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writing for godot

The measure of the man

Written by Robert J Gaydos   
Saturday, 30 November 2019 16:37

I have felt a connection with John F. Kennedy ever since I learned we shared the same birth date, May 29. It always felt special, especially since he was the first president who made me think about things outside myself. I was 22 years old, waiting to report to Fort Dix for basic training when he was assassinated on this date in 1963 in Dallas. His death postponed my report date by a couple of weeks. I wept with America and life moved on, but the connection remained.
Twenty years later, as editorial,page editor for the Times Herald-Record, in Middletown, N.Y., my first editorial would be on the anniversary of JFK’s death. I headlined it “The Measure of the Man.” It was an attempt to take a fair assessment of the man and the myth, although my personal feelings managed to insert themselves. In part, I wrote: “John Kennedy, as no president since and few before, had the ability to make Americans feel good about themselves — proud, daring even, and unashamedly patriotic. He was a symbol of how America liked to think of itself — young, strong, intelligent, witty, caring, with a sense of destiny. He looked the part and, perhaps, he played the part. He read the lines with unmatched eloquence. Still, if we got carried away with ourselves, there was the honesty to admit mistakes. We blew it at the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy would tell us. There is not an American solution for all the world’s problems, he would warn us. We are all brothers on this earth — “Ich bin ein Berliner” — he would remind us. And then he was gone.”
I write about Kennedy with more sadness than usual on this solemn anniversary, because what might have been has replaced with what is and I remember those days of being proud of my country and my president and wish with all my heart to feel that way again before I, too, am gone.
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