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The Kennedys Code: A timeless blueprint for the modern gentleman

Beyond America's most prominent dynasty mystique lies a deeper legacy: a set of codes that defined a generation and continue to inspire gentlemen today.

By Raja Izz

Photo: Jackie Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, and Eunice Kennedy (credit: Getty)

The Kennedy name conjures images of style, charisma, and a certain elusive mystique. The dynasty is close as it gets to royalty in the US. But beyond the headlines and famous surname lies a deeper legacy: a set of values that defined a generation and continue to inspire gentlemen today.

These values, embodied in the lives and careers of The Kennedy brothers and their respective lineage, have transcended time and politics, offering a timeless blueprint for modern masculinity.

A Family Legacy of Public Service and Honor

The Kennedy brothers were born into an atmosphere of public service. Their father, Joseph P. Kennedy, instilled in them a strong sense of responsibility, a commitment to public service, and a belief in ethos of enduring class. This upbringing shaped their values, leading them to pursue careers in politics, law, and military service.

The Kennedys Code find their roots in the crucible of adversity. The Kennedy family, headed by patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy, faced both triumphs and tragedies that shaped their worldview. From the triumph of John F. Kennedy's presidency to the heart-wrenching tragedies of Joseph Jr.'s death in World War II and John's assassination in 1963, the family weathered storms with resilience and grace.

At the core of the Kennedys Code lies a profound commitment to public service. John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, encapsulated this ethos in his famous inaugural address when he uttered the iconic words, "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."

Photo: Ted, John, and Robert Kennedy in 1958 (AP Photos)

Beyond Politics: Building Character and Confidence

The Kennedy code extends beyond noble ambition. It encompasses a set of personal qualities that make up a true gentleman:

  1. Pursuit of Excellence

The Kennedys were known for their pursuit of excellence in every endeavor. From John F. Kennedy's eloquence in speeches and gentlemanly style to Ted Kennedy's legislative prowess, the family set high standards for themselves and those around them.

JFK for instance, loved Shakespeare, read books, newspapers and journals, liked theater, tennis and swimming, who was knowledgeable of everything — from farm problems to the lunar project. And he was natural at conferences with other world leaders as he was with his own children on his lap.

This commitment to excellence serves as a beacon for the modern gentleman, encouraging us to strive for greatness in both personal and professional pursuits.

  1. Courage

The Kennedys were known for their unwavering courage in the face of adversity. One needs to remember how elegantly JFK averted nuclear apocalypse during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. The missile crisis showed a conciliatory JFK who had ignored his hawkish advisers and reached a negotiated settlement. It was chilling to discover that Soviet field commanders in Cuba had tactical nuclear weapons that could have liquidated an invading force and triggered a nuclear war. Under a weaker commander-in-chief, the world might have been Armageddon. However, JFK solved it like Alexander The Great's cutting "the guardian knot" - with finesse and class. The lesson in Cuban Missile crisis has since continue to be studied on Harvard Business School strategy courses for the future leaders.

  1. Intellect and Curiosity

The Kennedys were lifelong learners with a passion for knowledge and a deep understanding of the world. JFK himself, was an avid reader of history, and philosophy. The Kennedy brothers were well-read and well-informed, able to engage in meaningful discussions on a wide range of topics like a true renaissance man.

In Evelyn Lincoln’s 1965 book on JFK she gives a striking glimpse of the kind of intellectual competitiveness encouraged around the Kennedy family dinner table:

His inquiring mind and search for all the facts reflected, it seemed, the training he received around the family table when he was growing up. His father would assign a subject–Algeria, for example–to one child and instruct him to find all he could on the subject. Then he would tell the other children to do the same so they could question the first one when he made his report and see how much he really knew. Both father and mother tried to develop alert minds in their children by giving them mental exercise, just as they encouraged physical exercise. And the same competitive spirit prevailed at the table discussions that was apparent in the touch football games on the lawn.

In younger days, The Kennedy brothers were required to listen attentively when their father lectured on any topic (sometimes with a map) and to respond clearly and intelligently when he asked detailed questions about their activities, current events, and matters of general knowledge. There was never to be silliness, irreverence, or even relaxation at a formal family meal.

  1. Humor and Wit

Despite the burdens they carried, the Kennedys maintained a sense of humor and charm. This ability to laugh at themselves and connect with others on a personal level endeared them to the public. JFK especially, has been known as master of witticism (up to his last day in Dallas Texas), a trait that has lost in modern politicians / community leaders today.

  1. Unwavering Dedication to Family and Country

The Kennedys Code emphasize the importance of family as bedrocks of a fulfilling life. Despite the intense public scrutiny and the demands of their roles, the Kennedys maintained a strong sense of family bonds. This dedication to family was evident in their support for one another during times of crisis and celebration alike, such as post JFK assassination when RFK stood firm in supporting Jackie Kennedy during her most difficult times.

The modern gentleman, in adopting the Kennedys Code, recognizes the significance of maintaining strong family ties and contributing to the well-being of their community and nation. The idea of service to one's country extends beyond political office; it encompasses a commitment to fostering unity, understanding, and progress.

Photo: The Kennedys family (credit: Getty)

Relevance for the Modern Gentleman

In a world often defined by cynicism, bi-partisan view and self-interest, the Kennedys Code offers a refreshing alternative. It provides a roadmap for a men who want to live a life of purpose, integrity, and impact.

Here are some ways modern gentlemen can embody the Kennedys Code:

• Find your purpose: Identify your passions and use your talents to contribute positively to society.

• Develop your character: Cultivate honesty, integrity, and a strong moral compass.

• Embrace lifelong learning: Continuously seek new knowledge, especially "the best that has been said and thought in the world” and strive to broaden your understanding of the world.

• Maintain a sense of humor: Don't take yourself too seriously, and remember to laugh and enjoy life's simple pleasures.

• Maintain a strong family ties: The idea of service to one's country extends beyond political office; it encompasses a commitment to fostering unity, understanding, and progress. An this starts at home.

The Kennedys golden era may be gone, but their code remains a powerful influence. In today's world, where values are often questioned and integrity is challenged, the Kennedys Code offers a clear and compelling vision of what it truly means to be a gentleman. It is a call to action for young men to pursue the path of public service, live with purpose, and leave a positive mark on the world.

Moreover, the Kennedys Code serve as a reminder that true leadership involves more than just wielding power—it requires a sense of responsibility, humility, and an unwavering dedication to improving the lives of others. By following this enduring code, modern gentlemen can continue to embody style and substance, inspire hope and build a better future for generations to come.

Photo: Prince William meets JFK's grandson Jack Schlossberg (Getty)

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