Camelot's inner circle is just about gone—though its spirit, some say, is very much alive. Wednesday's death of Jean Kennedy Smith, former US ambassador to Ireland and the last surviving sibling of President John F. Kennedy, virtually erases those who were closest to the assassinated 35th president, the AP reports. "This is sort of bringing down the curtain on one of America's three political dynasties—the Adamses, the Roosevelts and now the Kennedys," said Patrick Maney, a Kennedy scholar. Only Ethel Kennedy, the 92-year-old wife of JFK's brother, Robert F. Kennedy—himself felled by an assassin's bullet five years later—remains. Kennedy Smith was the eighth of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. Several of her siblings died tragically decades ago. But her death "makes us think of some of the triumphs of the family and their great accomplishments that still shape our lives today," Maney said.
The JFK era was dubbed "Camelot" because the youthful president and his glamorous wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, evoked a sense of national optimism. For a generation of Americans, the Democratic Party clan represented the closest thing the US had to the royalty Americans often admire elsewhere. And Kennedys are still serving in or running for office and engaging in public service, in line with the most enduring quote from JFK's 1961 inaugural address: "Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." Maney sees modern American political history divided into two eras: Before Kennedy and Since Kennedy. "The Kennedys still have a hold on us in a way that nobody since that time has held a generation spellbound," he said. "There's still something about the Kennedy mystique that remains."
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