Tuesday, November 19, 2013

50th Anniversary of JFK's Death

50 years ago this Friday November 22, 1963 at 2pm east coast time, I was in home room at Harwich High, waiting to get dismissed for the weekend. We were all talking about the weekend and the senior play rehearsal we were going to have Friday night. Then our principal came over the loudspeaker system and said the president had been shot in Dallas and maybe a senator and governor too. We all looked at each other, not believing what we just heard.  We were all dismissed, some taking buses home and others like me, walking home.

I lived less than a 5 minute walk from the high school. When I walked into the house, my parents and sisters were watching the tv and Walter Cronkite announced  that the president was dead and Governor Connelly was seriously wounded. We were all stunned obviously. And shortly after it was announced that the police had captured a suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald. It was the first time I had seen my mother cry. And two days later, we were eating lunch, had the tv on and the announcer said, "here comes Oswald" and then we saw that hand and gun in the lower right hand corner, as Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald.

When President Kennedy was elected it was such an exciting time. Our house in Harwich was only about 12 miles from the Kennedy compound in Hyannis. The local Cape Cod paper always had great pictures and stories of the president arriving on the helicopter, and Jackie and Caroline and John-John greeting him. And JFK talked about getting the country moving again, "vigor", landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade, everyone getting in shape and taking 50 mile hikes and playing touch football.

And all that was snuffed out by those shots in Dallas. I was so inspired that a friend  and myself did a 50 mile hike from the Cape to Boston, in February, mostly at night going up Route 3. I went off to college in 1964 and initially majored in broadcasting, but inspired by JFK and then RFK, changed my major to political science. JFK talked about helping others and giving back and that has always stayed with me. I have been retired now for 9 years and what I have tried to do is take my 35 years of business experience and 66 years of life experience, and give back to the community in many ways, and I have on my web site a quote that RFK used all the time "To tame the savages of man and to make gentle the life of this world." And so inspired by JFK and RFK I have tried to do that. So in some small way, some of their beliefs and values live on in my actions.

And I can't help but think "what if." What if JFK had lived? Would we have avoided the Vietnam war and 58,000 American deaths? Would the Cold War with Russia have been thawed? Would we have made more progress, sooner, on Civil Rights? And if he lived he probably would have been re-elected in 1964 and who would have been vice-president? There was talk of JFK removing LBJ from the ticket. And then who would have been president in 1968 and would we have had Watergate. So much hinged on those fateful shots in Dealey Plaza.

Years ago I was traveling on business in the Dallas area. I took a vacation day and stayed an extra day and went to Dealey Plaza. I walked down Main St., following the exact motorcade route, and then I turned right onto Houston and there in front of me was the Texas School Book Depository. I immediately looked up to the that 6th floor window and had chills up and down my spine. And then I turned left onto Elm St and went to the approximate spot where JFK was killed. And looked all around, taking it all in. Just haunting. And I went and stood behind the fence on the Grassy Knoll and went over to the underpass. I tried to go up to the 6th floor of the Depository but in those days it was blocked.  What happened here? Will we ever know?

And for me, we also lost a lot of the hope, the energy, the excitement, and the promise. I do not know if we have ever recovered from that horrible day. The decade of the 60's was full of assassinations, civil rights issues,  a raging war in Southeast Asia and tensions with Russia. We still feel the impact today. And JFK inspired many Americans to get involved in government service. With his death who did we lose? Another great president, a statesman, a great governor or cabinet member?

This Friday at about 1:30pm I will stop what I am doing and raise a toast to President Kennedy, and what was, and what could have been.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The 11th Hour, of the 11th Day, of the 11th Month

It was 95 years ago today that World War 1 ended. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Unfortunately we have had a few wars since. I think the entire world has been at war, since Cain and Able squared off a few years back! I read somewhere that close to 25% of all the countries in the world have some type of conflict going on-either internally or with someone else. Yikes. And we have had wars in this country going all the way back to the 1600's. One of the worst was King Phillip's War, between the Native Americans and the colonists, in 1675, where more "Americans" were killed per capita than any other war in our history.

But today is a day to remember all those who have served over the years. Many of them went over that hill and never came back. Many have horrible injuries, physical and mental, and are in hospital beds in places like Walter Reed Hospital. And many wives who have lost husbands are struggling to get by and raise their children. And many others are struggling with the stress of what they went through. We all owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

One of the restaurants in my hometown of Newburyport, Michaels, serves a free meal every Veterans Day to all veterans. They serve several hundred meals and have been doing this for years. A very nice gesture. But we should just not remember all the veterans today. We should think of them and their families throughout the year and we should work with our elected officials, locally and nationally, to make sure they get the support they deserve and need. Today at 11am I will toast all the veterans, current and past, with a wee bit of brandy.

And maybe we should all watch the video of John Lennon singing "Give Peace a Chance" that he wrote back in the 1969 time frame. And maybe we all should indeed, give it a chance.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Someone once said the only things certain in life are death and taxes. I think we can add a third topic to that list-litter. I walk and bike all around the area, in town and on trails and on the beaches. Where does this stuff come from. I walk downtown from our house which is less than a mile. I come across beer cans, coffee cups, cigarette packs, candy bar wrappers, and assorted other trash all the time. And one section of our street, someone throws half smoked cigars away. And they are always in the same place, about 4 inches long and an inch thick. What is the story with that?

I know someone in town who walks the Plum Island beaches all the time and he has found pieces of trash on the beach for every letter of the alphabet A through Z. I wonder what he found for X, a xylophone? And this trash is all over the place despite trash barrels being well placed throughout the city and picked up on a regular basis. And how about those bags of dog poop that are left on the rail trails and hiking trails. Who do they think is going to monitor the trails for that and pick them up? Yikes.

If we all picked up just two pieces of trash a day, that is 730 pieces of trash a year. But I don't ever pick up Kleenex or paper towels and most of the time I have some type of glove on, depending on the weather. I have never gotten sick or had an infection. If everyone in Newburyport, Ma. picked up that 730 pieces of trash a year, that is over 12 million pieces of trash! Wow. We already have a pretty clean city. Then we would be really spiffy and we would all do our part to make our little piece of Spaceship Earthy a little greener.