John F. Kennedy Personal Mentor

On this 50th Anniversary of his death I am remembering the impact John F. Kennedy had on my life.

When President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963 I had recently turned 16 (Sept. 17th). My life was in turmoil. The situation in my alcoholic home was becoming impossible. I was anxious to take charge of my own life, chart my own course and pursue my own dreams.

President Kennedy was a beacon of hope in a world filled with fear and uncertainty.

The Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, made the prospect of a nuclear war real to me. Our neighbor had built a Fallout Shelter in their home and I wondered what would happen to me, my family and millions of others if there was a nuclear war. I had been told Edmonton would be a prime target because of the oil industry.

Before this, I had been captivated by President Kennedy beginning with the Presidential election in 1960. Kennedy became a personal hero based on two speeches he gave that, even today, deeply move me.

President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address on January 20, 1961 filled me with hope. It is still one of the greatest speeches I have ever heard.

He began by saying “the election was not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom”… I urge you to click the link above and listen to this masterpiece of leadership and oratory.

In the fall of 1962 at Rice University, President Kennedy gave his Moon Speech.

Talk about “shooting for the moon,” literally! This is a powerful example of sharing a vision, a challenge, and calling people to get behind it. If you have the time, click the link and hear another masterpiece of leadership and oratory.

Now, I hope you understand why I was so devastated by the assassination of President Kennedy. It was personal for me, in a way that seems irrational to me now.

I know that history has revealed that Kennedy was a womanizer and that he was chronically ill and suffered with pain. I don’t condone his breech of fidelity but it is not my place to judge him, or anyone else for personal failings. His illness and pain makes me marvel all the more at his vibrance and energy. I wonder at the strength of his calling to serve, his passion to lead and inspire.

I visited Dallas and the School Book Depository. It made me wonder what might have been… I left sad.

In 2007, I made a pilgrimage to John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. It is located on a ten-acre park, overlooking the sea that he loved. President Kennedy chose the site himself a month before he was assassinated, planning for years ahead, he thought. It has three parts: a Museum, an Archive and an educational Institute.

The architect was I.M. Pei, selected by Jacqueline Kennedy. The selection was a surprise because he was a young architect and the candidates included some of the best known architects in America. I.M. Pei seemed to Mrs. Kennedy to be filled the promise, imagination and temperament that would reinforce her vision for the library. The building is stunning. Visit the John Fitzgerald Library and Museum online and see for yourself.

The visit was a very personal and emotional experience for me. The multi-media presentation had me relive part of my youth. I spent some time standing quietly in the atrium.

Ultimately, I left home, pursued and realized many of my dreams. Today, fifty years later, I am grateful for John F. Kennedy a man who, as strange as this may seem, was like a personal mentor to me. Thank you.

 

 

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