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Louisa Livingston Kennedy, the Wife of a U.S. Hostage in Iran, Dies at 73

By Jamshid S. Irani, Esq. (for The Voice of Iranian-Americans)


Louisa Livingston Kennedy, the wife of a senior American official held captive during the Iranian hostage crisis, who became a highly visible spokeswoman for the hostages' families, died on Aug. 19 on Mount Desert Island, Maine. She was 73 and made her home on the island.


The cause was brain cancer, said her husband, Moorhead C. Kennedy.


I interviewed Mr. Kennedy in a television program in 1987 in which he was grateful for Iranian hospitality and remorseful for what triggered the hostage taking incident. Mr. Kennedy, a soft-spoken person and well-liked by many as well as an outspoken diplomat after his release, conveyed to me that there was no winner as a result of the hostage taking episode in Iran and that human beings, regardless of their belief and place of birth, should be respected and treated with dignity. Mr. Kennedy, the third-ranking diplomat at the United States Embassy in Tehran, was among the more than 60 people taken hostage there by militant students on Nov. 4, 1979. Though some hostages were freed before the crisis ended, 52 Americans, including Mr. Kennedy, remained in captivity until Jan. 20, 1981, when they were released.


A founder and the official spokeswoman of the Family Liaison Action Group, known as FLAG, Ms. Kennedy helped ensure that the plight of the hostages remained in the forefront of international consciousness. She appeared frequently on television and in newspaper interviews and met with senior United States officials and world leaders, among them Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain and President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing of France.


Observers remarked often on Ms. Kennedy's articulate composure as she faced television cameras day after day.


"As one goes through this, you learn to cope," she told The Washington Post in the fall of 1980, as the first anniversary of the crisis neared. "You become inured."


Louisa Livingston was born in Manhattan on April 4, 1934, into a distinguished family. An ancestor, Robert Livingston, helped draft the Declaration of Independence, and another ancestor, Philip Livingston, signed it. Her grandfather Goodhue Livingston, a noted architect, designed the St. Regis Hotel. Her father, Goodhue Livingston Jr., was senior aide to Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia.


Ms. Livingston studied theater. She left after three years to marry Mr. Kennedy, in 1955. She accompanied him to postings in Yemen, Greece, Lebanon and Chile, working as a theater director and newspaper writer while raising her family abroad.


On the family's return to Washington in the mid-1970s, Ms. Kennedy became a real estate agent, a career she continued after they moved to Manhattan in 1981. She also lectured on her experience of the hostage crisis, and volunteered for charitable causes.


In addition to her husband, who is known as Mike, Ms. Kennedy is survived by their four sons, Moorhead C. III, known as Mark, of Santa Barbara, Calif.; Philip Livingston, of Madison, Conn.; Andrew M., of Washington; and Duncan R., of San Francisco; two sisters, Lorna M. Livingston of Manhattan and Linda L. Houghton of Washington; a half-brother, Goodhue Livingston III of Seattle; and six grandchildren. She, too, played a role in the Iranian hostage episode. Looking back at the events of 30 years ago, one wonders why people act the way they do when, in retrospect, history is there to learn from.


In a television interview broadcast on Christmas Day in 1980, Ms. Kennedy quoted four lines from Shakespeare's "Othello" that she said summed up her feelings toward her husband's captors:


To mourn a mischief that is past and gone

Is the next way to draw new mischief on. ...

The robb'd that smiles steals something from the thief;

He robs himself that spends a bootless grief.


... Payvand News - 8/29/07 ... --

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