The Kennedy Years: The Way It Really Was
As I have written in Huffington Post ("In Defense of Camelot") a recent book by Mimi Alford, "Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath” has left me unsettled and questioning. I fail to see why this kind of description, years after Mimi Alford spent time at the White House, is necessary or what it contributes, especially when President Kennedy is dead and cannot comment.
Sadly, what I see is Alford’s book being used to diminish a wonderful and hopeful time for our country. I know, because I was there……at the Democratic National Committee and sometimes at the White House.
The President always acted as a gentleman to me, calling me Miss Sherman. Because of him, I applied for and received a scholarship to Catholic University. Because of his advise I found a professional life that has been enormously fulfilling. And also, when divorce was necessary in my life I was able to provide for myself and my two children.
I believe that the majority of young people who came to work in DC during these years had my quality of hopeful and positive experiences.
The very short period that JFK was President was a time of great promise after years of enduring civil rights violations that resulted in signs in my hometown of Baltimore and elsewhere in the South in front of so many establishments and neighborhoods that read “No Negroes, Jews of Dogs.” In public parks, Whites and Blacks had separate drinking fountains. Those marked Negro were never cleaned. The bathrooms marked Negro were so filthy that most dared not enter them. Movie theatres (other than certain days of the week, in the balcony), stores, bowling lanes, restaurants and coffee shops were closed to Blacks.
In JFK we finally had a President who was going to address these evils. We finally had a President who invited young people to come to Washington or join the Peace Corps and work to made American better, as well as be ambassadors of peace and caring to the world.
Further, the President, who was Catholic, believed that his religious views should never be imposed on others. He understood the importance of separation between Church and State. The President was one who valued education and the lessons of history. He remembered a primary reason for the American Revolution was so there could finally be religious freedom and this necessary separation from religious authority in politics. No doubt President Kennedy valued the words of the philosopher, poet and novelist George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Surely, President Kennedy was not a perfect man. There is no such thing. However, it is very sad when a sexual tell all so many years after it was reported to have occurred threatens to diminish the good and the hope of these approximate one thousand days. Thinking people should not allow this to happen.