President Kennedy and His Influence On My Family - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Christine Devine

President Kennedy and His Influence On My Family

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Picture: Karen with a Brazilian Child Picture: Karen with a Brazilian Child

As America remembers President Kennedy, I asked my mother to look back. She was living in Brazil at the time the U.S. President was assassinated, Friday, November 22, 1963.

My mom remembers feeling stunned but also admits there wasn't the impact like what was witnessed in the states. She was living in the slums of Rio, the favelas, and didn't have a TV. She was far removed from a nation in mourning and the violent days that would play out after. She and her roommates did wonder what would happen next.  My mom was in Brazil thanks to President Kennedy and The Peace Corps program he'd founded.

My mom, Karen Lee Seufert, had sought to escape her small farming town in upstate New York. She wanted to experience other cultures and not on a short-term or vacation type basis. While in college, she was told Senator John F. Kennedy was coming into the office of the President with a plan for overseas service.


The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship.

My mom took Spanish in school, making the transition to Portuguese a little less difficult. She graduated from college and was among the third year of Peace Corps volunteers. While in Brazil she worked as a nurse, administering shots etc. She was an American girl with milky white skin amongst the brown and black faces of the favela. She tells me stories of having movie nights for the children, of living through a peaceful overthrow of the communist government, of meeting my father, a dancer on a Brazilian TV show. (Yes, I am half-Brazilian, but my parents parted ways and we are not in touch.)

My mother remembers President Kennedy as a man who inspired a nation unlike any other President. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." She heard his call for service loud and clear and believed he could make things better for the world. She liked the team he brought on board, his brother Robert F. Kennedy and Sargent Shriver(husband of Eunice Kennedy Shriver.)

My mom credits President Kennedy and the Peace Corps for shaping much of her life. She says, with that credential on her record she was never at a loss for a job. She returned to the states and worked as a teacher in inner city schools in Buffalo, New York. Once we moved to Arizona, her preference was still students in need. She was once honored as the Science Teacher of The Year for the state of Arizona.

Volunteering at a Peace Corps function my mother met the man she would later marry, Jack Devine. He too had served in the Peace Corps, in Tanzania. He tells the story of Robert F. Kennedy attempting to visit the village where he taught. It was apparently so remote (Bobby) Kennedy never found it. Jack adopted me, thus making me too a Devine. My parents had my sister, adopted a Mexican-American boy and fostered five refugee children from Vietnam.

Frankly, my mom has little taste for L.A. and it's often materialistic ways. Still, she'll venture out from time to time. As a news anchor I've had the opportunity to encounter my fair share of celebrities. You name it. Singer, actor, athlete. They're all here. I've met most while volunteering at community events. Kobe Bryant. Gene Simmons. Jessica Simpson. Will Smith. Frankly, my mother of humble roots, really has no interest at all. I've seen her star struck only once. That was meeting a member of the Kennedy clan. My mom seemed to beam from within. As the nation reflects on the assassination of President Kennedy, my mother is living proof of John F. Kennedy's Peace Corps legacy.

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