What Dreams Can Bring: A Visit to The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

Filed in Featured, Politics, Things To Do by on May 25, 2009 6 Comments

By Allan-Michael Brown

JFK Museum

Boston is the city of dreams. Every year, thousands of bright-eyed youth flock to Boston to pursue their dreams, particularly through higher education. Hopes and aspirations are the fuel of innovation and the foundation of success. As a young man enchanted by being a student in the nationally proclaimed “College Town,” I know this all too well. However, as a slightly cynical native New Yorker, I also know, as many do, that dreams don’t always come true. This is a sad reality that many individuals face. However, the most important thing to realize is that an unfinished dream can be even more powerful than a finished one.

Saturday afternoon, I decided to take my friend to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. I thought it would be fitting for Memorial Day Weekend. It was our first time visiting the museum, and since I’ve been virtually obsessed with the Kennedys thanks to cryptic Kennedy conspiracy documentaries, it was the perfect place to feed my fascination. The museum is located five stops from Park Street outbound on the Red Line. From the JFK T-stop, there is a free shuttle bus that stops directly in front of the museum. It’s highly convenient. As the shuttle bus approached the JFK Library from afar, I was impressed by the massive, ultra-modern style of the building’s design. However, when we stepped off the bus, I was struck by how plain and non-exuberant the museum looked. I was expecting to see impressive memorabilia or perhaps a grand statue of the president, but the museum was white and appeared cold. As we walked through the automatic doors, I thought that the museum would not live up to the Kennedy mania that has always interested me.

There was a bigger crowd than I expected, which I guess is expected on an American holiday weekend. There were young families, seniors, college students, and people from all over the world at the Kennedy Museum. Walking past the main corridor directly after the ticket booth one enters a stark, white room. The room contains a television screen of the Brookline-native President talking about issues. The room also has a brief biography of the President engraved in the wall. Other exhibits in the room include his war uniform and his medals of honor. This room directly leads to the theater. Everyday, an orientation film, roughly 17 minutes long about JFK’s life is shown. Luckily, I had the opportunity to watch a special presentation of an Academy Award winning film about Robert F. Kennedy’s life, which was roughly 30 minutes. Both films ushered in a new fascination with Kennedys, one that made me forget about the media-dubbed “curse” that surrounds the family and remember and learn all of the accomplishments that made the Kennedys pioneers and visionaries of their era.

The exhibits left my friend and I in awe. We first entered the campaign trail, watching Kennedy’s speech at the Democratic Convention on a 1950s-style television set. We also marveled at all of the buttons, signs, and political cartoons of the Kennedy campaign. Perhaps my favorite exhibit of the campaign trail is the video display of the debate between Nixon and JFK. Nixon was no match for Kennedy’s charisma and undeniable power of words. It reminded me of a recent Presidential debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain.

As the campaign trail ended, we entered Kennedy’s presidency exhibits. Although his presidency only spanned two years, it seemed as though Kennedy had done a lifetime’s work. He created the Peace Corps and was an advocate of human rights regardless of borders and race. He also urged for research of mental illness, and condemned cruel care of mentally ill children, which was virtually never challenged at the time. As we walked through the White House- styled exhibits, I was filled with inspiration. I watched Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s infamous “I Have a Dream” speech. I also watched clips of Kennedy talking about compassion, equality and America’s role in the world.

Along the walls of many exhibits, and in many video clips were quotes by JFK. These quotes are still relevant today. For instance, JFK once said, “I look forward to a great future for America – a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.” This quote is applicable to the current debate about interrogation methods used by the Bush administration, which some believe to be torturous and un-American. This current issue has ushered in a whole slew of opinions regarding these interrogation tactics. It’s coming down to the age-old battle of Democrats vs. Republicans. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has raised eyebrows with his recent statements about two Republican parties while many Democrats are placing blame on all republicans. I would love to put this issue to rest with another Kennedy quote, which states, “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” Kennedy’s words seem to echo in our time because although he accomplished much; there was still much do be done then—as there is today! Civil rights were at the forefront of JFK’s presidency. He would support equal civil rights and an integrated society through statements such as, “Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.” Perhaps present day politicians should listen to Kennedy’s words before they prevent a certain group a people from marrying.

There were many exhibits containing gifts to President Kennedy from influential people all over the world. There are also exhibits featuring Jackie Kennedy’s work overseas as well has her critically acclaimed restoration of the White House. There are also exhibits about RFK, including his desk, which contains documents of what he was working on around the time of his death. As the White House-styled themed exhibits ended, my friend and I entered a sharp contrast of the White House years. We walked along a dark path, in a long, black room with small televisions embedded in the walls that displayed news reports covering the Presidents death and funeral. I was filled with a cold and bitter disappointment as I saw his coffin take the long path to Arlington. After seeing this, I was left with angst because all I could think about was all he did and all he could have done.

In fact, many Kennedy’s have left us in tragedy—from JFK to RFK all the way to JFK, Jr. It seems that many Kennedys leave us before all of their dreams come true—all dreams we as Americans share. It leaves us sad and lost to think that these men (and women) who did so much, and had the potential to do so much, died from tragedy. But as I left the last exhibit on a sad note, staring at the floor alongside my friend, I looked upwards and saw the mighty, American flag. The flag was hanging lifeless above a large engraving of a JFK quote: “All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will be finished in the first one thousand days nor the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

To quote our current President, “Our time is now.” We need to dream big. RFK once said that he was “impatient” with the state of the world of his time. I am a firm believer that “Ambition is like love, impatient of both delays and rivals.” Robert Kennedy also said, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?” Let us all begin. We all have dreams, and although dreams don’t always win the battle, they may win the war because and only because the fight for our dreams through compassion and dedication will leave one hell of an outstanding legacy.

As I left the double doors of the museum, I felt a sense of warmth, comfort, and hope. For the first time in a while, I felt proud to be an American. I implore everyone to go visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

Find your inner Kennedy and keep dreaming. Boston is the perfect city to “begin.”

The American Flag in all its GloryThe American Flag in all its Glory

Let Us Begin

Let Us Begin

 

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  1. Ashley A says:

    Wow…well written I think Ill stop by the Museum the next time I pass through Boston.

  2. Yan Kaner says:

    intersecting, but yes i agree. It left a strong impression on me when i left the museum with you. I also agree that Kennedy had a huge future ahead of him, but it was cut short.

  3. Marie G says:

    This article is very inspirational. I have never been to this museum and had not planned on visiting it any time soon. After reading this article with all the author’s depictions of the exhibits, I feel as if something is pulling me towrds this museum. I’m suddenly interested and filled with much awe. Maybe becuase I myself have some unfinished dreams. If I go there, based on what I read, I feel that I may finish my unfinished dreams. The article in itself is very intriguing. I was trying to read between the lines seeing if this author had any hidden messages. Well, I figured out his overall message; that is that we can dream, and it is ok if it goes unfinished, if we can’t finish it, other people can for us and may even help us live out our dreams.
    I also forgot to mention, that this article is just right with details. I was able to envision it as a motion picture in my head, and could empathize with the author.
    Well done I must say! I await ’til I may be blessed with grace to read more articles from you great author!

  4. Allan, good article, of course I expect nothing but the best from you. I agree that the JFK Library is definitely worth a visit for anybody, especially if you are a fellow-Bostonian. Anyways, I just re-read the article and wanted to respond to a point you made:

    “After seeing this, I was left with angst because all I could think about was all he did and all he could have done.”
    and…
    “many Kennedys leave us before all of their dreams come true”

    It is definitely tragic that JFK and other members of the Kennedy family had their lives taken from them too early; however, despite his untimely death JFK still accomplished much of what he set out to do. The Kennedy family understood the term “for the greater good” and set out their lives to help people. JFK helped many during his short lifetime and his legacy continues to help and inspire. There is truth in saying that he died before he was able to witness all of his accomplishments, but Americans have been able to see and live out all that he had dreamed. If he were given more time on Earth he definitely would have accomplished many more of these dreams, but given his short life (46 years) he still accomplished much more than many do in a longer lifetime. JFK is not an example of one who felt short of his dreams, he is one who was robbed of producing more dreams for the United States.

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  5. Allegra Leone says:

    Allan, this is an amazingly well – written article. I visited the JFK Museum a long time ago with my parents and don’t really remember it. But, your article made me visualize it again and I can remember what it was like. The best part of this piece of writing was all the very descriptive details that helped me visualize every little thing you saw from the beginning of entering the museum until when you left. I also like the quotes, especially the ones about dreams. I loved being able to envision everything and picture it in my mind.

    Good job on writing an amazing piece about the JFK Museum Allan! I look forward to reading more of your writings!

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