New Kennedy Revelations Uncovered in CNN’s ‘American Dynasties’ Docuseries

Pres. John F. Kennedy and wife Jackie arriving at
Art Rickerby/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

American Dynasties: The Kennedys, CNN’s new six-part docuseries  examines the high-achieving political family—a president and a passel of senators and congressmen among them—and how the clan has affected international and domestic events for decades.

“This will give young people a chance to learn about the Kennedys and how vital they were to the world in the ’60s,” says Martin Sheen, who narrates the episodes and is a longtime friend of the family. The actor shares a few major takeaways.

Martin Sheen.

1. Joseph Kennedy wanted to be president.

The family patriarch and ambitious grandson of poor Irish Catholic immigrants coveted the top job himself. But after he suggested appeasing Hitler while he was ambassador to the U.K., any chance of getting to the White House was over. Then, “he wanted his oldest son, Joe Jr. [to be president],” Sheen says. “When Joe died in World War II, he chose his second son, John, to fulfill that destiny.”

2. JFK was a hero despite debilitating bad health.

John F. Kennedy had Addison’s disease, which led to crippling back pain and chronic infections. “The family kept it quiet, though he suffered mightily,” says Sheen. After further injuring his back when his WWII PT boat was rammed, he swam to safety, carrying a wounded seaman along with him.

3. Attorney General Robert Kennedy was instrumental in saving America.

“At the peaceful end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy said, ‘Thank God for Bobby,’” Sheen reports. “While the military pushed for an air strike against the Soviet missiles, Bobby used his connections with the Russians—who trusted his word—to call the world back from disaster.”

American Dynasties: The Kennedys, Sunday, March 11, 9/8c, CNN