Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How Quickly We Forget: Political Gamesmanship vs.Statesmanship

A volunteer told me about this column in the New York Times and I was fortunate enough to see that Larry James had sent me the link to it.

Ironically, the night of November 22, I searched television stations in vain to try and find some remembrance of John F. Kennedy. This year is the 50th anniversary of his presidential campaign and the 47th anniversary of his assassination. I thought there would be something to remind us of the gift of inspiration his all to brief life gave our country. I was surprised, a little shocked, actually, to find nothing!

Bob Herbert, however, has written a wonderful column that does help us remember the difference between the sad state of political gamesmanship in our day and the type of statesmanship offered by JFK's vision and promise.

"It was a half-century ago this month that John F. Kennedy won the presidency in a thrilling and heart-stoppingly close election against Richard Nixon. You’d probably be surprised at the number of Americans who are clueless about when Kennedy ran: “It was 1970, right?” “Wasn’t it in the ’40s, soon after the war?” Or whom he ran against: “Eisenhower?”"

"I’ve been surprised by the lack of media attention given to the golden anniversary of that pivotal campaign, one of the most celebrated of the entire post-World War II period. With Kennedy, the door to the great 1960s era opened a crack, and it would continue opening little by little until the Beatles flung it wide in 1964."

"Kennedy’s great gift was his capacity to inspire. His message as he traveled the country was that Americans could do better, that great things were undeniably possible, that obstacles were challenges to be overcome with hard work and sacrifice."

"I don’t think he would have known what to make of the America of today, where the messages coming from the smoldering ruins of public life are not just uninspiring, but demeaning: that we must hack away at the achievements of the past (Social Security, Medicare); that we cannot afford to rebuild the nation’s aging infrastructure or establish a first-class public school system for all children; that we cannot bring an end to debilitating warfare, or establish a new era of clean energy, or put millions of jobless and underemployed Americans back to work."

"Kennedy declared that we would go to the moon. Chris Christie tells us that we are incapable of building a railroad tunnel beneath the Hudson River."

"Whatever one thinks of the tragically short Kennedy administration, we’d do well to pay renewed attention to the lofty ideals and broad themes that Kennedy brought to the national stage. We’ve become so used to aiming low that mediocrity is seen as a step up. We need to be reminded of what is possible..."

"“The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises; it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook. It holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.”"

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