Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and because I've noticed this blog I wrote in 2011 getting quite a few hits recently, I am re-posting it today in both his honor and his memory.
Caroline Kennedy has allowed the release of hours of interviews done with her mother four months after the assassination of her father, the President, John F. Kennedy. And for those of us who are old enough to know what the reference to Camelot even is, it is a gift both bitter and sweet to hear the wispy voice of the late Jacqueline Kennedy once again.
So much has been tainted in the years since, stemming from our need to know everything, including all the dirty little secrets once kept hidden from the public's common knowledge. But the most important things I took away from these interviews weren't my shock and awe at Jacqueline's views on women and their place in society, though that did make me gasp out loud, but rather the President's thoughts on both how he saw himself and how he operated in the landscape of the politics of his time.
When Jackie told him she despised a particular political figure, he told her she mustn't think that way, because then she would eventually act that way. He viewed politics much like a chess game, and even though I'm partial to poker references myself, the point was that disdain is always your "tell." And you can't afford to have a tell like that in politics. Oh Barack, dear chap, are you listening? Please stop letting 'em know what you're thinking. We can all see it on your face. And for goodness sake, twist an arm or two, why don't you! We won't mind, I promise. As a matter of fact, we don't even need to know.
But here's the thing that struck me the most and made me stop dead in my tracks while listening to Jackie's voice. When asked how he thought of himself, JFK's answer was as "an idealist without illusions." And that, my friends, is what we need today. That is the perfect combination we've been looking for - the one with the beautiful, inspiring rhetoric coupled with the brute force masked behind a winning smile needed to actually accomplish the content of the pretty words.
The times we live in are devoid of civility. And though one might argue that that is the price you pay for honesty, I don't see politicians being any more truthful, and now they're just mean on top of being liars, so what was the sacrifice of courtesy for in the end, anyway?
Today I've been thinking about what it means to be "an idealist without illusions," and I've decided that should be everyone's goal, but it is now definitely mine. I've decided that whether it's the 1960's or 2011, it would behoove us to dream big and aspire to greatness, while doing the very real and unglamorous work it takes to live minus the illusion that your dreams will fall from the sky onto your life. In this day where we want success without dues paying, it's time to roll up our sleeves and get to work, while still daring to dream. Had President Kennedy not aspired to passing a healthcare bill (which he failed at, by the way), President Obama would not have been able to sign one.
So while I get wistful looking at pictures of the handsome young president and his lovely wife, I know that their lives were far from perfect, but that didn't stop them from trying. There is no air-brushing of real life. We come here flawed, and frail, and hopelessly longing for that which we likely will never attain. And still it is within our ability to be "idealists without illusions."
So here's to the memory of those who came before us and strove on our behalf, and to those who strive now, idealists without illusions, who work each and every day so that we might once again know Camelot.
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