The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The JFK We Knew

Oh, let’s get one thing clear right away:  we neither of us knew Mr. Kennedy personally.  But fifty and more years ago when Mr. Kennedy was elected, we were young and Kennedy did not seem that much older than we, and we and everyone in our generation felt like we knew this man.

We were oblivious of the gossip.  Like many others, we saw Jack Kennedy as a loving father of young children, as a graceful escort of a lovely wife, as an impassioned speaker who inspired so many to give to their country and to the world.  We read the admiring newspaper and magazine articles and admired the photographs of the Kennedy family, and went on our own ways.  We were neither of us as seriously interested in the politics of our country as we have become over the years, when we finally realized, as many of the young eventually do, that politics are about how we live and work and build a future.  

And when Mr. Kennedy died, we mourned along with most of our country and much of the rest of the world, that a still-young man was destroyed mid-presidency, and that a young wife and very young children were left without him.  It was, and is still, a shocking event.  We have read some of the books and seen some of the films and documentaries, and formed our own conclusions, as everyone must, about what exactly happened, and why.

While there will always be questions, at this far-removed view of those long-past days, there are a few convictions we hold.  We believe that the president who stood steadfast during the Cuban missile crisis managed to stare down a terrifying foe and perhaps lay the groundwork for bringing the Berlin wall down a few decades later.  About that Cold War, he spoke the following powerful words:  For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.  We all breathe the same air.  We all cherish our children’s future.  And we are all mortal.”

And after we watched the recent documentary about the March on Washington, we realized that the president’s quiet support for that event greatly helped move along the civil rights movement that, for the most part, has prevailed.  And that ultimately must and will prevail. And these will be how we remember him.

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