Appropriately, the first e-mail I read this morning was from a colleague who told me she remembers being at President Kennedy’s Inaugural – 50 years ago today. She remembers how cold it was, the fact that she was wearing red leather boots and, most importantly, how January 20, 1961 still stands out as one of the most memorable days of her life. It was lovely to begin the day reading about hope, but it reminded me how much our political environment – and our rhetoric – have changed.
I admit to a bias on this subject. I had the honor of working at the John F. Kennedy Library for fifteen years before coming to Inly. Those were wonderful years, and I can’t help comparing what I hear today with the stories I used to hear from members of President Kennedy’s family, his former colleagues, and the countless people he inspired to enter public service. Like many people, I sometimes feel nostalgic for a time when I wasn’t even alive. Of course, things weren’t perfect then – or ever. But, what I came to respect most about President Kennedy was his appeal to people’s best selves. He encouraged people to think and read and listen and to participate.
There are so many books written about President Kennedy that to recommend them is a risky venture. However, there are a few that, in my opinion, convey his spirit and his optimism to young readers:
Jack’s Path of Courage: The Life of John F. Kennedy by Doreen Rappaport (for ages 7-10)
Jack: The Early Years of John F. Kennedy by Ilene Cooper (for ages 12 and over)
There is one more that I know very well because I wrote it, and President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, graciously contributed the introduction. It is called John F. Kennedy: His Life and Legacy.
I know this is a blog about books and reading, but on this anniversary, I also want to suggest a visit to a museum. The best place to learn about President Kennedy and to understand why his words continue to inspire people today, is the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. It is one of my favorite places, and being in its glass pavilion overlooking Boston Harbor always makes me feel more hopeful.