Rory Kennedy, filmmaker, to speak Thursday at Peninsula College

EDITOR’S NOTE: The phone number for reservations has been corrected.

PORT ANGELES — As part of what many call America’s royal family, Rory Kennedy was born into a life of privilege and tragedy.

This youngest child of Robert F. and Ethel Kennedy — born six months after her father’s assassination in 1968 — has stayed out of the public eye.

She’s devoted her life to telling true stories, stories of American struggle that don’t often find their way into the glamor- and celebrity-focused media.

Kennedy, 43, is a multi-award-winning documentary filmmaker whose most recent movie, “Ethel,” tells her mother’s story; it will make its television premiere

Oct. 18 on HBO.

“Ethel” is just one of the movies Kennedy will talk about making when she comes to Peninsula College on Thursday for two presentations: the 12:30 p.m. Studium Generale speech in the Little Theater and the “American Conversations” program at 6 p.m. in the Pirate Union Building.

While the Studium Generale talk is free to students and other community members, tickets to the American Conversations dinner are $95 per person to benefit the Peninsula College Foundation’s scholarship fund.

Reservations will be accepted through Thursday at 360-417-6264.

In both presentations, Kennedy said from her home in Malibu, Calif., she’ll be presenting clips “from documentaries I’ve made over the years.”

Her 25 films include “American Hollow,” about a family in Appalachia; “The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib,” winner of a 2007 Emmy for best nonfiction film; “The Fence,” an exploration of the barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border; and women’s rights, political corruption and AIDS documentaries.

“The subjects are difficult. But I think if you look through the stories, so many of the films are about people’s ability to endure and stand up in the face of such odds,” she said.

In her films, Kennedy hopes to illuminate how “one individual can make a difference. You don’t have to change the world, but you can change your family’s experience, your community’s experience.”

Kennedy’s own story is marked by far more than her share of loss.

The youngest of 11 siblings, she grew up without a father.

She and her mother have since endured the death of her brothers David, who died from a drug overdose in 1984, and Michael, who was in a fatal skiing accident in a 1997.

Then, in 1999, as Kennedy was getting ready to marry fiance Mark Bailey in Hyannis Port, Mass., she learned her cousin John F. Kennedy Jr.; his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy; and Carolyn’s sister, Lauren Bessette, had been killed in a plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

Through it all, Kennedy has had a role model in her mother.

And after two decades of filmmaking, she has at last created a tribute in “Ethel.”

The movie saw its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah, with Ethel and many Kennedy family members in attendance.

But Rory Kennedy never planned on making movies.

She earned a women’s studies degree at Brown University in Providence, R.I., graduating in 1991, around the time cable television was becoming a major outlet for documentaries.

Her first film, “Women of Substance,” grew out of a college paper — and aired on PBS.

The Kennedy name “opened some doors in the beginning,” she acknowledged.

“But then you’ve got to prove yourself.”

In addition to the documentaries she produces and directs through her company, Moxie Firecracker Films, Kennedy gives about a dozen public presentations a year.

These include political speeches — Kennedy is a supporter of President Barack Obama and her nephew Joe Kennedy III, who is running for Congress.

As the Peninsula College Foundation’s 15th annual American Conversations speaker, Kennedy fits in perfectly, said Mary Hunchberger, foundation executive director.

“We look for a name that has recognition,” she added, “and we look for someone who will make people think.”

“We want our students and community members who can’t go to the evening [program] to be able to see her,” Hunchberger said, while noting that Kennedy’s free presentation at 12:30 p.m. Thursday won’t be the same as the evening’s American Conversations program.

Both events are on the campus at 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.

For more details on Kennedy’s appearance and other public programs on campus, visit

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at

More in Life

A GROWING CONCERN: Chill out before you plant too early

AS THIS PAST week’s chill lay heavy in the valleys and the… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “The Power of Spiritual Community” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “The Power of… Continue reading

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith.
Unity in Port Townsend planning for Sunday services

The Rev. Pam Douglas-Smith will present “Love is Golden… Continue reading

OUUF speaker scheduled

The Rev. Dr. Barry Andrews will present “Walden in… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Faith in the beauty of spring

“WOW! ISN’T THAT just beautiful?” This is what I find myself saying… Continue reading

Pictured are Susan Hillgren, on left, and Emily Murphy.
TAFY donation in Port Angeles

The Port Angeles Garden Club has donated $1,000 to The Answer For… Continue reading

The Olympic Kiwanis Club reports that its recent electronics recycling event was even more popular than planned for.
Kiwanis recycling event a success

The Olympic Kiwanis Club reports that its recent electronics recycling event in… Continue reading

Future Chefs contest names cooking contest winners

Sodexo and the Port Angeles School District have announced… Continue reading

A GROWING CONCERN: Get the dirt on soil

SINCE WE TALKED extensively about you growing your own award-winning vegetables, we… Continue reading

OPEN’s Spring Tack Sale is Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., 251 Roupe Road (off Hooker Road). Proceeds benefit rescued horses, minis, ponies (such as the one pictured with grossly overgrown hooves) and donkeys. Western and English saddles, saddle pads, halters, sheets, bits, bridles; western jewelry, clothes, boots and more. (photo by Valerie Jackson)
HORSEPLAY: Clean up after yourself and your horse

CLEAN UP ON aisle 7! Remember: Unlike a grocery store clerk who… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Finding solace in song

WHEN OUR DAUGHTER Maggie died, I found so much comfort in listening… Continue reading

OUUF speaker scheduled

The Rev. Bruce Bode will present “Are All Humans… Continue reading