NB Politicus


Posted in 1963, Kennedy by nbpoliticus on November 17, 2013

It’s a week and a November 22nd when every Baby Boomer is going to tell you where they were and I am no exception.

At age 13, I was in Mrs Sonigan’s 7th grade speech class when the class abruptly ended at Pickering Junior High near Wyoma Square in Lynn, Massachusetts. This was just one year removed from the Cuban Missile Crisis when, at age 12, I thought it was over for me and everyone else by way of nuclear annihilation.  But then Kennedy, not listening to General Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay,  and Khrushchev, resisting his own hawks in the Kremlin,  cut the deal to allow me to get to junior high.

I don’t know whether the news from Dallas came over the principal’s office intercom or from Mrs Sonigan herself on that Friday. But school got out early for the weekend. There was a bus ride home full of nervous guessing by some classmates and then a long, sad three days of black and white television.

President and Mrs. Kennedy descend the stairs from Air Force One at Love Field in Dallas, TX, 22 November 1963.  
(Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

The murder of the 46-year-old 35th President in Dealey Plaza profoundly changed the course of U.S. History in ways we’ll never know.  Some historians and observers says Vietnam and much of the turbulence of the 1960s may have been averted had Kennedy lived. On the other hand, there is some doubt that Kennedy could have gotten all that was attained in the aftermath and mood created after his death. President Johnson’s  legislative genius is greatly responsible for the civil rights acts and a War against Poverty (Head Start, Meals on Wheels) that came out of the Kennedy and Johnson years.

The war in Vietnam that haunted JFK’s Defense Secretary Robert McNamara  and the subsequent murders of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy (on the night of my senior prom) killed the “high hopes” Kennedy brought.

Being Irish and Catholic and living in Massachusetts we took it  like a death in the family. In truth, however, the mourning  was ecumenical and universal.  “This is a sad day for all people,” President Johnson drawled getting off the plane with Kennedy’s body. Before 24/7 cable, McLuhan’s electronic “global village” connected all in grief and shock to watch the events unfold on TV.

The other and more uplifting thing to remember about 11-22-63 is that a ton of people in local and national offices, including me, came into or got interested in politics and public service because of Kennedy’s “Ask not” call to serve.

That is still the lasting part of JFK’s 1,000 days in office — days long ago but not forgotten this week.

Remembering The March and Speech From the "Global Village"

Posted in 1963, civil rights, Television by nbpoliticus on August 29, 2013

The March for Jobs and Freedom culminating in the “Dream” speech that occurred 50 years ago today stirred the social consciences of many more than the 250,000 who were on the Washington mall that hot summer day in Washington, D.C.

All of us who are old enough have no business remembering where we were on that Wednesday afternoon so long ago.  But we do. “The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global village,” said a prophetic Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s at about the time there was a TV in virtually every living room

I was 13 about to enter 9th grade in Lynn, MA. The television was on in our Clarendon Avenue apartment and I knew the live network coverage in black and white was connecting  me to something big and historic.  Former President Bill Clinton, praising the marchers at todays’ commemoration at the Lincoln Memorial, said he too joined the march through the medium as a 17 year old in Arkansas.

Said Clinton:

This march and that speech changed America. They opened minds, they melted hearts and they moved millions, including a 17-year-old boy watching alone in his home in Arkansas. (Applause.) It was an empowering moment, but also an empowered moment. As the great chronicler of those years, Taylor Branch, wrote: The movement here gained the force to open, quote, “the stubborn gates of freedom,” and out flowed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, immigration reform, Medicare, Medicaid, open housing.

King’s speech and the march brought millions of people together in hope and possibility that August day.  And television elevated the event in the cause of social justice.

Less than three months after the March for Jobs and Freedom  I and many others would never forget where we were 50 years later.  We spent many more hours  in front of the  black and white TVs — this time part of a global village connected in loss and sorrow over President Kennedy’s  assassination.