Today, April 17th, 2017 a lifelong dream comes to fruition when Arcadia Publishing and the History Press releases this book. It is a pictorial essay about the 35th President with 200 photographs of him at home in his beloved New England.
JFK at the tiller of the US Coast Guard Yacht Manitou, sailing Rhode Island Sound in August of 1962.
I was a seven year old third grade student in Miss Noyes’ class at the James Humphrey School in Weymouth, Massachusetts when John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th President of the United States.
Three years later my class returned from the playground and gym class to be informed by Miss Rygren that “Our President” had been shot and killed in Dallas TX.
From 1990-1992, while in grad school, I worked as a volunteer docent at the JFK Library. While leading a group of fourth grade students through the museum I was asked this question. “Did you know President Kennedy?” “No”, I replied and the loquacious little fellow followed up with “Then what are you doing here?”
My response went this way. “When I was your age, President Kennedy made me believe that my life could make a difference in the world… So I guess what I’m doing here is passing that message on to you.”
In 2018 I will retire after 26 years as a history teacher in Manatee County Florida. During that time I have noticed a phenomenon which I have named the Iconic Streamline. This is the single event for which icons come to be known. For example, when I ask students what they know about Abraham Lincoln, I would invariably hear, “He freed the slaves.”
Martin Luther King? “I have a dream speech.”
Rosa Parks? “Didn’t give up her seat.”
When I asked what they knew about JFK, the answer was virtually always the same, “He got shot.”
My passion for history, which ultimately led me to the classroom, was lit by President John F Kennedy. The idea that generations later, middle and high school kids identified him simply as “the guy that got shot” was and is unsettling to me.
It was during my tenure at the JFK Library that Jackie, Caroline and John Jr. initiated the annual Profiles in Courage Award. It is awarded each year around the time of the President’s birthday, May 29th, and it was designed to put the focus upon JFK’s life and legacy, not his death.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. Those of us who are the children of his New Frontier, may have a bit of a problem wrapping our minds around that fact; for images from those days remain vivid and clear. This is especially true if you lived in his home state of Massachusetts and indeed all of New England.
John F. Kennedy in New England is my small effort to bring the focus to the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy. And as I researched and wrote I was brought to an epiphany, I am a piece of that legacy. Like so many of the children of the New Frontier, I was inspired by the young president, his vision for America and Her place in the world. Angered and disillusioned by his murder and the decades that followed, it would take me neigh a half century to return to it.
Having done so, I sought to find the man. The man behind the hero, behind the legend, behind the icon.
What better way to do that than to find him at home? I spent weeks pouring over thousands of photos before settling on the photos to use. Several of which have never been published.
Some of them follow.
This one is personal. The gentleman smiling between JFK and the smiling woman, is my grandfather William Kelly. I still have a copy of the October 1952 newspaper in which this appeared. It is a cropped photo and the woman on the far left with the fur wrap is not in that cropped photo. When I found this original it brought a huge smile, for that woman is my grandmother Mary Kelly.
This is a Monday morning in July 1962 as JFK and RFK leave Hyannis Port bound for DC. Note the President saying good bye to his very unhappy little boy in the background.
This was taken in the summer of 1952 as JFK and his campaign manager RFK take a break from the Senate Campaign.
In 1958, it was a forgone conclusion that Senator Kennedy would win his re-election to the Senate. However with aspirations to capture the nomination for president in 1960, it was essential that he win decisively. Jackie said that this was the toughest of all his campaigns. The above photo is from the 1958 Columbus Day Parade in Framingham MA.
In June of 1962, President Kennedy delivered the commencement address at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut. In his speech he said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”
In so many ways John F. Kennedy has become mythical, “enlarged in death, beyond what he was in life.” What he was in life was:
A PT Boat Commander, whose boat was sliced in two by a Japanese destroyer in August of 1943. Eleven of the 13 crew members survived as Kennedy swam many miles throughout a week of hiding on two different, Japanese occupied, Pacific islands. They were all rescued by virtue of a message carved by JFK in a coconut and delivered to Allied forces in Rendova by natives.
Uncle Jack, who would drive the kids around the compound of his summer home in a golf cart.
He was Daddy, who would take his son for a swim in the pool at Bailey’s Beach in Newport RI.
Or enjoy a sail or cruise with his daughter upon the waters of Nantucket Sound.
Or who would, one month before he died, leave the Harvard/Columbia football game (above) at half time, slip the Secret Service and visit the grave of his son a few miles away.
He was a husband,
“who wove with a woman, what could not be broken in life”and with whom he shared the loss of two children, stillborn Arabella in 1956 and Patrick at two days old in August of 1963.
President and Mrs. Kennedy leave the hospital at Otis Air Force Base, following the birth and death of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy in August of 1963.
He was Jack, the son who never failed to kiss his father goodbye and…
He was a brother.
Who lost his older brother Joe (right) in World War II and his sister Kathleen a few years later. His beloved “Kick” who was often call his kindred spirit.
Who would ultimately inspire two younger brothers to follow him into the political arena and who reveled in gathering with his family.
He was a fiercely loyal friend,
Who would go for a drive,
Head for the links…
Or sail or cruise the ocean…
the Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces.
And he was the 35th President of the United States of America.
John F Kennedy was the youngest elected president in US history. Like all of us, he was a flawed human being. Like few of us, his flaws were played out on an international stage.
He was my president and he made me believe my life could make a difference. Within weeks of his death Jacqueline Kennedy said, “now he’s a legend when he would have preferred to be a man.” It is my hope that this book helps dispel “the persistent, persuasive and unrealistic myth” that, in many ways, has cloaked John Kennedy. And you may come away with a better understanding of the man who made New England and in fact the sea, his home.
I further hope that somewhere out there are some who left my classroom believing that their life can make a difference. For then I will have been worthy of his legacy.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for an autographed copy. And feel free to purchase one for everybody you know.
And so it is on this day, April 17, 2017