John F. Kennedy, Sr.: A Life Remembered

Bumped by Matt. If you have memories of JFK, please post them in the thread.

I put this on my blog earlier and decided to post this on here since I have yet to see any other tribute to the late president.

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John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Born Brookline, Mass. (83 Beals Street) May 29, 1917
Died Dallas, Texas November 22, 1963

-Published "Why England Slept" in 1940 despite writing it in 1938
-Graduated Harvard in 1940
-Joined the Navy in 1941 and rose to the rank of lieutenant while commanding a PT boat.
-United States Congressman from 1947-1953
-United States Senator from 1953-1961
-Published "Profiles in Courage" in 1953
-Published "A Nation of Immigrants" in 1958
-Earned the Democratic nomination for the presidency on July 13, 1960
-Elected President of the United States on November 8, 1960
-Sworn in as the 35th President on January 20, 1961

Notable quotes:
On September 12, 1960: "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters - and the Church does not speak for me."

On September 14, 1960: "If by a 'Liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a 'Liberal,' then I'm proud to say I'm a 'Liberal.'"

Inaugural address on January 20, 1961: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country"

Jack, we will forever miss you.  Rest in peace.

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19 Comments

Appreciate the Sentiment
As noted in my short tribute of earlier today on the Amendment Nine blog (where there's an interesting discussion going on of possible political heirs to JFK):

"For every peaceful sunrise of the last 42 years, we owe a profound debt of gratitude to JFK. As a result of revelations about the Cuban Missile Crisis, we now know that if the USA had attacked Cuba the Soviets would have responded with a nuclear attack on major cities in the US. Many of our nation's other leaders at the time, including Kennedy's military advisers and many in Congress, wanted him to invade Cuba. They were all wrong, and if any of them had been President instead of Kennedy, there would have been a major nuclear war. But Kennedy, who at the time was not much older than Barack Obama is now, had the personal and political courage to stand up to them for the good of the nation and the world.

Many political leaders, given the gift of time, have accomplished more than JFK. But none has ever accomplished anything greater."

by FedFarmer 2005-11-22 12:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Appreciate the Sentiment
The deliberations of the group deciding how to handle the Cuban missle crisis were later made public and it was used as a case study in how to respond in a crisis.  I believe it was Robert Kennedy who stressed the importance of leaving Khrushchev a face-saving way out.  The US responded to one of his messages but not to a later, more bellicose one.  Khrushchev took the offer and the situation was defused.  That is a gross over-simplification, but it has been a long time since I studied it.  What I remember from studying it was the importance of always leaving the other side a face-saving way out and being creative in ones reactions.  What I remember about the crisis itself is that friends were so certain that we would be attacked that they posted their class schedules and whereabouts on their door so the group could assemble for a quick trip to Canada.

I started college in 1960, and Kennedy was such a breath of fresh air.  There was a real sense of a new beginning.  "Get this country moving again" was one of his slogans, and it seemed so possible.  So many possibilities died with him on Nov 22; even more, I believe, with Bobby Kennedy in June, 1968.  That seemed like the end of it, with Nixon then getting elected.  But 6-7 years later he was on the way out.  So there's always hope.  Nothing stays secret forever.

by Mimikatz 2005-11-23 07:19AM | 0 recs
Best golfer president ever
Shot consistently in the 70's. Handicap was anywhere from a 6 to a 2.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-11-22 12:29PM | 0 recs
I was in the ninth grade
There was an announcement over the loudspeaker. I ran,not walked, to my homeroom teachers room not believing. He had served on the Senate Staff and in the early WH with President Kennedy. He was a HUGE man. And he sat at his desk with the everpresent portrait of The President...and he was crying. Silently. Then I knew it was true.

To this day I cannot think of the day without tears in my eyes and pain my heart.

In 1968, I saw it all again at the Ambassador Hotel....and all I could do was think...they got another one. That amorphorous, anonymous 'they' that doesn't really exist as a particular person or entitiy...but as a force against intellectualism, inclusion and inclusiveness...the two being slightly different.

I saw Corky Gonzales running, seemingly for his life, in Los Angeles and was there that same day, if old memory serves, as Ruben Salazar, a journalist, took an LAPD tear gas round through the skull. Accident? We didn't want to believe it. But most likely.

Martin on a motel walkway and cities in flames. And the Malcom X that few of us understood at the time taken by his own.

I was at Century City in 67(?) when LBJ came to speak. And the crowd was too big for the LAPD. So they called the academy cadets to back them up. And it all went to hell in a hand basket. Tear gas...no rubber bullets in those days...lots of batons. And blood and bruises. Might still have a scar on my head. But it's been so long I doubt it.

And then after it all, with anger and disgust beyond description, came '68 at the Convention when activists outside the system, party animals, adrenline freaks, druggies looking for some action and well meaning middle class kids with no idea of the hell that was waiting swarmed Chicago. And they all had a single message after Daily turned loose the 'cops'. "Fuck you...the whole world is watching!" And Hell came for everyone. On both sides.

And politics changed forever.

Yeah, I remember laying on a couch late at night with my union family watching an Irish Catholic man get nominated for the Presidency in Los Angeles. It was a sterling moment in the history of my family.

We bleed blue. Shouldn't say we anymore. But we bled blue.  

And yeah I remember when he died and the aftermath. You bet.   And the fight goes on....

by BigDog 2005-11-22 01:05PM | 0 recs
This quote rides proudly in my blog's banner
"What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal.""

I'd say this quote is still applicable today as it was in 1960.

by michael in chicago 2005-11-22 01:24PM | 0 recs
Moving memories. Let them carry us forward.
PBS had a JFK documentary last night.  Its main point was how important the news media, including but not limited to television, had been to the whole experience, and how a whole generation of new reporters (Bob Schieffer, Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, for example) essentially got their start on the scene there.  Schieffer was quoted even as saying how glad he was for the opportunity to cover it on the scene (followed by the obligatory "I wish hadn't been for this, though.")  

Television, they said, is what "bound us together" and "enabled us to survive" the trauma.   So even this event--so traumatic to those of us who lived through it--is now referenced by its "meaning" for the news media.  Do we need any more indication that the mainstream media have fallen into the pool of Narcissus?  

I share Bigdog's above emotions absolutely: we've never gotten over it, and in a savagely ironic way I think it was the source of the infectious cynicism that has become the major destructive virus in our public discourse.  For me, it goes something like this: whoever was involved--singly or jointly (and jointly is a plausible alternative since the House committee's report)--if "they" or "he" can do this, what can't "they" or others like "him" do?  Then--to make it clear how far down in Hell we'd dropped--we heard the furies cackling their jeering approval.  Yes, in point of fact, in several school buildings across America children burst into cheers and applause on hearing the news of JFK's death over their loudspeakers, so infected was the air already at that time.  

Thanks for the replays of the "If by liberal" speech--I had forgotten.  See also amendmentnine.blogspot.com for a coincidentally recent contemporary "If by liberal" speech.

Long before William Safire stole the term, my father would recount to me--from his service in the Georgia legislature in the 1920's--his classic "If by whiskey" speech (every Southern politician from the courthouse to the whitehouse had one).  

JFK--who carried several southern states--illustrated the fact that southerners have always been fine with liberals, as long as they're also conservatives.  

by Wilderwood 2005-11-22 01:55PM | 0 recs
The Liberal quote is from
his speech accepting the Liberal Party's nomination. I just re-read it and reccomend everyone else do so as well. It's quite entertaining- his riposte to Nixon is priceless.

As for memories, I can offer only one:  My earliest poltical memories is JFK's funeral on TV. Indeed it is one of my earliest memories period- I was 3 years old.

by molly bloom 2005-11-22 02:51PM | 0 recs
Memories
What I remember most about that short era before the string of assassinations and the Viet Nam War and the counterculture was that the nation's vibe was so positive and united and confident. I don't care if later analysis tends to downplay the importance of the Kennedy presidency.

His great gift was as an inspirational, motivating LEADER, calling people to express the highest and best in themselves on behalf of the nation. It was a rush being a young American before they killed him. It's been an ongoing fight with cynicism since they killed him.

I grew up in a Catholic, heavily Polish, blue collar neighborhood in Chicago. Almost every house or small store contained a picture of Jack. There was such pride.

I think John F. must be rolling in his grave over the hatred, lies and biases being pedaled as patriotism and Christianity these days.

He appealed to the best in us, with humor and wit and intelligence. He could communicate with cleaning ladies and intellectuals with equal ease. We need these things so badly now, once again, after so many years of banality.

by barbwire 2005-11-22 03:07PM | 0 recs
JFK Stories ...
My late aunt worked for Senator John Kennedy in the late 50s. She'd describe JFK has a friendly, kind and generous man.

She also had talked fondly about guy who was endearingly human:

**always grubbed money from friends and staffers. He never carried cash on himself. That's what rich guys do.  
*
many beautiful women -- airline stewardesses -- who'd coming calling for ``Jack.'' Most times, acting as the gatekeeper, my Aunt would turn these young women away, after getting their phone numbers beforehand for the boss.  
*
JFK loaned my Aunt a white Mercedes convertible for the summer. JFK had got it for Jackie, but the Mrs. didn't like it.
*
Arranged 2 dates with brother Teddy. My aunt said Teddy was really boring!  
*
*VP Richard Nixon was always hanging around the office. Seriously. In fact, Jack and Tricky Dick were good friends, she said! But she didn't care too much for Nixon. She thought he was a creep.  

That's all I can remember from my talks with her, usually conducted during the Holidays ... She had 3 kids --  I bet they've heard more ...

by ratslayer 2005-11-22 03:34PM | 0 recs
Re: JFK Stories ... One More Thing ...
I am a moron. I just remembered another story. This had to do with Profiles in Courage. My aunt said she had copy edited the manuscript -- and it was filled with typos and other misspellings. That's what she said.
by ratslayer 2005-11-22 03:42PM | 0 recs
JFK didn't write Profiles in Courage...
No one, and I mean no one (historian, associate, etc.) believes JFK wrote Profiles in Courage.  Most historians claim it was actually written by Ted Sorenson, some claim Richard Reeves.  The closest JFK came to writing the book -- according to insiders -- is while he was hospitalized in with his Addison's disease problems (something that was always hidden from the public, they would claim he had "back problems resulting from his PT 109 injuries") his Dad Joseph commissioned a number of writers to come up with book ideas and outline them so that JFK could publish a book to help his presidential ambitions.

I'm a lifelong Democrat and liberal, and a proud 100% Irish-American.  But when I became an adult and studied the Kennedys and their family I learned that -- sadly -- they are and were nothing to be proud of.  JFK chased women, used drugs, was in a sham for-the-public marriage and did absolutely NOTHING as president.  He was going to Texas that November because he had been such a poor president it appeared as if he was positioned for a huge loss in his 1964 re-election attempt, even in what was then called the "solid south" (believe it or not that meant for the Democrats back then) and he was trying to shore up support.

JFK, like Marilyn Monroe and Princess Di is just the beneficiary of our bizarre media culture that often turns the very ordinary -- or worse -- into greater people because of their untimely death.

by Blue Dreams 2005-11-22 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: JFK didn't write Profiles in Courage...
"he did absolutely NOTHING as president" . . . except save the East Coast of the United States from nuclear annihilation.  

  1.  See comment above by Federal Farmer.

  2.  Say you're sorry.

  3.  Go home.
by Dooley 2005-11-22 07:25PM | 0 recs
Re: JFK didn't write Profiles in Courage...
He had a very paplable impact on a generation of people who were in their teens, twenties or early thirties when he became President, inspiring a real feeling of idealism about public service.  It must be very hard for cynical young people today to understand, but it was real, and it changed this country.  While much of what you say is true, he also had a remarkable effect on those who experienced his short presidency.
by Mimikatz 2005-11-23 07:26AM | 0 recs
Re: JFK didn't write Profiles in Courage...
Thank you for your thoughtful replies both here and above.  JFK's inspirational impact was and has continued to be powerful and lasting, and it is often noted.  Less noted is the profound practical impact his gutsy management of the Cuban Missile Crisis had, for which -- as noted in my comment above -- we all should be grateful.
by FedFarmer 2005-11-23 10:13AM | 0 recs
The Inaugural Address
I remember the horror of the news of Kennedy's assassination, the apparent corruption behind the cursory Warren Report of his assassination and the debates over who was really behind it. But most of all, I remember his inaugural address, and the way it set the serious and idealistic tone of his administration, so at odds with most of those (in my experience) before and since.

 And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.

     My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

by Hong Kong Chevy 2005-11-22 07:53PM | 0 recs
Our next door neighbor was his staff photographer
And I used to live nextdoor to their family when my family lived in Florida. They are a good people. I remember once there was a dolphin stranded on the beach and my uncles and ted lifted it up and put it back in the water. I was too young (only 4) but I never forgot that. These are good folks.

To me, the best way to remember JFK is to remember that Texas companies are to be dealt with, with the gloves squarely off. Haliburton had some well defined ideas about their Vietnam contracts that kennedy was threatening.

go see "fog of war" with Robert McNamara -

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-11-23 03:55AM | 0 recs
JFK Election 1964
I was a college student in 1963 and JFK'S APPROVAL RATING AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH WAS STILL CLOSE TO 60% AND HE WAS IN NO DANGER OF LOSING THE 1964 ELECTION TO GOLDWATER.

He went to Texas to settle a dispute among Texas politicians. His tour of some of the cities including Dallas was a spectacular success with a strong out pouring of affection for the president.

His accomplishments:

Peace Corp
Nuclear test ban treaty
Introduction of Civil rights legislation which got out of the judiciary house committee at time of his death
Introduction of tax cut
Alliance for progress south america.

Finally the averting a nuclear war which led to the first treaty on nuclear weapons with the soviet union.

Finally set the goal to reach the moon before the end of the decade.

by BobM 2005-11-23 05:18AM | 0 recs
I still miss him
Thanks, BobM, for setting the record straight.  To add to all his other great qualities: his grace and ever present gentle wit.  
He was the first president I voted for and I still miss  him terribly.
by hawkseye 2005-11-23 06:57AM | 0 recs
my JFK memories
I have many, but two highlights: During the 1960 campaign, my Dad took me to hear JKF speak at Benson HS in Portland OR. I was 14. JFK gave a very witty speech, which I now can recognize as a fairly stock speech but I sure enjoyed it at the time. At the time I definitely felt I was in the room with the next President of the US. My next highlight, of course, was remembering exactly where I was (in class at Jesuit HS in Beaverton OR) when the annoucnement came over the PA system that he'd been shot. What might have been....
by TomFitz 2005-11-23 05:43PM | 0 recs

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