On Monday night, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights honored Taylor Swift with its prestigious Ripple of Hope Award for her impressive humanitarian efforts. Judging by firsthand reports and available Getty images, the Manhattan gala was a lovely event M.C.’d by Alec Baldwin and attended by VF.com heartthrob Mandy Patinkin. But there was one curiosity that we noted on Tuesday: Ethel Kennedy, the 84-year-old matriarch who forged a May-December friendship with Swift over the summer and repeatedly championed her to the press, was missing.
Today, the New York Post reports that Kennedy, who also happens to be the grandmother of Swift’s former beau Conor, did not attend because she was battling bronchitis. Even though Ethel was not personally present, Swift ensured that her friend was there in spirit by sharing an anecdote about her to the gala guests.
“My great friend Ethel Kennedy is the person who … most inspires me to embrace the unpredictable side of life … She inspires me to find delight in every new experience.”
Swift described sailing in Hyannis Port with the Kennedys this summer. They went out on Max Kennedy’s boat, and once in the middle of the ocean, the Kennedy kids jumped in the water, grabbing a rope to be dragged by the yacht. Though she had a swimsuit, Swift claimed she wasn’t following because two of her pals forgot theirs. But Ethel told her, “‘Dear, to be that thoughtful you run the risk of being boring. Get in the water.’ So I jumped in, and I had an amazing time,” Swift said.
She added, “Ever since … I have decided that to really live, you have to jump in, you have to take chances. You have to embrace the unpredictability of life instead of fearing it. Thank you, Ethel, for teaching me that.”
Rounding out her tribute, Swift performed an acoustic rendition of “Starlight,” the love song that the Grammy winner wrote after discovering a photo of a young Ethel and her late husband, Robert, dancing.