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Thursday, May 25, 2017

RFK Book and Journalism Awards, 2017

Ethel Kennedy and her daughter, Kerry Kennedy, arrive at the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards presentation at the Newseum, May 23, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie

As the photos attest, Ethel Kennedy, age 89, and her daughter, Kerry Kennedy, 57, looked wonderful and glam (I realize this is not p.c., but still they looked so good, comments cannot be ignored) at Tuesday night's 49th annual presentation  of the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards. 

The awards are given to those writers who "best applied RFK's ideals and values" and instilled his goals and aspirations "in the public interest, on the issues of poverty, political inclusion, and justice," according to the website and remarks by Ms. Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss who presided with Margaret Engel at the event at the Newseum.
 Ethel Kennedy and her daughter, Kerry Kennedy, arrive at the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards presentation at the Newseum, May 23, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Ethel Kennedy and her daughter, Kerry Kennedy, arrive at the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards presentation at the Newseum, May 23, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Winners in the journalism category were chosen by 60 judges. The book award went to Matthew Desmond for Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, chosen by writers Peter Edelman, Ruth Marcus, and Annette Gordon Reed.

Journalism categories included college, high school print and high school broadcast, radio, cartoons, new media, and domestic and international print, television, and photography. (A complete list of winners is available here.)
 Ethel Kennedy and her daughter, Kerry Kennedy at the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards presentation at the Newseum, May 23, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Before the ceremony began, Ethel Kennedy, center, sitting, received guests at the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards presentation at the Newseum, May 23, 2017.  To Mrs. Kennedy's left is her daughter, Kerry Kennedy, sitting/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Kerry Kennedy, president of RFK Human Rights, at the podium with Margaret Engel and Michael Beschloss at the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards presentation at the Newseum, May 23, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 John Seigenthaler, Jr. congratulates Josh Salman, Emily Le Coz, and Elizabeth Johnson of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on winning the John Seigenthaler Journalism Prize at the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards presentation at the Newseum, May 23, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie

John Seigenthaler, Jr., presented the John Seigenthaler Journalism Prize to "Bias on the Bench" by Josh Salman, Emily Le Coz, and Elizabeth Johnson writing for the Sarasota Herald Tribune.  The reporters studied 80 million records to show that judges discriminate against black defendants in Florida. (Mr. Seigenthaler was RFK's close personal aide.)

The RFK Media Advocacy Prize went to "Rikers" by Bill Moyers, Judy Doctoroff O'Neill, Marc Levin, Mark Benjamin and Rolake Bamgbose, Schumann Media Center and Brick City TV in association with Public Square Media, PBS.  

Mr. Moyers was not present and unable to accept the award which was the same for all winners:  a bust of RFK, about 18 inches high with a design, reminiscent of the JFK bust at the Kennedy Center.  The busts looked to be bronze and based upon Kerry Kennedy's reaction when lifting them from a table to present them to the winners, they were bronze.

Receiving "special recognition" was My Own Words by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg written with Wendy Williams and Mary Hartnett.  Due to a long-standing commitment with the American Bar Association, Justice Ginsburg was unable to attend the presentation and sent a video message instead.  

During her remarks, Kerry Kennedy made several references to "Daddy" which seemed odd, simply because she looked too young to remember her father, but when he was killed in 1968, she was eight years old. 

She quoted from a speech he made to the American Association of Newspaper Editors in 1961 about the importance of journalism to the lifeblood of the U.S.: Writers and reporters must dig into government and find out what's going on, and report it accurately.  

Kerry Kennedy issued a refrain:  "The press is under attack; our freedoms are under attack" which Mr. Beschloss picked up and repeated. 

So much more is at stake this spring, he said, when "values are under assault...hour by hour." Robert Kennedy "didn't denigrate; he dreamed."

Lest anyone forget, he reminded all, it was a night of celebration and a reflection on Robert Kennedy's journey.
 
At the beginning of the evening Mr. Beschloss publicly recognized Ethel Kennedy sitting on the front row with her daughter, before her daughter took the podium. 

Ethel Kennedy is not just "a national treasure," Mr. Beschloss said, "she is a global treasure." Mrs. Kennedy beamed and stood to wave, and the audience rose to gave her a standing ovation and applaud her achievements and her life.
 U.S. Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD and House Minority Whip) at the Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards presentation at the Newseum, May 23, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Mr. Beschloss noted that three buildings important to Mr. Kennedy stood nearby:  the U.S. Capitol (he was a U.S. Senator from New York from 1965 to 1968), the Justice Department (he served as attorney general from 1961 until September, 1964) and the White House.  

A short video of the last few years of RFK's life was screened.  In one segment RFK recounted telling his wife that he wanted to start a speech with a funny story, and Ethel Kennedy replied:  "Just point to the top of your head, and they'll laugh."  (Mr. Kennedy had a healthy and notable head of hair.) 

Videos of less than three minutes each which described themes of each of the winning articles and book were shown before winners arrived on stage to accept awards. 

A cocktail reception followed.  About 200 attended.
Robert F. Kennedy: "One person can make a difference and each of us should try.


patricialesli@gmail.com





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