This was absolutely beautiful Mr President. I'm glad to see Mitt and Caroline forging their own paths especially Mitt after what happened to his father. Jack Kennedy passing away was very beautifully written and certainly marks the end of a era for Blue Skies. Jack lived a great life ITTL and will be remembered as possibly one of the best Presidents alongside FDR, Lincoln and Washington ITTL. His legacy in Blue Skies will live on not only through his brothers and wife but children.Chapter 113: “Come Sail Away” - The Next Generation of Romneys and Kennedys
Above: Mitt and Ann Romney with their eldest two children, sons Taggart and George Romney, circa 1976.
“A gathering of angels
Appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope
And this is what they said
They said, come sail away, come sail away” - Styx, “Come Sail Away”
“I think that the presidency really brings out the best in a lot of people. It definitely brought out the best in him.” - Caroline Kennedy, commenting on her father’s legacy, 1985.
The 1970’s passed by slowly at first for the youngest son of the slain President Romney. Still attending university when his father’s life slipped away in his arms, felled by an assassin’s bullet, Mitt had taken his father’s last words to heart. Every day of his life, he strove to do the right thing whenever possible, to be a good, hardworking, decent man like his father had been before him, and to build a life for himself and his young family that his old man would have been proud of. He kept his head down while attending Harvard Law, where he labored to finish the J.D. which his father had always insisted, to his reluctance, that he earn. Classmates reported that Mitt was often a quiet, thoughtful presence in class, usually practicing silence unless specifically asked a question by the instructor. When Mitt did choose to speak however, he did so with poise and power, often winning mock cases and shutting down arguments with just a few short words. Over time, his confidence and buoyant sense of optimism returned, and he was able to make friends with some of his peers. Later in life, Mitt would claim that delving deeply and earnestly into his Mormon faith, and the love and support of his wife, Ann, were the only things which restored his spirit and gave him the strength to carry on after the death of his father, a man who would forever be his hero. Come back Mitt did, graduating summa cum laude, in the top third of his class in 1975, and delivering a brief, but moving speech to his peers before welcoming President George Bush, his father’s former Vice President and successor, to give the commencement address. Harvard had, despite its challenges, been good for Mitt, a place for him to develop himself and discover a deep wellspring of empathy, compassion, and a desire to do good in the world. It also provided him with plenty of opportunities for starting the career in business that he’d always wanted.
Almost immediately upon Mitt’s graduation, he and Ann were beset by hundreds of job offers from firms all over Massachusetts and the country at large. Mitt decided to go into consulting, believing that such work would better prepare him for the career he really wanted, that of an executive (he had received several lucrative offers to do just that in Boston and elsewhere). Before he had reached his decision, however, he had faced a conflicting interest in the form of his mother, Lenore, who wanted Mitt, Ann, and their children to come and live with her in Washington, D.C., where she headed several volunteer organizations, and remained active in public service. Naturally, Mitt resisted his mother’s plea, though not without reluctance. He felt sympathy for her, left alone by his older siblings and his father’s passing, but he also felt that he and his wife had every right to their own lives, independent of his mother and her wishes. After a brief, tender conversation between them over a summer holiday in the nation’s capital, Lenore agreed to see her son and daughter in law make their own life elsewhere. Mitt and his mother also ventured to Arlington National Cemetery together to visit his father’s grave, the first time he had visited since resuming college. With tears in his eyes, he softly whispered “Thank you” to his father’s tombstone. Shortly thereafter, he and Ann sifted through the various job offers and Mitt decided on what he considered a “fitting” place to start - a consulting firm in Detroit which worked with auto manufacturers, the same industry in which his father had made his name. Returning to motor city, Mitt and Ann quickly found that many of his father’s old friends were still around and were eager to see him succeed. These included Governor William Milliken (R), who had been his father’s Lieutenant Governor and Successor, and visited the younger Romneys as often as his schedule would allow. The Governor, nearing retirement himself, told Mitt that he was “happy” to see him making a go of it in the auto industry, and also that he hoped that someday, like his father, Mitt’s keen eye and sharp mind would be put toward public service. “Let’s not get carried away, Governor.” Mitt simply smiled. “One job at a time, here.” Milliken agreed and laid off, but he couldn’t deny that there was something special about George Romney’s youngest son. He had the guts, the brains, and the heart to make a hell of a politician someday. He only hoped that the young man wouldn’t be intimidated by his father’s rather large shoes and would just make a go of it.
Of course, Romney thrived in Motor City. Within five years of settling there, he transitioned out of consulting and was offered a more permanent position as a Junior Vice President at Jeep, one of the auto brands owned by American Motors, the company his father had turned around from bankruptcy to prosperity in “nothing short of a miracle” only twenty years prior. Always a fan of their products, which he personally owned and used to take his burgeoning family on week long camping trips on his state’s upper peninsula and into Canada, Mitt accepted the position eagerly. His boss, then President of the company, Ben Wells, described Mitt as: “having the confidence of an executive ten years older than he is. He’s precise, no-nonsense, and most importantly - he always does his homework. When Vice President Romney walks into a room, you can guarantee that no deal will be made where he could be leaving money on the table.” His coworkers, like his classmates before them, made frequent notes of his “kindness, gentle demeanor, and shrewd business sense”. They admitted that in some ways, Mitt was “harder” than his father, ambitious, and developing into something of a perfectionist in his work. He often spent long nights pouring over his accounts, just as his father had before and during his time in the Oval Office. To avoid “turning into” his father completely, as Ann liked to tease him about, Romney also developed a chiding sense of humor, and played lighthearted pranks on his coworkers, friends, and neighbors with the help of his sons. Speaking of which, he and Ann would eventually have five: Taggart (born 1970); George II (born 1972); Joshua (born 1975); Benjamin (born 1978); and Joseph (born 1981). Besides family and work, Mitt filled the remainder of his time with serving as an ordained priest in his LDS church, eventually rising to the rank of Bishop of his ward in Detroit, developing a lifelong passion for fitness and in particular, running and water sports, and volunteering his time and money to the church’s various charities. Mitt remained with Jeep, even serving briefly as President of the Brand, until leaving in 1985 to be made CEO of American Motors, his father’s old company at the incredibly young age of 38. All the while, Mitt kept a reasonable distance from politics, claiming that he wanted to “do his father proud” primarily in the business world. In line with this vision for his future, he limited himself to donating to Liberal Republicans in his father’s mold. But as the prosperous 1980’s continued and the Michigan GOP struggled to combat the popular appeal of Udall-esque Progressive Democracy, more and more friends of the young executive started muttering to him: “maybe you ought to give this politics thing another look.” Though it would take many years and the personal lobbying of his mother, Mitt would eventually rise to the call in the early 1990’s, following once more the path set for him by his beloved father.
Above: The Romney family in 1982, about a year after the birth of their youngest son, Joseph. (Left); The 1983 Jeep CJ-5 Laredo, one of the company’s most popular off-road models, was developed and released during Romney’s first year as President of the Brand.
…Above: Caroline Kennedy, eldest child of former President Kennedy at her graduation from Radcliffe College, Harvard University, in 1980 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science (left). John F. Kennedy, Jr. seen here in 1978 working as a horse and cattle wrangler in Wyoming (right). Shortly after this photo was taken, John would go to Hollywood to pursue his dream - a career in acting.
While Mitt Romney was busy pursuing his future and building a family of his own, so too were the eldest daughter and son of JFK and Jackie-O taking the first steps of their own journeys into adulthood. For young Caroline, ever called “the quiet Kennedy” for her introverted nature and soft-spoken demeanor, Mo Udall’s election to the Presidency in 1976, as well as the gargantuan influence of her father convinced her not to take up the career in the arts she had initially considered, and instead dedicate her life to public service. After graduating from Radcliffe in 1980, Kennedy immediately entered Harvard Law, laboring from even the admissions process to keep her head down and focus on her work, a difficult task when the University you’re attending had its School of Government recently renamed after your father. Sometimes painfully shy, and always aware of the near-constant threat of publicity and paparazzi around everything she did, Caroline nearly flunked out of several of her first semester classes from the sheer stress and pressure. Depressed and running out of options to recover her grades and mental health, Kennedy turned to the campus’ tutoring program and attended mass every Sunday at the nearby St. Paul’s Catholic Church. She would never clearly recall where she first encountered the young man who would help her save her grades and one day become her husband, but it was definitely one of the two aforementioned graces.
Timothy Michael Kaine, a Kansas boy born in St. Paul, Minnesota to thoroughly Irish Catholic stock, was about three months Kennedy’s junior, but ahead of her by a semester in his studies at Harvard Law. Recently returned from a nine month trip to Honduras, where he had helped Jesuit missionaries run a vocational center which taught local children carpentry and welding (which Kaine’s own father did for a living), Kaine was eager to dive back into his own study of the law, aimed, like Miss Kennedy’s, at some day forming the basis of a career in public service of some kind. “Tim” as he preferred to be called, was serving as a part-time tutor at the Academic Assistance office when Caroline first stumbled in, desperate for help to catch up in her classes. Even though he recognized her in an instant from the millions of photographs he’d seen of her throughout her life, Tim made an honest effort not to treat her any differently from the other students he tutored. “Come on in,” he said with a gentle smile. “Grab a seat and get out your textbook.”
Caroline, so accustomed to being either pampered or put through the ringer for her famous last name, was utterly flabbergasted. “He was just this incredibly kind… dorky guy.” She would later tell Barbara Walters with a chuckle in an exclusive interview about her years at Harvard. “He didn’t condescend, or look down at me because of who my father was. Nor did he go easy on me with the material. When he expected me to memorize something and I was wrong about it, he would let me know!”
Over time, the two would become friends and start spending time together outside of their tutoring sessions. When they found out that they both went to St. Paul’s, they made an effort to go to the same mass with their small but close-knit group of friends. When they weren’t busy studying, listening to Beatles records, or in Tim’s case, working at the tutoring center, they took road trips to Walden Pond (a favorite destination of her father’s due to his admiration for Thoreau), and went on skiing trips in Vermont. When Caroline took up the guitar, she and Tim, who played the harmonica, would “jam” together and sometimes play open mics on campus and at local coffee shops. In the evenings, with her friends Ruth Marcus and Anne Holton, Caroline had Tim teach her Spanish, which he’d become fluent in during his time in Honduras. By the end of Caroline’s first semester, she was in the top 10% of her class. With Tim’s help, she had clawed her way to credibility on her own terms. With his own quiet, shy ways and “micromanaging” personality, Tim showed her that it was okay to be yourself, no matter who you were. Kennedy would credit this lesson as one of the most important of her young life. As the year wore on into the spring thaw, their friendship developed into something more. Tim asked Caroline if she would like to “go steady” with him. His old-fashioned geekiness had her captivated. She agreed in an instant. Though their dates and outings to Boston would sometimes be interrupted by the errant photographer or headline chaser, the media had blessedly moved on to mostly covering her younger brother, John by the time she and Tim started seeing each other romantically. Caroline brought her beau home to meet the parents (and Aunt Judy Garland) at Hyannis Port over the summer of 1982, and though the aging JFK paternally joked with Tim about “a tad gangly for his daughter”, good impressions were had all around. Tim would remember the trip as a highlight of his life. “Who would have thought… Not only would I meet one of my all-time heroes in person, I’d wind up marrying his daughter! She’s the most wonderful woman in the world, and I’m the luckiest of all fools.”
Caroline would marry Kaine shortly after their graduation from Harvard Law with Juris Doctor degrees in 1983 and 1984, respectively. The ceremony was a beautiful, traditional Irish Catholic affair, though suitably muted to match the personalities of the bride and groom. The guest list was thus limited to only the most essential friends and family members. The bride’s family did their best to invite all of Tim’s family, so it wouldn’t seem like a “purely Kennedy” wedding, even if it was being held at St. Paul’s in Cambridge, Mass. Caroline’s cousin, Maria Shriver, served as her Maid of Honor. Senators Bobby and Ted Kennedy, both in attendance with their wives and families, reported being moved to tears as their eldest living brother, the patriarch of the family, rose from his wheelchair, and with the help of a cane and Jackie’s arm, managed to walk Caroline down the aisle to Tim waiting at the altar. The bride kissed her father’s cheek and before the priest, her fiance, and God, swore the vows of marriage.
Having taken their seats in the front row of the assembly, Jack turned to Jackie and squeezed her hand as the priest asked Caroline and Tim if they would always care for each other “in sickness and in health”.
“We’ve sure done that, haven’t we, my love?”
Jackie reached behind her husband and gently rubbed the spot on his shoulder, where the would-be assassin had struck all those years ago. There was nothing there anymore, save a small scar where the Doctors had removed the bullet. The former First Lady had always wondered at how blessed they had been… She still shuddered at night to think of what might have happened there in Dallas. She had only to remember Nellie Connelly’s face to realize that God had shown her and her husband a sign that morning down in Texas. She looked at the deep lines of laughter and care in Jack’s face, admired the snow white mane of hair on his head, the immortal brightness of his slate-emerald eyes. More than twenty years had passed since they’d lost Patrick, since the attempt on Jack’s life. Never once had he cheated again. He was the love of her life. Even as his body betrayed him in the way that all bodies eventually do, she didn’t see the wheelchair bound patient that many around him did, she still saw the brilliant, generous, courageous man of action who had saved the lives of several comrades on PT-109, who had stormed the halls of government in Washington and laid the groundwork for the triumph of liberal thinking in the twentieth century, made civil rights a legal reality, rewrote American foreign policy to one of peacemaking and alliance building, took the first steps to creating universal healthcare in the United States, and ultimately left behind one of the definitive legacies on what it meant to be President of the United States. She pulled him close to her, kissed him softly, then whispered.
“We sure have, Jack. We sure have.”
The wedding concluded with a splendid reception. Caroline gleamed in her newfound joy with Tim. By the end of the year, both would be admitted to the Massachusetts State Bar. Tim soon found a job as an adjunct ethics professor at Boston College; Caroline became a junior counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)’s Massachusetts branch.
Jack and Jackie returned to the Compound and spent the former President’s final days always in each other’s company. The former First Lady’s journal revealed that in the last months of his life, JFK frequently read from the Bible and Thoreau’s Cape Cod, coming to believe that he was ready to face death. He had made his peace with his own mortality, and commented one night, after a painful flare up of his Addison’s Disease, that he was ready to “see Dad, Joe, Kathleen, and Patrick again”. Caroline’s wedding had been a great personal triumph for him to go out on.
On February 14th, 1985, Valentine’s Day, former President John Fitzgerald Kennedy would pass away in his sleep at the Kennedy Family Compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Jackie, overcome with grief, would forever remember Jack’s final words from the night before: “Goodnight, Jackie. I love you with all of my heart.” He was sixty-seven years old. Jackie would note in her journal that day - “One of the greatest men to ever live has passed into history. May the world remember him even half as well as he deserves”.
JFK’s passing touched the nation deeply. Former President Udall, and his successor; Associate Supreme Court Justice Robert F. Kennedy; Senate Majority Leader Ted Kennedy (D - MA), and nearly every Senator and members of Congress, not to mention hundreds of foreign dignitaries and hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans made the journey to Washington for the President’s state funeral at the National Cathedral. Among the many faces to pass by President Kennedy’s coffin that day was that of Marilyn Monroe, come to pay her respects to an old friend and flame. Against her husband’s wishes, Marilyn felt she had to say goodbye. Like her country at large, she would miss the wise presence of President Kennedy, whom she had known better than most. His death was a rainy day in the nation’s capital. But though Jack was gone, the world he left behind would carry his legacy forward… and his eldest daughter, the heir to his family line here on earth, would ensure that the Kennedy name continued to be synonymous in the United States with progress, change, and hope.
“Life is never easy. There is work to be done and obligations to be met - obligations to truth, to justice, and to liberty... Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger men.” - John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States
OOC: I know that this update jumped into the future a fair bit, but I thought it would be best to wrap up the rest of JFK's life and the beginning of Caroline's adult life all in one chapter. I will, of course, continue to follow the Kennedy family (as well as many other characters ITTL), but I wanted to keep this update from having too many spoilers of what's to come.
RIP John F. Kennedy (May 29th, 1917 - February 14th, 1985)
Next Time on Blue Skies in Camelot: 1977 in Pop Culture
Thank you very much, @Kennedy Forever! I'm glad I could do the event justice.This was absolutely beautiful Mr President. I'm glad to see Mitt and Caroline forging their own paths especially Mitt after what happened to his father. Jack Kennedy passing away was very beautifully written and certainly marks the end of a era for Blue Skies. Jack lived a great life ITTL and will be remembered as possibly one of the best Presidents alongside FDR, Lincoln and Washington ITTL. His legacy in Blue Skies will live on not only through his brothers and wife but children.
Isn't Hillary married to George W TTL?Tim Kaine and Caroline Kennedy-Kaine is gonna be interesting. ITTL's Bill and Hillary?
Maybe I phrased it wrong. But what I meant was “Will Tim and Caroline be ITTL’s Bill and Hillary?” The way Kaine is described in the chapter seem to indicate he’s going to do better than his OTL political career.Isn't Hillary married to George W TTL?
I could too. It would be awesome!And so, an era has come to an end. RIP John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
I could imagine growing up learning about all this in school and on Wikipedia, and later on YouTube. I can imagine this all being for real!
Can’t wait for the next Pop Culture update Mr. President!