Remembering JFK

Monday, Nov. 22nd, 2010

Welcome back!

With all the work, it's a bit longer a delay than I would normally like since my last post. Although perhaps a welcome respite for some of you?  I try not to follow the political rule of Ottawa and Washington... " if you don't have anything nice to say.....stand closer to the microphone!"

Much is happening in our political and media worlds at home and abroad. First, some quick hit reactions on what's going on:

1. Although already awash in media over-kill, I am genuinely surprised and pleased to see how well Prince William and his 'commoner' fiancee, Kate Middleton handled the media swarming as they made their announcement. What really struck me was their seemingly effortless news conference with flashes exploding in a blinding assault. Their television interview afterwards was done with such ease and thoughtfulness that one can't help but wish this young couple well, and a happier time than William's parents had. The fact that it will be a great boost to Britain's economic fortunes at this impossibly difficult time is huge. [If they would honeymoon in Ireland, they could spread the wealth a little further....]

2. While on the British monarchy, but I was really impressed also by Prince Charles' documentary on NBC, Harmony. He is clearly passionate and knowledgeable about the need for a balanced approach to development and the environment, he did so in an intriguing and thoughtful way. The fact that NBC ran it in primetime on Friday nights was clearly the negotiated counter to agreeing to a one hour interview/profile the hour before with Brian Williams on NBC.

However, there was a Classic interview mistake he made which triggered media over-reaction in the British press. He was asked...get ready....a speculative question: Brian Williams: "Does the Duchess of Cornwall become the Queen of England if and when you assume the throne?" What did he do? Everybody altogether now....He answered it! Prince Charles: "That could be." Ready class, what should he have done in answer to that question? Absolutely right, he should have said, "I am not going to speculate on that." Or even better he could have borrowed a line from that brilliant British mini-series, House of Cards, Ian Richardson's character, Francis Urquhart says to a reporter (to whom he really wanted to get the message out there, but disown it cleverly): "You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment." Sometimes, life should imitate art!

By the way, if anyone still thinks that Camilla will remain 'The Princess Consort' once he becomes King, please check yourself in to one of those places where self-delusion is treated - you know where Charlie Sheen should go?

3. As a student who attended university in the 70s, and then again in the 80s, I am continually mystified at the ongoing erosion of freedom of speech on our campuses of higher education. How  did we get from the vision of university as the 'marketplace of ideas' to one of 'the marketplace of pre-approved ideas'? Who are at the forefront of these movements? Take a look at this latest outrage experienced by the Globe and Mail's Christie Blatchford

Why, it's the 'student unions'. By the way, I would love to see an exposé on what these student unions spend and how they spend it.  Carleton University, my alma mater is demanding that they turn over their books to the university before they get one more dollar of their 'entitlements'. Good for Carleton!

Speaking of Carleton, however, they have had a long-running battle with the 'student union' who has crafted a 'constitution' that it claims allows them to decertify a pro-life group as a university club, and will only let them back in if they back the student union's 'pro-choice' stance. This is the same student union, mind you, that a few years ago chose to cancel the cystic fibrosis Shinerama campaign because they alleged that it only benefits white males. After the predictable outrage, they reinstated it.

Regardless of one's views on the issue, students and alumni/ae should remind the little totalitarians of group think that the old Soviet Union had a constitution too, but it didn't stop the Kremlin from imprisoning millions in the Gulag for violating it. To quote Voltaire (who is credited with the quote even if he didn't say it), "I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". Imagine if that came back into fashion on our campuses? Might it be a harbinger of a brighter future for our society?

4. Check out my latest article in the Ottawa Citizen - having a chuckle over the announcement by Ottawa's incoming Mayor-elect Jim Watson, that rather than having the taxpayer pay for the inauguration catering costs, he has asked Tim Horton's [Canada's number one donut chain] to cater the event. I couldn't help it but it does open up untold opportunities for public-private sector partnerships: It's Not a City, it's a Brand!

Remembering JFK 

Finally, today marks the (can you believe it?) 47th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Can it really be that long ago? I remember like yesterday the principal of our Toronto school, Spenvalley Drive Public School, Mr. Kiesinger, coming into our classroom just at 2:40 p.m. [Eastern time] and asking us if we wanted to hear the news on the PA system? Well, this had never happened before - so of course we were all eager to hear! "This just in from Dallas Texas. John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States is dead."

Although we were only in Grade 7, the news was shocking and devastating in a way that I had never experienced before. I had trouble processing the thought. Images raced through my mind. We had just seen that picture of him in the Oval Office with John Jr. peeking out from the door in his desk! His triumphant tour of my homeland, Ireland in June! His riveting 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech at the Brandenburg Gate. It was in this very classroom that we had ducked under our desks to protect us from a nuclear bomb when he faced down Kruschev over Cuba. I recalled that I had blurted out something about Kruschev to my classmates as if he could possibly have anything to do with it. [Although that was before the world had heard of Oliver Stone, but I digress.] He had stood up for civil rights. This just can't be true!

In many ways, JFK's legacy has only grown in the nearly five decades since his death, but it is as palpable as it was before our principal turned on the radio that crisp November day. We were sent home early and it was the first and only time I saw my mother watching television, crying, in the daytime. But I was a cool kid. I was 12 years old - too old to cry!  So I quietly picked up my Toronto Telegram canvas bag and slipped out to deliver the newspapers, along with my brother, Stephen. On the cover of every Tely we delivered was a picture of JFK in Fort Worth Texas the day before, looking for all the world like a leader with his whole life ahead of him.  The 'cool big boy' didn't get too far before he cried.
Here's how TV covered the shocking news

So here are a few quotes of John F. Kennedy, an imperfect man, but an inspiration to a generation:

"No one has been barred on account of his race from fighting or dying for America, there are no white or colored signs on the foxholes or graveyards of battle." John F. Kennedy

"We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." John F. Kennedy

Until next time...

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