The Kennedy Who Changed the World review – if only she’d been president

This valuable documentary tells the story of Eunice Kennedy, the sister of JFK and Bobby, who transformed the lives of disabled people all over the world

You sometimes have to ask yourself how different the world might have been if the Kennedy women (save, perhaps, clan matriarch and eventual papal countess Rose) had been given their druthers rather than the men. Fewer discarded mistresses, forced abortions and Chappaquiddicks, for sure. Almost certainly less mob entanglement, fewer siblings made presidents’ attorney generals and that kind of thing. Maybe a slightly broader remit to benefit society beyond the Bostonian elite and its hangers-on. And they had just as fabulous hair and teeth.

Who’s to say? If anyone has written the counterfactual already, that’s a novel I would love to read. Until then, we got a taste of what might have been in this tribute to the fifth of Rose and Joseph Sr’s nine offspring, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, AKA The Kennedy Who Changed the World.

Eunice (I must apologise to the shade of this fiercely imposing woman for using her first name, but it is done in the interests of keeping the intricacies of the family tree clear) was the founder of what we now know as the Special Olympics. There is a shot of her at one of the early opening ceremonies, fist raised, promising in her unmistakable Bostonian accent a games for all. “Your age, your size – we don’t cayah!” It seems clear that she was at least in part driven by the experience of having an older sister, Rosemary, who had a degree of mental impairment after a traumatic birth. They were the closest of the nine growing up, and the monstrous Joe Sr’s decision to have Rosemary lobotomised (a hugely experimental treatment at the time, it went disastrously wrong and left her with the mental capacity of a two-year-old child) probably affected her more profoundly than any of her other siblings.

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