LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — “I remember I was 5 years old. It was 1960. The Democrats came to Los Angeles and nominated my uncle to be their nominee. And I went to that convention.”
Christopher Kennedy Lawford — the eldest son of Kennedy’s sister, Patricia, and actor Peter Lawford — says that’s his first memory of his “Uncle Jack.”
“About 3 o’clock in the morning, my uncle and my mom came into the room and my uncle sat on the side of the bed and woke me up and looked at me with great seriousness,” Lawford remembers. “He said, ‘Christopher, I’ve been nominated to be president of the United States of America. It’s going to be a very hard job. Will you help me?'” he said.
“And I said, ‘Sure, Uncle Jack. But can we do it tomorrow because I’m kind of tired right now.”
Fifty years after his uncle’s death, Lawford shared some insights into his famous family.
Lawford, who was only 8 years old when Kennedy died, did not attend the funeral.
“My mom was obviously devastated and she asked me if I wanted to go,” Lawford told CBS2’s Pat Harvey. “I had invited my best friend over and it was my first sleepover that I ever remember having, and he was coming that weekend and I didn’t understand how I could tell him not to come.
“I had a lot of guilt about that for a long, long time.”
Lawford said his uncles — including Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Sen. Ted Kennedy — “had this amazing lust for life. They were big in everything they did. When they came, everybody was included … kids. There was noise, excitement.”
In 2010, an overwhelming majority said in a Gallop poll that John F. Kennedy was the most popular president of the last nine. When asked if that surprised him, Lawford said, “Yeah, because he had such a short presidency.”
“Obviously he touched something, I think. When you think about the ’60s, you think about what we went through as a country. The loss of our leaders … the Kennedys, Martin Luther King. And the war in Vietnam. All of it. And then Nixon. We were able to survive,” he said.
“I think that the thing that we don’t have today is a belief that all of us have to lend a hand,” he added. “The ethic in my family was public service. It was always about giving back to people who had less than you did. It was always being conscious of the fact that we were enormously lucky to have what we had.”
Lawford was previously quoted as saying that Kennedy’s health issues really increased his “sensibilities about the needs of other people.”
“He used to say to us, ‘People who achieve great things in this world overcome something great,'” Lawford said. “And that’s one of the things that I talk a lot about in my advocacy in terms of mental illness and addiction.”
Lawford has spent much of his life in both Hollywood and Washington as an actor, lawyer, and activist.
But for the past eight years, he has been an author, writing books about substance abuse — something he personally fought most of his early life.
“I’ve written a book called ‘What Addicts Know – Ten Lessons in Recovery to Benefit Everyone’,” he said. “There are millions of us out there who are exceptional people. Who are leaders. Who are artists. Who are parents. Who are teachers. Who are doctors. Who are lawyers. All of us who are in recovery. But there are a lot of us who have overcome and have thrived and have a lot to give to society and a lot to teach society.”