Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Happy Birthday, Jack

"First, examine our attitude towards peace, itself. Too many of us think that it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that we are gripped by forces we cannot control. We need not accept that view. Our problems are man made. Therefore they can be solved by man, and man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable and we believe they can do it again"

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
American University
June 12, 1963

Had he survived, today would have been the ninetieth birthday of John F. Kennedy, thirty-fifth president of the United States. Of course, even if his motorcade had not passed under the sixth floor window of the Texas Book Depository on that horrible autumn day in 1963, he would have died a long time ago. Jack Kennedy was never destined to live a long life on this planet. So precarious was the state of his health from the day he was born on May 29, 1917, he would be given the last rights of the Catholic Church three times during his all-too-brief life.

He was far from being the perfect man so many of his generation idealized him to be in the months and years following his death. While "Camelot" might have been a tidy and convenient myth for the writer Theodore White, it never really existed. Revisionist biographers have shown us that he suffered from the human frailties all too common to most of us. His motives (particularly with respect to some areas of foreign policy) were not always pure. And yet even with the benefit of 20/20 historical hindsight, it doesn't take away from the hurt felt by most Americans who are old enough to remember November 22, 1963. It was a grief that was felt on a deep and personal level. Nobody who was alive at the time has ever forgotten where they where and what they were doing when they got the news. I had turned five years old three months earlier and I still remember what my father was wearing when he told me, "The President's been shot". Jack Kennedy's murder on the streets of Dallas, Texas all those years ago was a national trauma that America never really recovered from. Who knows if it ever will?

Listening to a recording of his address to the graduating class of 1963 on the campus of American University, one can't help but feel a sense of real sadness - almost despair - at how far we have fallen as a nation in the ensuing forty-four years. It is almost as if, after wandering through the desert for all those decades, we emerged to find out that the shining city on the hill has turned out to be nothing more than a mirage - a cheap and cynical political huckster's vision of a government of the privileged, by the privileged, for the privileged. When JFK took the oath of office on January 20, 1961, America's future was bright and boundless. Today our only glory is in our past. The damage that has been done to the country he loved so well - the country he almost died defending in World War II - will be with us for generations. What would he have thought of the America of 2007?

While he may have, indeed, been a flawed man, the private historical record has documented, more times than can be adequately counted, that he believed in the promise of America as articulated through the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. He really wanted to be a competent and effective president of all the people: rich and poor; black and white.

"Let the word go forth from this time and place to friend and foe alike: that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans - born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage - and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed and to which we are committed today - at home and around the world".

Inaugural Address
January 20, 1961

It was never empty rhetoric with President Kennedy; he meant every word of it. A lot of the man's persona was based on style, no question about it. But it's also an undeniable fact that there was an abundance of substance within him. (As opposed to....well, you know who I'm talking about). Looking at films of him today, how can one not make a comparison to what we've got sitting in the White House at present? How did we manage to fall to the depths to which we have fallen? In our parent's generation, the half-witted son of a failed ex-president would never have been taken seriously. As beloved as Franklin D. Roosevelt was, the reason his four sons never went far in politics is because of the fact that they were four extremely shallow human beings, utterly lacking in vision and ability. That the elections of 2000 and 2004 were stolen is not an excuse. Elections are only easy to steal if the margin of victory is razor thin. Had someone with the intellectual capacity of a George W. Bush sought the Republican nomination in the 1960 primaries, he would not have even have won the state of Texas. In that year, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was a legendary Texas congressman named Sam Rayburn. Even the voters of that state had standards in 1960.

Tonight, I'll spend the evening listening to the recorded voice of Jack Kennedy (One of the perks of being Irish Catholic, is our right to refer to the late president as, "Jack"). I'll have a glass of wine, sit back and pine for his vision and prose - his ultimate faith in the destiny of our once-great nation - and I'll ponder what might have been....what might have been....

"I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty; which will protect the beauty of our natural environment...I look forward to an America which will award achievement in the arts as we award achievement in business and statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength, but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity, but also for personal distinction".

Dedication of the Robert Frost Library
Amherst, Massachusetts
October 26, 1963

God blessed America.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Here is a You Tube link to Part One of President Kennedy's commencement address at American University quoted at the top of this piece:


Happy birthday, Jack!


For more recent postings on this disgusting, positively subversive site, please click on the link below:


There oughtta be a law! Come to think about it, at the rate we're now going there probably will be one soon. Never mind.


At 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tom, I will never forget the day Jack Kennedy was shot, we were living on Ft Bliss at El Paso and had the tv on when the news of his shooting came on,then later the tears in either Chet Huntley's or David Brinkley's eyes when he announced Kennedy was dead. l
already knew it tho, I could see the flag on the post cemetery from my living room window lowered to half staff.
There was a huge crowd at Retreat that evening and the post cannon boomed every hour on the hour 24 hours a day till the funeral was over.
Until January 20 2001 that was one of the saddest days for our country.
Remember Black Jack's capers at the parade down Massachusetts Avenue?
Kennedy may have been flawed in his personal life but he loved his country and was not in public life to enrich himself.
I have thought so many times lately how glad I am John Kennedy was in the White House during the Cuban Missle Crisis and not the current occupant of the White House.
Other than FDR no other president has done so much for we the people. The Peace Corps and the plan for Medicare were Kennedy's vision tho it was left to LBJ to put it in motion
First he made us proud to be Americans and our prestige around the world was never higher than when JFK and Jackie were in the White House; not hated and reviled around the world like we are today.
We were in Germany when Bobby was shot and the Germans mourned along with us,
There was a Gastatte 1 km from our kaserne and we would go there, have a Schnitzel and see Hoss, Little Joe speak German.
The Germans loved JFK, his Ich ein Berliner was still resonating; their nightmare was the Russians would come pouring thru the Fulda Gap and grab the rest of Germany.
Couldn't Jack and Jackie do public events in style!!
Rest in Peace Jack, we still miss you.

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, thank you for a beautiful and eloquent tribute.

Sadly, how far we have fallen since then.

At 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You touch on a fascinating point here and that is the common truth that great men and women can also be dramatically flawed. In politics, it becomes very important to look hard at the whole history of a candidate to know if they really are the person you want to vote for...and this is not easy to do.

How many potentially great candidates are there who won't run because of some skeleton they perceive would be their undoing if they tried? So we end up with the likes of those who can fool us into trusting them. I'm speaking for myself here! I will always envy people who were much smarter and more diligent than I in choosing who to trust.

Times are different now than in Kennedy's day because we have become so jaded by sensational media that we hardly give a damn anymore about what someone is or what they did. I think the time has come when a person running for an office should just come out with everything controversial about themself right in the beginning. How refreshing that would be!

That's what I would do, only because the pressure of waiting for it to be revealed by anyone else would really get to me. Besides, what better way to undermine one's detractors than to beat them to it? And say a big FU to unscrupulous, shallow media hacks? Maybe that would encourage the media to focus on some real issues. By the way, whatever I've done, I don't think I have been a danger to anyone other than myself and some dishes.

In hindsight, Jack Kennedy's flaws only serve to magnify the great person and leader he was. He was magnificent, a symbol Americans can all be proud of, and his legacy continues to grow.

George W. Bush will go down in history as the antithesis of the kind of leader JFK was.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger stoney13 said...


I remember the day Kenedy died too. I remember my mother, who was a life-long Republican crying at the news.

I cried later on, when I found out that because of the news coverage that the would be no "Captain Kangaroo"! (Hey! I was five years old! Gimme a fucking break!)

I've read alot about John Kenedey through the years. I learned from a German-born mechanic that my parents rented an apartment to, his statement to the German People at Berlin translated to "I am a jelly doughnut!"

Yep it would have been a far better thing for this country if JFK had lived, and Johnson would have died! There would have been no "Operation Cyanide" and The Vietnam War would have been ended before it got going good!

Oh well! Put "Would'a, Could'a, and Should'a," in one hand' and a green dollar bill in the other, you could buy one of those jelly doughnuts!

At 3:15 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Great Post, Stoney! The jelly doughnut story is true. Yes; I suppose JFK was entitled to one George W. Bush moment in a thousand days of office.
Tom Degan

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Stoney and Tom, Did the Ich bin ein Berliner refer to a jelly donut? Have I been laboring under a misunderstanding all these years? I thought Kennedy was referring to the Berliners and their brave stand against the Russian embargo and was allying himself with their stand against the Russian occupation.
Then we lived in La Junta Colorado across from a small WW2 airfield reopened for the food flights to Berlin.
A plane took off every 2 minutes 24 hours a day to take food to the Berliners.
No matter what the statement meant, the Germans loved him and revered him and still mourned him 7 years later, unlike their feelings toward today's occupant of the White House Notice I don't say president?

At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, I found your blog and enjoy reading it immensely. We have a couple of things in common. I was born the same year as you and I use to live in Now York too, in Binghamton.
The one question I have is what makes you so sure bush will be impeached and imprisoned. I admit I am giddy at the thought but with a compliant media and with the toothless and ball less dems, that seems unlikely.
Here is a link to a free book that is worthwhile reading.

At 12:23 PM, Blogger Amolibri said...

Hi Tom,
I have the same birthday as JFK: May 29th. Nov. 22nd and the following days will always be imprinted in my memory. We were glued to the TV all weekend in disbelief.
I think it's fitting that his birthday falls on the Memorial Day time.
Best to you,

At 4:34 AM, Blogger Lydia said...

Thanks for posting the link to this at Facebook seven years after you first wrote it. This is one of your finest pieces, I think. Should be in his library.

My sister was born on Nov. 22nd and a birthday party had already been planned. Looking back, it was really brave of my mother to go on and host the party, complete with lit candles on cake and leading everyone in "Happy Birthday" for my sis. I remember watching my mom go to the corner of the kitchen where she was hidden by the old fridge to cry during the party.


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