It was fifty years ago today that John F. Kennedy won the presidential election in 1960.
NPR played a sound clip of JFK speaking at the Garden on election eve. It took my breath away – the man was hot. Every word, uttered with pure conviction, intelligent thought behind each syllable: “All the criticisms that are leveled at presidential campaigns in my judgment fade away against the knowledge which a potential President may have of the strength of this society of ours and our people.”
I’m not a JFK groupie, by any means. I don’t have any of his speeches memorized, I don’t hold him up as a yardstick to any other president living or dead. Mr. Kennedy was human, as we all are. He was not perfect, he is not the model by which all presidents should be judged.
He was a father figure to me, especially after my dad vacated the premises. I was three years old when he was elected, and six when he was shot and killed. My dad died in New York City barely two weeks after JFK’s life was taken.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my childhood in Ohio. It was filled with spacemen and the Beatles and secret agents and baseball heroes and scary movies on Saturday. Fall weather seems to activate these memories. Back in those days, folks would rake their leaves into a pile in their back yards and burn them. The smell of smoldering leaves transports me to the Ohio of fifty years ago instantly.
I reckon that JFK is a a grainy, black-and-white film in the imaginations of my children. I wonder if they can picture little blond-haired five-year-old me watching him speak on television.
What yardstick has my generation left for its young?