... musings on Presidents' Day
“He will do more for Massachusetts.” I see this quotation every day. It is on a poster that has been on my
laundry room wall for thirty years. How did this come about?
During his college years my son Alan worked at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. He portrayed Saint
George and a boy from Washington, DC, was his partner, the dragon. We went down to visit and they brought us
into their break room where I saw on the wall a poster: “He will do more for Massachusetts. John F. Kennedy for
U. S. Senator” the advertisement for the 1952 campaign (the year I graduated from high school). I admired the
poster, of course. At the end of the summer Alan came home to wait tables bringing the poster that Nick had
given him. I taped the edges and hung it up on the laundry room wall, the only place that was big enough to hold
it. And there it stays. Alan was the same age as young John John, the brave little boy who saluted his father in
the famous funeral photograph.
About the same time my son Mark graduated from Springfield College, class of ’83. The honorary degrees were to
go to Lech Walesa and Lawrence O’Brien. Naturally Walesa could not be present so the honor of the commencement
speech went to Larry O’Brien. We settled back to hear some good old Irish Mafia stories from the Kennedy days or
at least some basketball stories as O’Brien was director of the Hall of Fame in his hometown. O’Brien was true
to his behind-the-scenes persona. He congratulated the class on its achievement and sat down. No Kennedy
stories. How sad.
I was a stay-at-home-mom with two toddlers in November of 1963. As I walked out of my house to take the clothes
off the clothes line, my neighbors Pat and Arlene called to me. Had I heard the news? They told me the little
they knew about the assassination. That began a marathon of television watching, in black and white. Scene after
terrible scene was beamed to our living room as the ceremonies and symbols were shown. Who could forget the
riderless horse with the boots turned toward the back. Or Jackie with a black veil not quite hiding her grieving
face. Or the Kennedy family, who we regarded as our good friends, trying to make sense of what had happened.
This concluded on Sunday with watching Lee Harvey Oswald being shot right in front of the cameras. Upsetting? We
were unwilling witnesses to history. Our church had a meeting that Sunday afternoon to instruct prospective
members and we did not cancel it. I had to go to represent the Women’s Council. We sat in a huge circle in
Jordan Hall while everyone spoke. About halfway through the meeting I glanced down at my feet. I was wearing my
big, fuzzy, turquoise slippers. No one mentioned it, probably having their minds on other things. I know I did.
We had been swept up in the excitement of the Kennedy presidency, the hometown boy leading the country with his
youth and energy. The Peace Corps, the Space Program, Desegregation, the Cuban missile crisis, the vitality in
the White House – these attracted us. Only later did we hear about his constant pain and his wandering ways.
Would we have been so affected by him if he had lived out his term and run again? Was it just because he was
most nearly our own age? Who knows. But the president who I feel most strongly about is John F Kennedy.
April 5, 2013