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The Legacy of JFK
Boston has this fabulous initiative every Friday in the summer. Various museums, park and zoos that typically charge an admission are free to the public. Today's free site was the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. My younger daughter had a friend over last night and I had offered to take my 2 girls and their friend. I had not been to the JFK Library since 1998 when I had to go for a speech for my internship at the Boston Globe. My recollection of it was that it was interesting but did not have much to look at. Today we headed out to Dorchester in hopes of an education and something to do. Remember that I am a vampire and need to find indoor activities during daylight hours.
Upon entering there were people greeting us at the door and asking when, or if, we had visited before and when. After being greeted, we sat down for a documentary on JFK and his rise to the Democratic nomination in 1960. Throughout our then journey of various TV and family videos, artifacts, furniture and photographs, one message stood out to me beyond anything else. John Kennedy was an eloquent speaker, but the content of his words were what have continued on. His message is his legacy.
Throughout my life I have always believed that JFK's social programs such as the Civil Rights Movement and the beginnings of the War on Poverty were his most respectable and historic acts as President. However it is the message these acts were built on that are the legacy of John Kennedy. In every video clip today I heard the same message. Ideals held in opinions and judgements are valid and we are blessed to live in a country that allows such ideals and thoughts - free speech. However, how can we live as a community in our cities, our country and our world if we place our ideals on others. our goal should be to live at peace with each other and with respect for all humanity. From this message, these positive thoughts, came the movement of Civil Rights. In 1960's America, Black people were treated in a way that I find humiliating as an American. Kennedy insisted through his Act and through his actions with students in the South like James Meredith and at the University of Alabama, that the days of inequality should be behind us. I have always believed that JFK felt somewhat of a kinship with Black people, as not too long before would there ever have been an Irish Catholic president.
What he did then was proper and right. Kennedy did not run for politics, he ran on principles. He came from a large political family. However, he was never the favorite son to run for office. That was his brother Joe, who was killed in WW II. So Jack spent his days studying, traveling, writing - in some ways a Renaissance man. He didn't have the pressures to do the politically correct thing as politics were not supposed to be his path in life. Fortunately for us, fate did bring him to the Presidency. I also believe that his attempt to stick to his principles brought him to his fate.
Today I took away with me yet another message from another inspiring person to make decisions and choices based on your principles. In our country currently I don't think any culture or race is treating each other fairly. We are all sitting in judgement based on someones race, the section of the country they come from, the language they speak, and so on. I even saw a woman today with a t-shirt on that said, "I Love Black People". In 1960's America, I would have said, "Rock on with yo bad self!" In today's world, the shirt should have read, "I Love All People." the world is a much smaller place today than it was. We need to be even more keenly aware of each other's cultures and humanity. Kennedy's message is not one that applied only to his generation. It is one that is relevant even now. Use his words and look at our world today through those glasses. “This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents. We cannot say to ten percent of the population that you can’t have that right; that your children cannot have a chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the street and demonstrate. I think we owe them that and we owe ourselves a better country than that.” (Civil Rights Address, June 11, 1963)
I see in Boston today, a city where White people only make up 45% of the population as opposed to 60% 20 years ago, as a living example of a place where tolerance and acceptance from all of the races and neighborhoods need to grow a little more. We continue to bus students under the guise of "school choice". Students are very lucky if they get to go to school in their own neighborhood. What kind of choice is that? I also see it in the avoidance of cultural and religious celebrations and education in our schools. How can someone learn to be tolerant of another's ethnicity or faith if they aren't exposed to it? It's human nature to be afraid of the unknown, and this fear leads to ignorance.
Kennedy's life was not lost in vain. He was a man with passion who lived on valid principles. He left us a legacy to be true to our selves and kind to our neighbors, all over the world. I know you now must think I am a bleeding heart liberal from Massachusetts. Sometimes yes. But I believe I look for the good in people, no matter what their party affiliation, race or beliefs. We all have something good to contribute to the world. If we all share our goodness and our positive messages, as John Kennedy did, the world will forever be a better place. I will leave you with a photograph I took today at the Kennedy Museum and Library. Rest in Peace Mr. Kennedy and thank you for your sacrifice.
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