could. If someone came into one of his saloons in need of a meal, he would help them out.
They needed a couple dollars, he would make them alone. He was notorious for loaning money to people and sometimes forgetting to collect it later on. He was just a generous, empathetic, good soul, good person. All of which caught the eye of some of the political leaders in Boston, and P.J. Kennedy was part of that initial wave of upstart Irish democratic politicians getting elected. In his case, skipping ahead of local politics and getting elected in 1855 to the state legislature of Massachusetts. He served there for seven years, was not known as a great campaigner or a great speech giver, but was known as someone who was really good at working behind the scenes.
Sort of moving the levers of political machinery outside the spotlight, helping people find jobs, helping businesses get started and up and running. He was very interested in his own industry, which was the liquor industry. By the time he got started in politics, not only did he own saloons, but he owned a couple of retail liquor establishments and a wholesale liquor shop and was incredibly successful by the time he was into and then started to get out of politics. So for P.J., where he really developed his chops as a politician and a business leader were community, at his mother's grocery store, at his saloons, and at the church. Those were sort of the hubs around which his success was connected. So he's not only successful in politics and in business and in the community. In time, he became really sort of this trusted voice, this person that people would go to for advice. He became head of his own ward in East Boston.
It was known as Ward 2. And so in time, he became known as the boss of East Boston, the Ward 2 boss. He, with a couple of other East Boston politicians, started his own bank. Later, he got involved in a coal business. He got involved in real estate, buying and selling properties.
But what I find interesting among many other aspects of P.J. 's rise to success is that he was involved in a lot of businesses that could have gotten him in trouble and did get many other politicians in trouble at that time. But he always kept his nose clean. He always was very careful to not cross the line, never accused of graft, never accused of bribery. While at that time, many of his contemporaries were crossing the line, you know, they felt like they were in a fight for their lives trying to break into politics at that time.
And they would do whatever it took to either get elected or get a friend elected or once they were elected, help a friend get a job in city government somehow. And P.J. was alongside and surrounded by all of that, but always kept his nose clean, even as he became incredibly successful and incredibly influential.
In time, P.J. becomes a member of this initially secretive organization called the Board of Strategy. This was a small group of politicians who met at the Quincy Hotel in downtown Boston and together would decide which politicians they were going to get behind for upcoming elections.
Which person was the best candidate for some city job, an appointed job or an elected position. So they became really the movers and shakers of Boston as the Irish sort of political machinery literally took over that city. And you've been listening to author Neil Thompson's remarkable story of the first Kennedys and how a city that was once hostile to the Irish soon was led by the Irish. And it was entrepreneurship. It was a study of human nature.
And in the end, delivering services to their people. And in the end, he made a study of finding jobs for the Irish and, of course, helping the Irish start businesses. This is an entrepreneurial family all the way through. And his own mother taught him that. The liquor business, not a surprise that it plays a seminal part in this family. But how far back it went? Well, few knew. I certainly didn't. And I've read a lot about the Kennedys.
The story of the Irish in America, the story of Boston, the story of the first Kennedys and so much more here with author Neil Thompson on our American stories. Nissan is driving the thrill of its vehicles innovative design into the spotlight in Thrilling Design, the brand's latest campaign. Nissan dares to design what others won't by approaching each project in a completely different way. They break molds and start each design with a specific customer in mind and how this vehicle will bring a unique sense of thrill to the road. The campaign illustrates how Nissan drives to build an exhilarating experience into each model from initial concept to the last bolt. With each design inspired by what moves and thrills you. We get a look into where Nissan draws inspiration for its innovative vehicle lineup and unique models to get a closer look at the thrilling details, features and silhouettes. The Nissan Z, Ariya and Rogue models take center stage to show everyday adventures Nissan vehicles can inspire with appearances by the rugged Pathfinder and bold Altima SR as well.
Nissan is driving the thrill of its vehicles innovative design into the spotlight in Thrilling Design, the brand's latest campaign. To learn more about the design and innovation at Nissan, visit www.NissanUSA.com Mother's Day is just around the corner, and if you're wondering what to get the special mom in your life, the gift of sound is always a winner. Lucky for you, you can get a Vizio V-Series soundbar for less than $200 at Walmart right now. With Dolby Audio and DTS Virtual X technology, this system delivers room-filling sound for all her favorites. Ready for a living room dance party? You know she'll be streaming her favorite music and radio on the iHeartRadio app. This deal won't be around forever, so get yourself to Walmart today! Call for free, no strings attached.
Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we continue with our American stories and author Neil Thompson and his book, The First Kennedys, the humble roots of an American dynasty. When we last left off, P.J.
Kennedy has become one of the most powerful among the movers and shakers in Boston as the Irish political machinery took over the city. Let's return to Neil with the rest of the story. P.J. got married in 1887. He had already had a few years of success in the Massachusetts State Legislature and then met and married a woman named Mary Augusta Hickey. They married and had a first-born son, Joe. He was named Joe because Mary decided she didn't want, as she put it, another Patrick or another P.J.
running around this house. She wanted a son who had a more American name, who represented more of her desire to assimilate into America and not remain old-school Irish. And this is a trait that Joe himself picked up later on.
I argue in the book that P.J. maintained an interest in his Irish heritage. He visited Ireland a number of times and sort of cared about that part of his backstory. Joe, on the other hand, maybe influenced by his mother Mary, decided he didn't want to be Irish American.
He didn't want to be hyphenated. He wanted to be American, and he would tell his kids the same thing later when he and Rose started raising their own family. He said, we're Americans now. I was born here. I'm an American. He sometimes got frustrated with being tagged as Irish American and would say, you know, what does it take to be an American in this country?
I was born here. And in terms of P.J. 's generosity with others, lending money to others, sometimes collecting that money back and sometimes not, in time that became a frustration for his son Joe, who felt like his father was too generous, giving away too much of the family funds. And I think it's among the reasons that Joe Kennedy didn't get involved in elected politics himself. He saw his father as someone who was kind of at the beck and call of his constituents at all hours. Joe would later describe being at the dinner table and someone would knock at the door looking for P.J.
for whatever it was, help with a job, a loan, some help with something happening down at City Hall. And Joe bristled against that and bristled against his father's generosity. In fact, a family friend would later describe the differences between P.J. and his son Joe like this. Joe inherited his father's business acumen, but not his soul. You know, Joe, if he gave anything away, he expected something back.
And in P.J. 's case, he gave and often willingly forgave that debt. There was a family friend who later described P.J. as giving away half of his fortune during his day, just because he didn't go out of his way to collect debts from people who he knew struggled to pay those debts back. He really cared. He really had this profound empathy for those who needed help.
So I think P.J. cared about what he was doing and cared about people. And Joe was known as caring about getting rich and getting powerful and getting his sons elected to higher office. That was his goal in life. So interestingly, they were two very different men.
But I argue in the book that that some of the sensibilities you see in P.J., maybe they skip over Joe, but that you do see them get picked up in Joe and Rose's children who were raised to serve. The first Irish Catholic mayor of Boston, his name was Hugh O'Neill, was elected in 1885, just a year before P.J. got into politics. That was the start of this rise of Irish Democratic politicians in Boston. But within 10, 15 years, you see the Irish completely take over that city. Today, we think of Boston as primarily Irish and Democratic city, and it is. At that time, they were fighting to make that happen.
And P.J. was part of that initial wave of politicians who really broke through and then within a relatively short time kind of owned and ran that city and ran it. It was run by and for the Irish.
One of P.J. 's peers, contemporaries at that time was John F. Fitzgerald, who was JFK's other grandfather. Their relationship is a fascinating one to me because they were together. You know, again, part of this first wave of Irish Democratic politicians, very similar backgrounds. Sons of Irish immigrant grocers came up learning the liquor trades from their parents. Both lost their fathers at a relatively young age, in P.J.
's case, at a very young age. You know, and also grew up in a city that really didn't want their kind. And then they both get into politics at roughly the same time. They became friends and at times, foes. They were both at one point members of this board of strategy organization.
But at times, P.J. would vote against things that Fitzgerald wanted and vice versa. So I find their relationship to be a fascinating one, in particular because their children, P.J. 's first born son, Joe, and John F. Fitzgerald's daughter, Rose, meet where the families were vacationing up in Maine at a relatively young age. A few years later, they're a little bit older and they start flirting with each other.
Then their parents realize that something's going on there and try and keep them apart. They didn't want their children to marry one another. And in time, Rose and Joe did find each other and eventually get married in 1914, bringing those two families together and together, giving us the family that we know of today as the 20th century Kennedys. You know, JFK, Bobby Kennedy, and the rest. One of the reasons that I chose to dig way back into the Kennedy history and try and understand a little bit better where they came from and why and who the early Kennedys in America were and what life was like for them, it was also, in a backhanded way, an effort to understand my own Irish heritage. In the book, I describe the immigrant Kennedys, Bridget and Patrick, and in my family on my mother's side, my grandparents were Bridget and Patrick, who came from Ireland and settled in New York in the 1920s. Similar to the Kennedy family, my grandfather Patrick died in his mid-30s in his case of cancer, leaving his wife Bridget alone with three kids in public housing in New Jersey. So these echoes between how my family started in America and how the Kennedys started, it's partly what drew me to this story in the first place and partly what drove some of my efforts to envision what life was like for the Kennedys across those early days, because I know there were some similarities to how life was like for my widowed immigrant grandmother during her early days in America. In fact, my grandmother, when she got to America, worked as a maid, as Bridget Murphy Kennedy did, although in my grandmother's case, those maids were so, because the name Bridget was so affiliated with work as a domestic servant, she changed her name when she got to America and was later known as Della instead of Bridget.
She didn't want to be known as the stereotypical Irish Bridget maid. So I think my hope in exploring this piece of the Kennedy story was to not only bring to life some of these characters who have been, in my view, kind of either overlooked or forgotten, especially Bridget Murphy Kennedy, who I think has really played an important and heroic role in the early success of that family and doesn't get as much credit as she deserves. But my hope also was to show how the Kennedys, who, you know, it's a family we think of as being powerful and successful and, you know, flawed in a lot of ways, depending on how you view them.
I certainly view members of that family as being extremely flawed, but certainly successful and wealthy and stylish and, you know, they were celebrities, many of them. But I find it remarkable that despite all that, they started like a lot of immigrant families do, poor, living in the slums, struggling to break out of the slums and to make something for themselves. So really, it's an immigrant success story, and we don't really think of the Kennedys as being a family that started with nothing, that started poor, that started as a class of people who were discriminated against, as a class of people whose laws were made to try and prevent them from succeeding. So my hope in telling their story, the back story of the Kennedys, kind of the origin story of the Kennedys, is to remind us that we really are a nation of immigrants, but I think the Kennedy saga is proof that we are a nation of immigrants if we have the right rules in place, the right laws in place, and we allow people who come here aspiring to start a new life for themselves, allow them to succeed the way the Kennedys ultimately did.
And a terrific job on the production by Greg Hengler and a remarkable piece of storytelling by author Neil Thompson, the first Kennedys, the humble roots of an American dynasty, get it at your local bookstore, or get it online at the usual suspects. And what a story, starting as Irish tenant farmers in southeastern part of that country, the potato famine strikes, one million die, two million flee. And what a story about overcoming obstacles, laws, the Kennedys couldn't even bury their first dead son in Boston, because there were laws that prohibited it. What did the Irish do? What was their rebuttal? Not long after the Irish were running that city, as Neil Thompson said, it was run by and for the Irish.
The story of the Irish Americans in Boston, the story of the Kennedy family, and so much more here on Our American Stories. I'm Malcolm Gladwell. I live way out in the country. I drive everywhere.
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