Having just spent a few wonderful days with Aunt Margaret and Uncle Bill on Cape Cod we drove into Boston for our visit to The John F Kennedy Presidential Library. The building and location are beautiful. We entered with great expectations and were a little put off by the attitude of the staff. To put it in perspective, this was our fourth presidential library on this trip and in all the previous cases the staff were delightful and couldn’t be more helpful. There was almost an attitude of arrogance in the way they treated you. It was just interesting.
The library is well organized and does a good job of telling the story of JFK and his presidency. The sections of the library are separated into various sections:
Campaign Trail: Both of us were so young that we lacked much in personal memories . So much had been written that you felt a good knowledge of the campaign so the exhibits enhance both the memories and what you had learned over the years.
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
The Briefing Room: Seeing the pictures of JFK addressing the press and watching some of the video highlighted the history of his presidency. His humor was on great display. Included is the video of his speech at the Berlin Wall with the famous line “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner.”
The Space Race: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” – President John F. Kennedy, May 25, 1961 — This was the beginning of the most exciting historical periods of the century with the goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. On May 25, 1961, he urged the nation to make that commitment. He appealed to the spirit of adventure, to patriotic pride, and to the cause of freedom. America responded with one of the greatest mobilizations of resources and manpower in U.S. history. Eight years later, on July 20, 1969, two American astronauts walked on the Moon. What Kennedy accomplished was showing what great heights the country could climb to with our “Can Do” attitude, that unfortunately has been lost, hopefully only for a short period of time.
Attorney General Office: A special emphasis in the library is dedicated to Robert Kennedy and the issues that were important to him. Civil Rights — In 1960 four black college students in North Carolina sat in a “whites only” section of a Woolworth’s lunch counter launching a wave of these protests. In May 1961 a group of “Freedom Riders” left Washington D.C. to desegrigate Greyhound bus stations in the south. The challenge for the administration was working with the civil rights movement, a difficult time for all. Fighting Organized Crime — “To meet the challenge of our times, so that we can later look back upon this era not as one of which we need be ashamed but as a turning point on the way to a better America, we must first defeat the enemy within.”—Robert F. Kennedy — He built a strong foundation for attacking the problems with organized crime which has continued to this day as a major effort of the Department of Justice.
The Oval Office: There are great videos of various speeches including Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream speech.There is a replica of President Kennedy’s desk, the HMS Resolute desk along with many of the special items from the office.
First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy: The exhibit concentrates on her life fashion and the renovation in 1962 of various rooms in the White House.
The Kennedy Family: “When my great grandfather left here to become a cooper in East Boston, he carried nothing with him except two things: a strong religious faith and a strong desire for liberty. I am glad to say that all of his great grandchildren have valued that inheritance.”— President Kennedy to the people of New Ross, Ireland, June 1963 — This was a very enjoyable part of the overall exhibit as we all know the family history. Of particular interest were the intimate pictures of the President and his two children.
The time spent in the hall pails in comparison to the other Presidential libraries. We were left with the sense that little money has been invested to take advantage of all the new digital capabilities used in the other libraries. Is it worth a visit, oh yes!