Today would have been John F Kennedy’s 100th birthday.
As a child born and brought up in Ireland, the photograph of John F Kennedy adorned our ‘parlour’ wall right next to the Sacred Heart lamp which supported a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary. If I recall correctly, our wall decoration was no different from any other family home in 1960s Ireland. As the Blessed Virgin gazed down on us, the Kennedys became Ireland’s First Family at home and abroad.
Several decades later sitting with an American friend (Carla) in a restaurant in Georgetown in Washington DC, it took all her strength to hold me back from springing from my chair when Ted Kennedy walked in with his wife – such was the strength of the pull of the Kennedys for someone of Irish origin and the sense of pride we felt in their political domination in America and head of a superpower. More to the point, JFK was the first Catholic and the youngest person to be elected president. In addition, his ‘New Frontier’ in social legislation involved a federal desegregation policy in education and civil rights reform. He displayed firmness and moderation in foreign policy. Most famously in 1962 he brokered the Russian withdrawal of its missiles from Cuba and achieved a partial nuclear test-ban treaty with Russia in 1963.
Regrettably I remained seated in that Georgetown restaurant in 1995 and sometimes to this day wish I had grabbed the chance just to shake Ted Kennedy’s hand.
Today, I don’t feel so proud of the Irish descendants within and surrounding the Trump administration. The names of Bannon, Conway, Flynn, Ryan, Mulvaney, McConnell, Kelly, and many others and their daily utterances fill me with shame – what has America done to these people who seem so far removed from the humanity of today’s progressive Ireland though it still has its challenges, not least the effects of Brexit. I have to remind myself that like all things good and bad, this too will pass – the only consolidation is that it will all come to an end hopefully sooner rather than later.
Is JFK turning in his grave today! May God rest his soul and that of his family on this Memorial Day.