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Why Should I Read American Values? | Summary, Background, and Personal Thoughts

rfk family photo and rfk jr

The Basic Bio

American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family is a book that recounts Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s personal memories of his family. While not just a personal account, it doubles as a political history of the 1960s.

The book takes the reader on a personal journey through the immigration of the Kennedys to America, the ascent of Joseph Kennedy, the election of JFK to the Senate and then the Presidency, the emergence of RFK and the hope he provided, and finally RFK’s death and the aftermath.


Story Chapters


A Summary of American Values: Lessons I Learned From My Family

Starting with the origin of the Kennedy family in Ireland, American Values begins by telling the story of how the Kennedys immigrated from Ireland after the Irish Potato Famine. The first chapter details how Joseph Kennedy went from being the son of a dockworker turned local politician to being the US Ambassador to Great Britain.

He eventually married Rose Kennedy, the daughter of a rival Boston politician, John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald. Joseph's future son and president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was named in Honey Fitz's honor.

the kennedy family photo

Together, he and his wife, Rose, had nine children. Two of these kids were John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy. After detailing his father’s more formal side of the family, RFK Jr. writes about his mother’s wild, unrestrained family, the Skakels.

From the very beginning, RFK Jr. features the Kennedy family’s Catholic faith. As the book continues through JFK’s senate run and his election to the presidency, the Kennedys and their Catholic faith are intertwined. He also writes about the chaotic environment of his family home, with his 10 brothers and sisters and his slightly unrestrained mother at the helm.

In his chapter on the JFK presidency, RFK Jr. tells the story of how JFK and RFK stood alone during the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as in other crises. RFK Jr. hints strongly in the book that some of America's top leaders hated the Kennedy's guts because of this. Top military leaders believed war was inevitable, and tried to pressure the Kennedys into launching an all-out strike on the Soviet Union.

Against the opinion of America’s top military leaders, the brothers were determined not to start a nuclear war by bombing Cuba. And in the end, they prevailed, and nuclear war with the Soviet Union was avoided.