Saturday, November 22, 2008

JFK 45 Years Later: Never Forget...

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JFK Inaugural Address Part One

JFK Inaugural Address Part Two

November 22, 2008

Joe Fitzgerald, Boston Herald

It was 45 years ago today that an assassin's bullet ripped a hole in America's heart, even that part of America that hadn't supported the candidacy of our 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

By the time he was shot down on this date in 1963, JFK had charmed the socks off many critics with irrepressible warmth and self-effacing humor.

When asked to describe how he became a hero as the commander of PT-109 in the South Pacific, he replied, "It was involuntary; they sank my boat."

There was a breath of fresh air about him from the get-go.

The late Billy Sutton, who introduced him to Charlestown voters in 1946 when JFK ran for Congress in the old 11th District, and who later became his first secretary in Washington, loved describing his pal, especially to anyone born too late to have experienced the Camelot phenomenon.

"He reminded me of a young Charles Lindberg, lean and gaunt," Billy said. "Very rich, however. We used to say that even though the Fitzgeralds and Kennedys hailed from Boston, we suspected Jack came in by way of a plane from Florida."

Billy particularly loved recalling JFK's arrival in the nation's capital, where he joined the 80th Congress.

"Congressmen (Sam) Rayburn and (John) McCormack had placed the new member from Boston on the Education & Labor Committee. Jack was flying in from Florida. Ted Reardon and I spent the morning waiting for him while Rayburn's people kept calling: 'Where is he?'

"Finally he shows up and I said, 'Jack, you've got to hurry! You're late.'

"He said, 'Billy, I haven't had my breakfast. Tell me, how long have Mr. Rayburn and Mr. McCormack been on the Hill?' I guessed perhaps 50 years. He said, 'Then another 14 minutes won't make any difference,' and ordered his three-minute eggs."

Billy was one of this town's all-time political characters.

But his most cherished assignment was returning to the site of the assassination to address the North Dallas Democratic Club on the 20th anniversary of JFK's death.

"They were still feeling guilty," he later recalled. "So I told them, 'Don't ever forget it was your state's 26 electoral votes that sent Jack to the Oval Office, ending anti-Catholic bigotry.

" 'And it was Lyndon Baines Johnson who engineered the most fitting tribute to him, passing Civil Rights legislation.

" 'Jack loved you, and I know he'd have wanted me to tell you that.' "

All across the land, among those by whom this date will never be forgotten, memories like these will come to mind, recalling how a youthful president broke down barriers and wound up endearing himself even to those who did not welcome his arrival. It's a quintessential American story.

Source: Copyright (c) 2008, Boston Herald. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

*W.E. A.L.L. B.E. News & Radio Specials*

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