Thursday, November 21, 2013

Camelot? I think not

Camelot is how many have referred admiringly to the presidency of John F Kennedy, as his time in office was said to have potential and promise for the future, and so many were inspired by Kennedy's speeches, vision, and policies.  But Camelot?  Really? 

It took me a while, but I finally saw it.  Camelot, the once-popular show, is actually a mediocre musical about failed idealism and it really doesn't do Kennedy justice.  In the past few weeks there have been a lot of "What if Kennedy had not been killed?" stories.  We have examined his murder over and over and we have gazed into our crystal balls and guessed what he might have done.  Is this at all fair to his memory?  Weren't there some accomplishments that we can give credit for instead?

Every single person who has been a US president has had accomplishments.  Each one of them have done good things for the country and for others.  We remember the bad about some of them and we look at the hopes for the ones we lost early, but in the case of John Kennedy, we have spent an awful lot of time writing a fairy tale and Jacqueline Kennedy helped us do it.  Lerner and Loewe's musical opened on Broadway in 1960, but it was not until after the assassination that Mrs Kennedy, in a magazine interview gave us the connection.

The article reported that, according to the First Lady, the President liked listening to the cast recording of Camelot at bedtime, particularly the title song, where Arthur sings: "Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot."  Jacqueline Kennedy also said "There will be great presidents again, but there will never be another Camelot."
It was fifty years ago that the Kennedy Presidency was cut short by a bullet in Dallas.  It was fifty years ago that the Camelot that has been suggested, came to a tragic close.  As we remember this great man's death though I'd like to suggest that we have had other presidents that have given us hope.  We have had other administrations that we might have been tempted to compare to Camelot, but let's not do that with any of them.  Let us instead remember his strong leadership during the Cuban missile crisis that ultimately diverted a nuclear war and led  to the nuclear test ban treaty with the Soviets.  Let us remember his commitment to the arts, his commitment to landing a man on the moon, and his strong commitment to his faith (he was the first Roman Catholic in the White House).  Kennedy's most notable and long-standing accomplishment was probably the establishment of the Peace Corps, which is so important that I intend to write more about it later in the days ahead.
John Kennedy most certainly made a difference in this world and it is my hope that we remember him for that and forget about all the "what ifs?" which we can never no an answer to.  His call for Americans to serve their country has remained in my mind all these years and is perhaps one of the reasons I write this every day.  It's not about the fairy tales of Camelot but about the accomplishments of doing for your country, and the world.

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