Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Birthday President Kennedy

One of the most recognized American individuals of the twentieth century was President John F. Kennedy. His short life and Presidency impacted the country and influenced the baby boomer generation.

President Kennedy was born May 29, 1917.

Kennedy was a World War II veteran, young-ish and handsome. He came from a large, newly wealthy Irish American Bostonian family. He sported a beautiful, cultured wife and young children. He was very different from the President we vaguely knew as youngsters – an old (to us boomers), bald general.

We were very young and knew little about life beyond our family, school and neighborhood.

Another icon of the era was the blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe. The two superstars of our youth came together on the night of May 19, 1962. Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to the President at a celebration in his honor held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The performance became a sensation.

Below is a video of that infamous short piece sung by the era’s sex symbol. Peter Lawford (the actor), President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, introduces Monroe. She missed her cue (accidentally or on purpose we will probably never know), and Lawford made a remark about, “the late Marilyn Monroe”. The irony is that less than three months later she was dead by her own hand (allegedly); she died August 5, 1962.

An assassin’s bullet killed President Kennedy a year and a half after the Madison Square Garden show.

I think just about every baby boomer born before about 1957 remembers where they were when they heard President Kennedy was shot. Many of us also remember sitting in front of black and white TVs, watching grainy pictures of that November week’s happenings.

Suddenly there was a world beyond our cozy, friendly hometown. The global community, unknown and unfamiliar, impacted us. We were going to be a part of it whether we wanted to or not. Our lives changed forever.

But enough serious stuff. Enjoy Marilyn and a few seconds of President Kennedy.


  1. I worked in JFK's campaign and met him once.

    My granddaughter went to school with one of Peter Lawford's granddaughters and visited Kenneybunkport with them.

    My old boss' husband installed carpet (about once a year) at Hickory Hill. The husband thought the Kennedy's were not as clean as they might have been with fewer dogs.

    Up close the Kennedy's were not all that glamorous it seems. Such is the nature of politics.


  2. Yeah, unfortunately, Dianne is right -- the more we got to know about the Kennedys, the less we liked them. Nevertheless, the clip is amazing, an iconic moment.

  3. There is something to be said for keeping our leaders and heroes at a distance; there is much truth to the saying 'familiarity breeds contempt'.
    Nowadays we often get too much information - candid photo shots, videos, recordings, reality TV and People magazine-type articles...whatever happened to privacy and the desire for privacy?

  4. I remember going to a presentation by a rather famous children's author when I was teaching. He really was not all that nice a person and many in the audience vowed to not use his novels any more. I thought at the the time that we should really judge the work on literary merit, not personality. I think the same can be said for politicians--at least to an extent of reason.

  5. I did so enjoy that video. I never saw it when it happened, but I remember reading about her death and how it impacted me all those years ago. But nothing like the death of the President. I can still remember the shock and horror that shook the entire world for weeks.

  6. Great post!!! I was in high school when he was assassinated. It was such a tragedy -- whether one liked him or not.