First Posted: 2/12/2011
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
— John Fitzgerald Kennedy
It was a bright, sunny day with an early winter chill giving a bite to the air.
For me, an acutely shy and freckle-faced boy with a knot of curly hair, it was like any other day struggling to fit in at the Catholic school my parents chose to send me to.
The nuns and the scattering of lay teachers were going about their noble tasks trying to educate a bunch of ornery, rambunctious, sugar-filled adolescents about math and science and God.
Suddenly there were whispers and hushes and worried faces. We children were left to wonder, was someone in trouble, did somebody get hurt, was our teacher sick?
Mother Superior, who acted as our school’s principal, was quickly making the rounds of our small school, stopping at each classroom to make grave whispers into the ears of the teachers.
My teacher that year, the dainty Sister Marietta, always seemed fearful of Mother Superior on any given occasion, so her look of dread didn’t seem out of character initially. But then Sister Marietta began to cry and looked out our huge glass windows up into the sky. We all looked too but saw nothing.
Soon an announcement was made that classes would be ending early today, and that parents were on their way. The elders struggled with how to handle the tragedy. The older students at Bishop Kelley Catholic School may have been told what was happening, but the younger flock — myself included — were kept in the dark.
My mother arrived and gathered me from school in the big white Pontiac. The car radio was blasting and she switched it off. I could tell she was upset. She was quiet yet nervous. She said something horrible had happened, and that we had to get home. “But there’s no bread …” she mumbled as she headed toward the grocery store.
Inside Kroger we rushed to gather a few things and headed back to the car. For years my mother always left the grocery store parking lot driving out the same exit onto M-21, a rough and steep concrete incline, and every single time she would curse when the muffler scraped the pavement.
This day, as we approached the exit, Mom switched the radio back on. As it crackled to life, the muffler scraped the concrete, my mother swore, and a man on the radio said: “President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th president of the United States, is dead.”
I will never forget. As it is for others of my generation, JFK was larger than life.
He was a towering figure. Next to my mom and dad, and my teachers, this was an adult I felt compelled to look up to. The President of the United States of America. My president. But he wasn’t your typical authority figure. He smiled. He played with his kids. He loved dogs and football.
The passage of time has shown us that even the king had warts, and his nobility wasn’t as absolute as many thought. Turns out Kennedy was human and made mistakes and misjudgments, just like the rest of us.
Oh, but the promise lost, the possibilities dashed, the America we could have had for not that awful day in Dallas.
The good of Kennedy and the directions he wanted to lead us in — the promise and the wonderful possibilities — are explored at a new website that captures his youthful spirit, his vision, his tenacity, his drive for a better life for all people, no matter their color or stature or beliefs.
Artgig Studio, a interactive agency, in association with ESI Design, Ager Meillier Films and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, this week announced the launch of JFK50.org, an interactive website celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy presidency.
As the centerpiece of the anniversary celebration, www.JKF50.org was created to invite young visitors to explore the legacy of JFK through the core themes of public service, science and innovation, civil rights, domestic affairs, the arts, foreign policy and diplomacy and the environment.
Artgig and ESI worked in close collaboration with the Kennedy Presidential Library. “As we celebrate 50 years since President Kennedy took office, we want to reach out to a generation that has grown up with the Internet and invite them to discover JFK’s legacy on their own terms and in fresh, new ways,” said Tom Putnam, director of the Kennedy Presidential Library. “It is our hope that by providing today’s students with a way to experience the excitement of the Kennedy presidency we will ignite their imagination and inspire them to embrace the challenges of our times.”
The Kennedy Presidential Library seeks to promote a greater appreciation and understanding of American politics, history, and culture, the process of governing and the importance of public service.
A better understanding of how politics work — and don’t work — seems a more valuable lesson than ever these days.
That is all.
— Managing Editor John Charles Robbins can be reached at (910) 272-6122 or [email protected]