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I have not felt urged to share any events since November 22, 2013 because I felt that there were not any events that needed to be chronicled or worthy of remembrance. However, I do want to share the events that took place today at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. If you have read my other entries, you may notice a sense of repetition. I would first mention the preparation for the journey to Boston. Then I would talk about the journey itself and what happened when I arrived at the destination and occasionally mention which important person I met or had an encounter with, which in most cases happen at the JFK Library. I don't want to repeat myself, but I do want to share what happened to me today because despite what may have happened, I am sharing this with anyone who might be interested in history or maybe even politics, or perhaps just a hopefully interesting (to me at least) story relating to these subjects. I hope that the journey was worth venturing and worth telling.

So here it goes. In the afternoon of August 25, 2014, I was on the internet and decided to check if any events at the JFK Library would be occuring in the fall and if I could register before space would no longer be available. At once I saw that there was a forum called “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History” scheduled for September 5, 2014 from 5:30 PM to 7:30 PM featuring Doris Kearns Goodwin and Ken Burns. I immediately registered and saw that my schedule would be free enough to allow me to attend. I couldn't believe that I would meet Doris Kearns Goodwin and Ken Burns, two national treasures in the flesh. I couldn't wait for the day to arrive.

So why them?  Doris Kearns Goodwin? Ken Burns? Who are they? Well, I hope you'll be patient with me as I explain. First, Doris Kearns Goodwin. She is a national bestselling author and presidential historian, who has written “biographies of several U.S. Presidents, including Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream; The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga; No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (which won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 1995); Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln; and her most recent book, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.” I owned three of the recent ones mentioned (two of which I received as Christmas gifts in 2013) in hardcover and had purchased two copies of each Roosevelt biography she wrote to give to a dear friend of mine in New Hampshire. I had seen Doris Kearns Goodwin before on television, on programs like Meet the Press, documentaries from The American Experience (from what I can recall FDR, The Kennedys, LBJ, and Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided) and in the documentaries produced and directed by Ken Burns.

Ken Burns, known for directing “documentary films, known for his style of using archival footage and photographs. His most widely known documentaries are The Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994), Jazz (2001), The War (2007), The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009), Prohibition (2011) and The Central Park Five (2012).” Not to mention that his “documentaries have been nominated for two Academy Awards and have won Emmy Awards, among other honors.” From the time I was in the seventh grade and onward, I have always enjoyed his documentaries. I credit that to my seventh grade history teacher Mr. Olquist for introduing to them in his classes. My personal favorites are “The Civil War” and “Thomas Jefferson” (1997) and I have a feeling the "The Roosevelts" will be on that list as well. For a time, I had thought of being a documentary filmaker as he is, but chose instead to pursue a career relating to history. Both Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin were people that I admired for years and wanted to have a photo with them. Now I would have my chance or so I thought.

In the days leading up to it. I brought my suit to be dry cleaned and bought a black Rolling Backpack for $26.00 at Wal-Mart to carry the books as they would to heavy for my arms. I had to patient count the days as they slowly went by. I should mention that I should have been more responsible and slept earlier last night because to my shame I did not wake up until 11:49 this morning. I immediately got up, got dressed casually, and went to Maenzo's Hair Design for a haircut. After that, I took a taxi to the Fluff 'n Fold Laundromat & Dry Cleaning to pick up  my dry cleaned black suit and took that same taxi back to my apartment. After that small mission was accomplished, I shaved, showered, got dressed formally in the usual attire for these gatherings (black suit and a white dress shirt). I decided to wear my dark blue tie, but in my coat pocket carried my my patriotic tie depicting small portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy on an American flag (Sound familiar?) I packed my books for signing in my rolling backpack and called for another taxi to drive me to the Framingham Public Library. After that, I went through the library, to the local bank to take out money, bought a footlong sub sandwich at Subway, and walked to the train station. On the way, a dehydrated person sat outside another local bank and I offered to help although someone who was there helped out more than I did. After things settled within minutes, I walked to the train station and made it in time for the 2:31 pm train from Worcester.

The train arrived as scheduled and I ate my lunch or as I should call it “breakfast”. On the way, I tried to read my copy of “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” while a restless child was trying to escape her carriage and her mother was unsuccesfully trying to keep her calm and seated for the duration of the journey. I called my friend Elaina to tell her what I was doing and called to confirm that I was bringing the books I bought for her to the JFK Library for Doris Kearns Goodwin to sign as well. She deeply appreciated it and I told her I would call her later to let her know how my encounter with Mrs. Goodwin and Mr. Burns (Not "The Simpsons" character obviously). After that conversation, I soon arrived in Boston, made the usual stops along the way, and soon found myself at the entrance of the John F. Kennedy Library.

Upon my arrival inside the building, a long line had piled up for this event. I felt this was going to be a long wait and knew that there was no chance of visiting the museum. I had registered and went into the line making conversation with other people who were there about history. It felt good to finally engage in a dialogue about history with people who were mutually interested. I had not done that since my days as a college student at Fitchburg State. How I missed those days and still do to this day. Anyways, the doors into Smith Hall were opened and half the front end of the seats were only eligible to those who were members of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. I went as far I could and sat at the very left side just behind the seats only eligible to foundation members next to a very lively 89-year-old lady to which we engaged in a pleasant conversation about history and about life itself.

Soon the program started with an introduction by Heather Campion, the Chief Executive Officer of the Kennedy Library Foundation and then Ken Burns spoke about this new film: The Roosevelts: An Intimate History. He talked about the project and how it took him and his team seven years to make the film. Seven clips from that upcoming documentary were shown and then he and Doris kearns Goodwin took the stage. In the back of my mind, I felt that I had to prepare myself for disappointment. However, I was determined to make an effort and try to get a photo op with them, remembering the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Get action and seize the moment.” After they had finished, they soon disappeared from view. I presumed that they would be at the dinner only available to those who were members of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. I thought why couldn't I be wealthy so that I could be invited to these prestigious dinners? I grabbed my books to tried to find them, but it was too late. “Gone forever,” I thought. I felt that I might as well have not gone at all. Watching the program online would have achieved the same result.

I sadly carried my books back to Smith Hall to pack them and leave. To my surprise, I noticed that in the front end of the hall stood Congressman Joseph Patrick Kennedy III talking with two other people. I knew who he was and had read articles about him. His grandfather was Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) and his great uncles were  President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) and Senator Ted Kennedy (1932-2009). He is in his second year as United States Representative for Massachusetts's 4th congressional district. With my digital camera in hand, I put my books down on the floor and I quietly went over to him and gently touched his elbow. He briefly glanced at me as he was deep in conversation. I asked a Kennedy Library staff member to take a picture and she replied she would do so only if the Congressman would be fine with it. Before I knew it, Kennedy's hand was on my left shoulder and asked me, “Yes?” “Congressman," I meekly asked, "with your permission could I have a picture with you?” “Sure,” he replied and we smiled for two pictures (both of which look identical). The was slightly reminiscent of the time I met then Senator John Kerry a little more than five years before. The volunteer then said him, “I'm one of your constituents.” I then thanked him and as we shook hands once more Kennedy asked me, “What's your name?” “Manny,” I replied shyly.  I should have told him that I respected what he did and hoped for the best in his future endeavors, but I didn't. I think I was too scared to engage in a conversation with him and I didn't want to keep him away from the dinner. I thanked the volunteer for taking the photo and went to pack my books away in the rolling backpack.

I made my way outside and waited for the shuttle bus to take me back to the JFK/UMass Station and engaged in conversation with the people also waiting. The bus had arrived and I entered and as the bus waited for other passengers to arrive. I called Elaina to tell her what had happened. Soon the bus made it's way back the station and I was soon engaged in a conversation with a middle aged woman named Katherine about history. She encouraged me to write to Doris Kearns Goodwin and pursue a career in history. The train made it's way to South Station and I arrived two minutes late and the 8:35pm train back to Framingham left without me. I had to wait until 9:21 for the next train. I sat alone and tried to read. I overheard an intellectual conversation by what I thought was a dental student from Tufts University talking to a companion about his life and studies.  I wanted to enter that conversation just to pass the time, but that would have been awkward so I remained silent until 9:21 came and I boarded the train back to Framingham.

So that it is my story of today's events. I know that it's not a great story. While I was disappointed for not having met Ken Burns and Doris Kearns Goodwin, but I felt that meeting Congressman Kennedy made up for it. There was nothing special about the encounter aside from the fact that I did not intend to meet him on that day. Even so, my impression of him is that of very humble person. He seems to be very kind and down to earth. As I mentioned before, I wish I could have interacted with him more and perhaps talk to him about his experiences in the Peace Corps and perhaps even conversed in Spanish since he knows the language. Perhaps we may meet again. Who knows? He seems like a good and decent man and I think that he genuinely cares about the people that he is serving in Washington. I hope he succeeds. If I learned anything today it's that if I meet a person of renown (which I often times do) I have to remember that they are human beings first and that they need to be encouraged as we all need to be.

Tomorrow I will heading to Stoneham with a cousin for the the official kick-off of COMPASSION BOSTON at Greater Boston Academy, featuring the current Speaker/Director of It is Written: John Bradshaw (whom I had met two years before). I need to sleep now and so I will have to end this journal entry. I don't want to do it without using a quote. I have thought about either using a quote from one of the Kennedys or the Roosevelts. I think I will use one from the first inaugural address of President Ronald Reagan. An odd choice to use in this case. I know that I am not a Republican (as a matter of fact I'm not a member of any political party), but I actually admired Reagan and respect what he stood for. Here is a brief excerpt of the words he spoke on January 20, 1981:  "It is time for us to realize that we're too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We're not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope. We have every right to dream heroic dreams. Those who say that we're in a time when there are no heroes, they just don't know where to look.”


I have just returned from yet another “pilgrimage” to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. This time is was to commemorate an event that has shocked and traumatized a nation and I think has not recovered since. The event was the death of the young, vibrant,  inspirational, and unforgettable 35th President of the United States: John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

It has been exactly fifty years to the day when a bright beacon of hope became extinguished and the face of the nation was changed forever. Yet he remains a fascination to scholars and lay persons alike and those who still remember him as the brilliant and confident ruler who reigned for a little more than one thousand days. I know that it is strange for me to write of him in those terms, especially since I was not born until twenty-three years after he was gone. I never lived through his brief tenure as leader of the free world. I have no living memories of his memorable and iconic speeches and yet I am fascinated by him and awed by his brilliance. So much so that I would go and visit the library and museum named in his honor, especially on this day. I knew that I had to be there among those who remember him still and for those born after the events who still appreciate what we have lost. .

I went there early by train and spent almost the entire late morning and afternoon there. The library had expected a large surge of people commemorating the event there and I was determined to be one of them. I arrived sometime before 10:00 in the morning and signed the guest book. Afterwards, I went to the area where people were sitting and watching video of a montage of still and film footage highlighting the ceremonial events leading up to the funeral of President Kennedy on November 25, 1963 (The video is online and is entitled “A Nation Remembers: November 23-25, 1963”). Some who have lived through these events took out handkerchiefs and tissues and wiped the tears from their eyes. It was a room full of sadness and remembering.

Also in the room where artifacts on display from the state funeral on November 25th of that year. Among them was a black saddle with black riderless boots placed in reverse in the stirrups indicating that the rider had fallen. This was mounted upon a horse named Black Jack, following the caisson which bore the coffin containing the late president in the the funeral procession which was modelled after that of another martyred president: Abraham Lincoln. Also on display was Green Beret hat that had been placed on President Kennedy’s grave by Command Sergeant Major Francis Ruddy on the day of the burial. I remember most vividly that flag that draped President Kennedy's coffin, carefully folded into the shape of a tri-cornered hat by enlisted soldiers, and presented to Mrs. Kennedy on that sad and mournful day. These items were on display for the first time and would remain so until March 30, 2014.

I went into the museum to re-emerge myself into the era of Camelot and to more fully appreciate the times in which he lived and presided over. At 1:30pm, a special musical tribute would be performed at the Pavilion called “A Nation Remembers: A Tribute to President John F. Kennedy,” with musical guest such as Award-winning singer-songwriter James Taylor; award-winning saxophonist Paul Winter and the Paul Winter Sextext; and the United States Naval Academy Women’s Glee Club. The musical guests would be joined by the Deval Patrick, the incumbent Governor of Massachusetts; Elaine Jones, director-counsel emeritus of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and whom I had seen two months and thirty-five days before at the JFK Library; Chris Cassidy a NASA Astronaut and US Naval Commander, Navy SEAL; Richard Blanco, the poet for the second presidential inauguration of Barack Obama; and a young girl named Sarah Groustra who an an 8th grade student from the Edward Devotion School in Brookline just 5.6 miles away. Coincidentally, it was the same school Kennedy attended as a boy. All of these notable guests would read excerpts from some of most memorable and historic speeches made by President Kennedy during his tenure in office. This would be the highlight of the day's events.

There would be no physical audience allowed at the Pavilion so we had to view it via satellite at Smith Center, which I didn't mind. I made my way to Smith Center via elevator and found a seat near the front even though it was crowded. I was told that some people had to be turned away because there was no room for entry into the building. We were shown a brief video about the Profiles in Courage Award and then we saw the musical tribute performed via satellite on a large screen. After it was done, I made my way to the JFK Cafe and as it was reopening and and as a curtain removed at the staircase leading to the Pavilion. I stood a chair and took a gratified view overlooking the notable guests as they posed together for a group picture. Afterwards, I went in to JFK Cafe and after eating a small lunch, I went to the JFK Library store to browse through the items. I wanted to buy something in commemoration of the event and after some deliberation I bought a hardcover copy of “JFK's Last Hundred Days: The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President” by Thurston Clarke. After this, I took the shuttle bus which took me back to JFK/UMass Station and from there, I returned to South Station and then home, where I am now typing this brief memoir of the day's events.

As I reflect on the day's events and find myself thinking about John F. Kennedy, I am wondering why since I never knew him, why I made the trip to Boston to remember that he lived. While the rest of the country is engaged in discussion about his tragic death, I think it would be more appropriate to concentrate on his unfinished life. Born into wealth and privilege in 1917, had numerous health problems growing up, served in the military during the second world war, ran for congress, senate, and president with no political defeat (except one in 1956), served in the highest office for almost three years, and is suddenly gone. Why do we love him so? Why do we admire him still after fifty years? Why is he so captivating long after he was taken at the age of forty-six?

Twenty-nine days before, I had attended another forum at the John F. Kennedy Library discussing his legacy and renowned historian Robert Dallek, the author of "A Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963" and "Camelot's Court: Inside The Kennedy White House", gave this assessment. “As I watch these films,” he said in reference to the American Experience documentary on the life of the 35th President which aired ten days ago, “what I'm struck by is how frozen he is in our minds at the age of 46. Nobody can imagine that he'd be 96 years old today. And it's not as if he looks like some 19th century figure with a high collar; he's one of us. He still looks like us, looks like he's part of our culture. I can go on and on about the fact that he has an 85% approval rating and 1,000-day Presidency. How does one account for that? I think it has to do with the Presidents who succeeded him - Johnson in Vietnam, Nixon in Watergate, the two Bushes about whom people were not happy, Ford, Carter. Kennedy is the one who still gives people hope. He's an inspirational voice. People see him as promising a better day for America.”

That assessment is better than anything that I could have expressed here. When I think of Kennedy, I think of the young and vibrant president smiling and waving to the crowds who wanted to catch a glimpse of him as I have seen in archival footage of him, shaking their hands as he makes his way to either make a speech or on the way back to Air Force One for his return to Washington. To me, he seems so heroic, full of vitality, vigor, and inspiration. He is still an inspirational voice to those who want to believe in heroes again. His speeches are memorable and often quotable. So many people want to emulate him, speak like him, act like him, and inspire others as he did. I must admit that when I was a college student, I studied his mannerism and cadence because for a time, I wanted to be a public servant and tried to emulate his cadence whenever I had to make a public discourse. If I can paraphrase from Historian Timothy Naftali, He is remembered for having setup so much in motion throughout his short time in office. He is also remembered for keeping America from the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It is remarkable to see how he was to keep cool under all that pressure from so many people pushing him in different directions that he eventually decided to take a peaceful route in order to avoid a nuclear holocaust.

He is primarily remembered for giving America a sense of obligation. With his iconic phrase delivered at his inauguration,  “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” he gave in his call to action, inspiration for all of his fellow countrymen to become active to serve their capacity to make America strong and great. He challenged us not only to do better, but to be better. He called all people who heard his voice to be committed to preserving freedom even during times of strife in what he called “the hour of maximum danger.”  Although there is an eternal visible flame which burns in Arlington National Cemetery, with his immortal words, he ignited a flame that from that time has not been extinguished “and the glow from that fire will truly light the world.”  Indeed it has. People are still serving as soldiers defending civilians abroad, teachers instructing students in classrooms, public servants working law courts and town halls, and so much more. He made us believe that we could do it and from Kennedy's day to ours, people still believe. Yes, he is gone and yet he is still here. “A man may die,” Kennedy once said, “nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on." His words survive as a testament to hope. Even though the word “hope” has become a form of cliché and is seen as a byword for blind optimism, hope is what we need to give us the strength to make it through the day and we still hold on to that promise. He is loved today because gave America a sense of hope. He gave this country a sense that better days are still to come and that we can expect and look forward to a brighter future. He still appeals to us because we want to feel that our country still has a future.

Even though there maybe some controversies surrounding him, Kennedy is still widely loved by the public and remembered fondly by those of living memory. Soon those living memories will become history and there are still those yet unborn who may never fully appreciate what he stood for and what he gave of himself to do the job he was elected to do in 1960. The final words in the American Experience film “JFK” were spoken by Harris Wofford, who knew and was an advisor to President Kennedy. In it he said, “We will never know whether he would have been a great president. I'd bet on him, but we didn't have that chance.” He is right. We didn't have that chance. Those of us who were not yet born didn't have that chance of experiencing those 1,036 days of the Kennedy White House. If there is anyone who does want to understand what we had, I can strongly recommend that they can pay a visit to the presidential library and museum which bears the name and preserves the legacy of the man who kept us out of nuclear war, inspired us with the eloquence of his words, and sought restore hope in the hearts of all people throughout the world. May we never forget the name of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Yesterday was October 24, 2013, the 51st Anniversary of the naval quarantine of Cuba ordered by President John F. Kennedy, which went into effect during the missile crisis in 1962. Coincidentally, I made yet another visit to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. This time it was to attend another event. The event that was being hosted was a forum made in collaboration with “The American Experience”, a history documentary series produced by PBS (In fact, film clips would be shown from the upcoming American Experience film documentary: JFK, airing on November 11 and 12 of this year), and “The Atlantic”, an American magazine commentating on cultural and political issues based in Boston, Massachusetts. The contributors of this would be mostly historians and scholars. They were Timothy Naftali (a Canadian-American historian and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum), Nicholas Lemann (a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism), Thomas Mallon (a professor of English at George Washington University, a critic, essayist, and novelist having written seven non-fiction and eight fictional books dealing with historical events), Andrew Young (a politician, diplomat, activist, pastor from Georgia, and was a friend and ally of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), and Robert Dallek (a former Professor of History at Boston University and currently a historian having written eighteen books, all specializing on American presidents of the twentieth century). All of these collective minds would be discussing the legacy of President Kennedy.

Like most events of this genre of history, I had looked forward to this for some time and like the previous event I had gone to at the JFK Library, I had registered for the event online. It was significant to me because this was the first forum that was held there since the government reopened on October 16 of this year. On October 1st, a government shutdown took place and because of it places like JFK Library has been closed and all the upcoming forums had either been canceled or  changed. I was not happy about it since I had been planning this trip for some time. When I learned that they were hosting “A Conversation with Malala Yousafzai”, the 15-year-old girl shot by the Taliban last October because of her advocacy for children’s education on the campus of Boston College, right next to the presidential library, there was still a glimmer of hope left. Then on the 16th, the government reopened and everything went on as scheduled. I had the plan mapped out for months. I was checking and rechecking train schedules, directions on google maps, weather forecast, and calling the library periodically to make sure the event was still on. Since the government shutdown, I wasn't sure if the event was still being held so that's why I called periodically. I called Jennifer to see if she could lend the use of her camera once again. Some time before that, I asked her to register on online for the event so that we could attend together. She had to work that day at a school so we planned to meet in the evening when the event started at 6:00 p.m.

Anyways, this was how the day started. I had woken up unexpectedly at 7:57 in the morning. I had slept reasonably well I think. I turned on my laptop and rechecked the time of the train arrival into Framingham that would take me to Boston. The scheduled time was 9:11 in the morning. With some spare time, I decided to shave, shower, have breakfast and get dressed. As I had done before, I quickly got dressed in a black suit and a white dress shirt. I had thought about wearing my patriotic tie depicting small portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy on an American flag, but decided against it so I wore a different tie. I dressed in layers underneath so that I would not be freezing as I would walk to the train station. After having done so, I checked my wallet (which had enough money), recently charged cellphone, keys to my one room apartment and entry. I also had a book-bag, in which I placed some winter gloves and a unique hybrid scarf and hood to protect my neck and ears, although I would not need it until the return journey.  In addition, I brought my hardcover copy of “An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963” with me primarily because I wanted Robert Dallek to sign it. This would make him the second historian who would sign a historical-biographical book I owned since John Stauffer, who signed my copy of "Giants: The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln", when he visited the Framingham Public Library on March 19, 2009.

I was out the door by 8:35am and had arrived on foot at the train station at 9:08 am, just three minutes ahead of schedule. As I was walking to the place where I would get onboard, a young man asked me if I knew if this same train would get to Wellesley. I told that there was a map of the commuter posted nearby and led him to it. On the way, I asked him if was going to the Massbay Community College Campus there. He said he was. Soon we got deep into conversation over our interests. His name is Uluc, but he told me his name was Uge (Think of the word "huge" and take away the letter "h" and that's how it sounds). He had come from Turkey to study in the United States to become a filmmaker. Apparently, he had completed his studies overseas, but the cameras used over in Turkey where different than that of ours so he basically had to take the same classes only it had to be done in this country. Soon the train arrived as scheduled. We boarded and Uluc and I sat together, still continuing our conversation. He showed me his pictures on his phone and then I let him send me a friend request through facebook. When he left, I started reading the first chapter of Professor Dallek's biography of the 35th President of the United States.

The train arrived at South Station a few minutes before 10:00. I had less trouble trying to make sense of paying the $2.50 fare through the use of the machine, but thankfully a staff member came to assist me. By accident I paid five dollars instead and I thought myself an idiot for doing so, but it was too late. Although I felt that I had wasted my money, I wasn't about to ask for it back. Anyways, I paid my fare and went onto the red line. A red line train soon arrived and I was well on my way or so I thought. When I got on a sat down in an empty seat, a few minutes passed before I realized I was headed in the wrong direction, north to Alewife. At the very next stop (Downtown Crossing), I crossed over to the other side, having to pay another $2.50 through the same five dollar ticket I purchased. So my money really wasn't wasted after all. Another train for the red line arrived, before I knew it I was at the JFK/UMass station. At the bus stop nearby, there was a bus packed with students on their way to the campus of UMass Boston. I thought to wait for a bus heading directly to the presidential library, but I didn't want to wait. Besides, I thought, if the presidential library is right next to the campus, then I could walk from the campus to my destination. So I boarded with the students headed for the campus. On the way, I saw the students there talking about their classes and assignment, while I stood there envying them. I had forgotten how much I had missed being a college student, full of promise and hope for the future. Anyways, the bus stopped at the front of the campus center and I started to walk, but I soon realized that it would take alot longer than I had thought. As another bus came to stop at the campus center, I ran back to catch up with it. There were two bus I think were headed to the presidential library and when I reached the first bus nearest to me, the driver (possibly Hispanic) suggested that I go on the bus in front of us, which was parked rather crookedly and blocked space for the other buses. The other driver was not there, but he had soon returned and let me go with him. He told me he would drive me to the parking lot entrance and drop me off there. I was fine with that so off we went. I was dropped at the parking lot and made my way to the entrance of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

As I was walking to the entrance, I saw another bus already parked where a group of sixty girls, aged 14-18, all dressed in green sweaters had also arrived. As I entered the building, they entered as well. I soon discovered that these students were from an academy called the Channing School on Highgate Hill in Highgate, North London, England. It is a Unitarian private school founded on the principles of William Ellery Channing, the father of Unitarianism. The girls were all members of a choir and were planning to perform at the pavilion at 1:30 that afternoon. I paid $12.00 for admission to the museum, although I did not receive a map or brochure, we all walked in to the theater where a seventeen minute introductory video would be shown. In a a brief introduction, by the lead staff member I suppose, we were warned not to touch the glass at the pavilion because it was fragile and it was meant to support the weight of the building not people. Apparently, they had to repair some damage done recently. Anyways, he made the introduction and the video was shown. I had not seen the film in nine years. It depicted the life of President Kennedy, told in his own words about his early life, experiences, with the use of vintage footage leading up to the Democratic National Convention of 1960.

After the film ended, we made our way to the exhibits. We stepped into a recreation of the 1960 Democratic National Convention, in which a video of Senator John F. Kennedy accepting his party’s nomination is played on a continuous loop. Then we walked into a recreation of the main streets of America, in which are 1960s campaign commercials, songs, and excerpts of candidates Kennedy and Nixon delivering their speeches are shown along with a recreation of a Kennedy Campaign office filled with campaign paraphernalia. There was also reproduction of the television studio where the first debate between the candidates took place in Chicago, Illinois with the actual television camera and audio control used in that studio were on display. Next, we stepped into a recreation of Inauguration Day, January 20, 1961. That day was when Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts was inaugurated as the 35th President of the United States. It was on that day that he gave the immortal words, which have become a part of the American canon: "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

After viewing a large display of the presidential seal, I stepped into what looked like the interior of the White House. There was a recreation of the briefing room, with footage of President Kennedy's press conferences and speech in Berlin. I saw the handwritten notecard In which he used phonetically to help him pronounce the foreign words, "Ich bin ein berliner" to encourage the people of Germany. Then there was a temporary display of the Freedom 7 Space Capsule, on loan from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC through December 2015. Also on display was a large painting called "Portrait of President John F. Kennedy" by Elaine de Kooning, commissioned on behalf of the Truman Library to reflect the freedom of the "New Frontier" in 1962. There was a special exhibit called "In Her Voice: Jacqueline Kennedy, The White House Years" in which in March of 1964, five months after the death of President Kennedy, his widow Jacqueline recorded a series of interviews with historian and family friend Arthur Schlesinger about her time in the White House. There were quotes which she gave in the interview that were posted throughout the exhibit, this one really stood out: "It was really the happiest time of my life. It was when we were the closest-- I didn't realize the physical closeness of having his office . . . in the same building and seeing him so many times a day". There was a replica of the wedding dress that was worn on her wedding day, unfortunately the original would not be on display because it was too fragile. I had actually seen the original on display when I had first visited the museum ten years before.

Next was a recreation of the office of Attorney General, who everyone knew at the time was the President's younger brother: Robert Francis Kennedy. On top of a desk and encased in glass, were documents and personal items of Robert Kennedy, including a pair of glasses, pens and pencils, his original telephone, bookends, and drawings taped on the wall from his young children. Then came The Oval Office exhibit with a replica the HMS Resolute desk which President Kennedy and now used by recent presidents. The desk was bare of items to show what the oval office might have been like when President Kennedy gave televised addresses. I kept trying to imagine the president seated at the desk, looking into the camera, speaking words to either warn or inspire the country. Above  each side of the desk were two television screens showing footage of civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama, the enrollment of the first black students at the University of Alabama, President Kennedy’s June 1963 address to the nation on civil rights, as well as footage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream Speech” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. As the footage was playing, I couldn't help but remember when I last visited the library two months before when I attended a forum regarding "The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom" and "A Conversation with John Lewis."

It was at this point I decided to use the bathroom, so I went through the exiting doors of reproduction of the Attorney General's office. After having used it, I entered into a hallway, of which I didn't know where it would lead. My curiousity got the better of me and I soon found myself at the "To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis" special exhibit on display until December 1, 2013. I walked inside the exhibit and was greeted by a screen of President Kennedy's evening address of October 22, 1962, in which he stated:  "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." There were about five or six stations of secret White House recording of the Cabinet meetings, now declassified. There was a moment I remember from one station when it showed a conversation between Air Force chief of staff General Curtis LeMay and JFK, who had utter contempt for each other. At one point Lemay remarked,"You're in a pretty bad fix, Mr. President. "What did you say," the president asked.  "You're in a pretty bad fix," Lemay responded. Without missing a beat, President Kennedy replied, "You're in there with me." That part was also recreated in a scene from the 2000 film "Thirteen Days" which is about President Kennedy's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Like the film, the exhibit showed the tense mood of that period. There was a perception that young people might not live long, the missiles might be fired, and war seemed inevitable. Of course, we know that the crisis was solved, we how it ended, but they didn't. They weren't sure of the outcome.

After visiting the exhibit, I saw that it was a few minutes after 1:30 in the afternoon, and the students from I walked to the Museum Pavilion, where Channing School choir were already assembled and singing. I quietly made my way to a seat to view them as they sang. It was heavenly to listen to. I wish that I had recorded the singing on my phone. They sang two hymns, which I sadly cannot identify. After the songs were sung by the students, I helped in leading out the applause. One of the chaperones then chatted with me for a bit, telling me the choir was sining later that evening at a special concert at the Arlington Street Church, located at 351 Boylston Street in Boston, about five miles north of the Kennedy Library. As she invited me, I hinted that I would come when deep down I knew I couldn't. After all, I had intended to attend the panel discussion later that evening. If I could be at two places at once I would possibly have gone to enjoy both events at the same time. Unfortunately, this is not humanly possible. Anyways, after we chatted for a while, I excused myself and returned to the museum to finish my exploration of the days of President Kennedy in the White House.

I walked back through the doors leading back to the reproduction of the Attorney General's office, past the oval office replica, and viewed the exhibits dedicated to the First Lady, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. On display was the red day suit worn by her when she visited the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa, Canada on May 16, 1961. I remembered seeing a golden Emmy statue for the television special she hosted showcasing her efforts in restoring the White House. Next came the Kennedy Family exhibit, which touched on the Kennedy's dynamic relatives. Of the artifacts on display, I strongly recalled Kathleen Kennedy's Red Cross uniform jacket and the Coconut Shell Paperweight, which the President had displayed on his desk in the Oval Office. I vividly recalled images of the paperweight being used in the film "Thirteen Days". I then went into a darkened room where the words “November 22, 1963” was highlighted. In it were several screens showcasing the moment when Walter Cronkite, the former CBS newscaster, announce on the air that the president had died. I then walked through an area where the legacy of President Kennedy was highlighted through videos of different speeches and remarks by President Lyndon B. Johnson, Robert F. Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy and so on. Just before the entrance to the Pavilion stood a section of the Berlin Wall, which according to the website is 12 ft. height x  4 ft. width  x 7 in. deep. I kept thinking when I had seen it of the people of Germany who had been separated from loved ones for 28 years because of this. It took the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush to finally remove the wall of needless separation and reunite families that had been torn apart for almost two decades. Both presidents have individual sections of the Berlin Wall housed at their own presidential libraries. If only President Kennedy had lived to see that day, I wonder what he would have thought.

I walked through the Pavilion and up the stairs to the JFK Cafe where I had my lunch. After that, I decided to go to the museum again. Yes, I know it's strange to do that, but hear me out. I had some spare time (about three hours) until the forum would begin so I needed to occupy my mind. I didn't know what else to do. I walked to the theater where they showed the introductory video. After I was seated, a staff member came up to me and asked me if I knew that I was watching the same film I had seen earlier that day. I said yes and immediately thought I shouldn't have gone there at all. He was probably wondering why on earth would I watch this film again. I can't say I blame him because no normal person would do that. Anyway, we watched the film again and went into the museum. This time I decided on joining a group led by a tour guide and to my surprise I learned more about the times of Kennedy's presidency than I had known before. Whenever there was a question that the tour guide could not answer, I spoke up, not abruptly, but politely, and gave some anecdotes. After that, I went to the JFK Cafe again and drank grape juice.

From the time the museum closed at 5:00pm until the forum commenced at 6:00, I cannot recall. I did go to the library store to buy some souvenirs. I bought a miniature flashlight and a magnet depicting the historic meeting of when young Bill Clinton met President Kennedy on July 24, 1963. I called Jennifer to see when we could meet. I believed that she arrived just before 6:00. Meanwhile Robert Dallek, the historian I had hoped for a photo op with, had finally arrived at the library. They had placed a table just outside of Smith Center (the auditorium where the event was to be held) where Dr. Dallek would be seated as he would be signing autographs. I went to an aide and asked if it was possible for a photo op. She didn't think it was. I didn't challenge her, but merely acquiesced. As I stood in line, I noticed other people holding hardcover copies of “An Unfinished Life” as well as Dallek's newly released book: “Camelot's Court: Inside the Kennedy White House”. A few days before, I had seen a hardcover copy of “Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961-1973” at the Framingham Public Library for $2.00. I should have bought it before it disappeared (which it did) so that Dr. Dallek would have signed it as well. Ahead of me was a gentleman who told Dr. Dallek that he had traveled from Ireland just to meet to him and after a few minutes, my turn came. “Hello Professor Dallek,” I said as I placed my book on the table. “Hi,” he replied and then asked, “and who am I making this out to?” “Manny,” I replied as I spelled out my name, “M-A-N-N-Y”. He inscribed only five words: “Manny, Best Wishes. Robert Dallek.” I thanked him and made my way back to Smith Hall.

Jennifer had already arrived by this point and felt that I could take the picture with Dr. Dallek using her camera after the conclusion of the forum. As we waited for the forum to begin Jennifer and I soon were in deep conversation. She commented the glasses depicted on the JFK Poster looked similar to a movie poster promoting “The Way Way Back.” She even showed me the image on her phone. As we spoke, I saw the distinguished panelist making their way to the stage. I immediately recognized Andrew Young, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and friend of Dr. King. I had remembered seeing him in two other documentary films produced by the American Experience: “LBJ” and “Citizen King”. I had also hoped to get a photo op with him as well. He would be the third person that I would meet that knew Dr. King personally. Thomas J. Putnam, the Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, stepped onto the stage to introduce James Bennet, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic and Susan Bellows, series producer at American Experience, who shared a few words of welcome before the start of the program. It was followed by a trailer for the American Experience film "JFK extended preview", and then Linda Wertheimer led the discussion.

I am not able to recall all that was said during the discussion and I did not take notes. However, a video of the program is available on Youtube, simply titled "The Legacy of JFK" and is also on the C-Span website as well. Three film clips from the upcoming documentary were shown to us, never before seen by the public. Before the third clip was shown, Ms. Wertheimer asked Dr. Dallek if he had a plane to catch. He said that he did, but before he would go he wanted to touch on Vietnam. As he did so, I asked Jennifer for her camera and he waited for him to take his leave. Ms. Wertheimer introduced the final clip, depicting the Cuban Missile Crisis and then she said in reference to Dr. Dallek, “And Bob can quietly slip away. Thank you so much.” There came an applause as the lights were turned off. This was my signal to temporarily leave the room. Outside Smith Hall, Dr. Dallek was going to leave. Someone else stopped him and asked for a autograph, which Dallek obliged. There was a photographer named Stephen Baumbach, who had a professional camera with him. I motioned for him if he could take the picture of myself with Dr. Dallek. His reply was to motion with his camera, which indicated that he would take the picture with his own camera. I was satisfied because his picture would come out much better. My turn came and I asked Dr. Dallek if I could he a picture with him shaking hands. “Sure,” he said and I then took his hand and motioned for Mr. Baumbach to take the picture. When he did take the picture, I then thanked Dr. Dallek and then he went on his way, I presume to Washington D.C. I went over to Mr. Baumbach and then I said, “You have made my day. Thank you so much.” and then I returned to Smith Hall to enjoy the rest of the program.

When the program ended, I along with Jennifer made our way to the stage where Andrew Young was walking down the stairs from the podium. I went up to Ambassador Young and asked for a photo op, which he obliged. After that, I decided to have a picture taken next to the poster promoting the film. After this, we went to the library store and I bought another rectangular magnet of a red, white, and blue banner with the images of Kennedy and Johnson, with the heading: “Leadership for the 60s.” Jennifer commented that she hated Johnson. I replied that if were not for Johnson, we would not be able to enjoy the privileges that we had today and that he helped more poor people than anybody in history, and his legacy still touches the poor of today. Also, he did pass the the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and did more for civil rights than any other president since Abraham Lincoln. Johnson may have been flawed and the prestige of his presidency may have been diminished by our involvement with Vietnam, but I thought that he had done much good for this country in his domestic policies and I, a minority, am reaping the blessings which had begun with the promises of the Great Society. Anyways, we soon left and while she drove me me to South Station, which was eight minutes away, took us much longer to get there and her GPS was not much help. Next time, I would print out directions so this would never happen again. We arrived just before the train's departure for Framingham and before I knew it I was on my way home. I sat in one of the seats reading the second chapter of Dr. Dallek's book and reflecting on the day's events.

I am determined that in the following month that I will return to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the President Kennedy's death. I was also looking forward the seeing the documentary, which would be an addition to the sixteen critically acclaimed Presidential biographies produced by the American Experience. I kept thinking about John F. Kennedy's life, his struggles, his challenges, and his legacy, which I will touch upon in my next journal entry. For now I will conclude this journal entry with a quote and I suppose that you can expect that the quote will be from President Kennedy's own words. I thought about the quote from the ending scene from "Thirteen Days", in which an excerpt of an archived recording of the real JFK was used in which he gave in his Commencement Address at American University, June 10, 1963, “What kind of peace do we seek? I'm talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living. Not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. Our problems are manmade - therefore, they can be solved by man. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal.”

Today happens to be the 67th Birthday of Bill Clinton, the forty-second President of the United States. I am glad that he is still around and thriving. I hope to meet him someday and have a photo with him. It would be nice if he could also sign my copy of his memoirs entitled My Life. Anyways, I have chosen this day to share another important memory of an event in my life that to me is of significant importance. As I said in another post, to everyone else who may be reading or were even at the event along with me, it may not seem all that important. Historically, it is not important and it will not be written in the annals of history. However, this event was one that is deeply sketched into my memories. I am typing and posting this now as the memories are still fresh in my mind. I must warn you this is meticulously detailed and quite a lengthy read. I hope you'll enjoy reading it.

Yesterday, I traveled by train to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, the nation's official memorial dedicated to the memory and legacy of the thirty-fifth president of the United States, located in Boston, Massachusetts. The purpose of the visit was to be a part (small part, only as an observer) of an afternoon conference focusing on the March on Washington, which occurred almost fifty years ago on August 28, 1963. As a person who enjoys reading and studying history, I had been looking forward to this for quite some time. I had registered for this event over the internet on the library's website several months before.

It was quite a small challenge just to get there. The night before I had a tough time sleeping for some unknown reason. In order to try to sleep, I watched a video called "John Lewis Marches On", which depicts Bill Moyers interviewing Congressman John Lewis, who would be the keynote speaker at the event I was looking forward to attending, about the March on Washington. I would tell you what the interview was about, but I will mention it in another paragraph since Congressman Lewis outlined what he said in the interview with Moyers, in the speech he was going to give the next day. I probably shouldn't have watched it because I still couldn't sleep as it held my interest. I finally fell asleep at about 4:30 in the morning, listening to a video of another forum that the JFK Library posted on YouTube.

Although I set my alarm for 7:00 in the morning, I woke up several minutes after 8:00 in the morning. I quickly got dressed in a black suit, white dress shirt, and a patriotic tie with depicting small portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy on an American flag as I had done before a little more than four years ago for my meeting with Senator John Kerry, who had assumed the office of Secretary of State six months and eighteen days before. Before I went out the door, I only had a banana to eat and I checked to see if I was missing anything before I left. I had my wallet, my keys, and my cellphone with me. I also had a book-bag containing some Adventist Review magazines, black jeans, and sneakers. After making this confirmation, I locked the door behind me and walked to the train station. The journey from the place I was staying to the train station in Framingham took thirty one minutes until my arrival as it was 1.6 miles. I walked as fast as I could so I would not be able to miss the train, which I thought was supposed to arrive at 9:15 in the morning.

I arrived just before 9:00 and I asked a person waiting there what time the train would be arriving. I want him to confirm that it was 9:15 so that I could feel relieved that I had arrived on time. He politely pointed me to a posted schedule, which showed that the arrival time was actually at 9:50. The day before I called my friend Jennifer, an old college friend who I recently got back in touch with, to schedule a time to meet in Boston. She looked online for the train schedule on my behalf and I thought she said 9:15 hence my early arrival. So instead of arriving on time, I had arrived thirty-five minutes early. With some time on my hands, I thought about buying something to eat. I looked inside my wallet and saw that there was only 60 dollars. I began to think. 20 dollars ($17.00 to be exact) would buy me a round trip, I wanted to help Jennifer with gas so I would offer twenty, so that left me with just twenty. I wanted to buy the book that Congressman Lewis had written and was being promoted entitled "March" and I didn't know how much that would cost me. Most newly released books today cost a little more than twenty dollars. Also, what if I needed a little more cash to eat lunch? I certainly wasn't going to ask Jennifer. For me, it was quite a dilemma.

I then thought to call my dad to ask him if he could take me to Boston. I called him a few times before he finally answered. I made my request to him and told me he couldn't, but he decided to meet me at the train station to give me forty dollars. I also asked him if he could bring some food. "I only have fruits," he said. "That's fine," I replied, "I'll take anything at this point." He arrived at around 9:45 and to my surprise, instead of giving me forty dollars, he gave me sixty. This totaled to one hundred and twenty dollars and I was extremly grateful. He also handed me a grocery bag containing two bananas, an apple, two slices of bread, and two slices of vegetarian cheese. We chatted for a bit and then we parted ways since he mentioned that he had a busy day ahead of him. After he left, I had my breakfast, minus the apple that I decided to save for another day.

The train had arrived just in time and I quickly went on board. I paid my fare as I sat quietly in my seat. The journey itself would take about 40 minutes so to pass the time, I read some articles from the Adventist Review magazines already in my bag. The 40 minutes came and went and the train finally arrived at South Station in Boston. Upon arrival, I immediately went to take the commuter rail on the Red Line, inbound for JFK/UMass. I had a little trouble trying to make sense of paying the $2.50 fare since they were now using machines. I had not traveled alone to the JFK library or anywhere in Boston by train for that matter since 2003 so this was quite new to me. After the quick and small hurtle, I went to the Red Line and waited for about eleven minutes for the train to arrive. I chatted with a gentleman, also waiting there, who worked for the airlines and was returning home from his shift.

The train soon arrived and I soon found my myself at the Red Line JFK/UMass station. The shuttle bus was already waiting for passengers to get on board and quickly ran so I wouldn't miss the bus. Of course, it wouldn't leave for several minutes, but I didn't know that. Actually, the shuttle runs every 20 minutes. Anyways, as I ran, a woman whom I passed also started running. Perhaps she thought she would be late also.  I went on board the bus and I quickly noticed a gentleman dressed casually reading a paperback copy of "The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914" written by one of my favorite authors: David McCullough. The journey to the library was reasonably short, but it seemed like an eternity to me. I just couldn't wait to get there. The bus had arrived at 11:30 and I entered into the library to get in line and confirm my registration. I knew that I wouldn't have time to visit the museum that day, but I hope to do so some time next week (hopefully on August 28, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, assuming I have the day off from work).

I soon called Jennifer and told her I had arrived at the library. She mentioned that she would be there at about 12:15 in the afternoon. I went into a part of the building named after Stephen Edward Smith, who was the husband of Jean Ann Kennedy and brother-in-law of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy, who said at the Dedication of the Stephen E. Smith Center at the library on "It is particularly appropriate that we dedicate this beautiful new building to Steve Smith. For thirty years, he was the cornerstone of the Kennedy family the cornerstone of our campaigns, the cornerstone of our lives in so many other ways." I went to the auditorium where the forum was to be held. I dropped off my bookbag at a seat to save it and as I was going to the library store, I saw a lady using her walker, wearing a pin that said, "I march for jobs and freedom". I knew then that she had been a particpant of the March. I then said to her as I extended my hand to her, "I'm glad to meet someone who was actually there." "Yes," she then said something like, "I'm actually trying to locate people from Mass who went there." She then pointed to two gentlemen behind me. "I'm going to ask them," she said and then she inquired, "Were you there too?" I couldn't believe that she had asked that. I wasn't offended, but I wondered if I really looked that old. I chuckled and replied, "No, I was born in the eighties." Then we parted ways and walked to the store.

On my way to the library store, I noticed a display case just outside the auditorium and looked at some of the artifacts encased behind the glass. Among the artifacts, I noticed a handwritten note card written in red ink, in which President Kennedy wrote those notes phonetically to help him pronounce the foreign words, which became the most memorable phrases from his speech at the Rudolph Waltz Platz in Berlin: "I am a citizen of Berlin", "I am a citizen of Rome", "Let them come to Berlin." I could imagine President Kennedy reading the speech on that day of June 26, 1963, "Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free...All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words..." and then he would look at his handwritten note card and say, "'Ich bin ein Berliner.'" It gave me chills just to see that this note card was used to assist him in encouraging the people of Germany.

I went to the library store to browse through the items being sold there. The store was a lot smaller than I remembered it would be. I purchased a small JFK campaign button for seventy-five cents. After the purchase, I went to the lobby to wait for Jennifer. I made conversation with a woman sitting at a table representing C-SPAN. C-SPAN would be broadcasting the program live on C-SPAN 3. I asked the lady if she knew Brian Lamb, the founder, executive chairman, and now retired CEO of C-SPAN. She said that she did and that he treats everyone like he would a president. They were giving some free materials so I happily took a black tote bag inscribed: "AH American History TV C-SPAN 3", two rulers that depicted a promotion for C-SPAN First Ladies: Influence & Image program, two bookmarks, and a few pens. As I signed up for e-mail updates, I mentioned that although I was young for my age, I enjoyed watching programs on C-SPAN. She replied that I would be surprised as to how many young people did the same.

As I was also making conversation with two ladies that visited from Canada, I saw Jennifer's purple car approaching the building. I excused myself and quickly made my way outside. I called her cellphone and when she picked up; I told her I was right behind her. She went around again and told me to get in the car. She gave me a quick tutorial on how to use the camera and then dropped me off again at the library. I need to mention that I am deeply indebted to Jennifer for allowing me to use her camera since I don't have one. Without her and her generosity, I would not be able to capture the moments I was able to cherish and share with people on facebook. Indeed because of her, I will share these images if I ever make a presentation on civil rights in a classroom if I ever get back to school. I can only hope that one day it will become a reality.

I entered the building again and went to the auditorium where the forum would be held. There were Civil Rights songs playing to set the mood. At 12:30 p.m., Thomas J. Putnam, the Director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, stepped onto the stage to introduce the 1964 documentary entitled The March, directed by James Blue for the United States Information Agency (USIA). On the screen, I saw black and white footage of A. Philip Randolph giving a statement at what might have been a press conference. "Negros want the same things that whites citizens possess. All of their rights. They want no reservations. They want complete equality - social, economic, and political," he declared in his baritone voice, "and no force under the sun can stem and block and stop this civil rights revolution now underway." Next, I saw students sitting together, clapping and singing "Keep your eyes on the prize. Hold on, Hold on!" Many of them were about my age or perhaps younger. The narrator spoke about how people of different diversities came from all over the nation just to attend the March on Washington. There was footage of people making lunches for the March, which volunteers worked for over two days and nights.

Then, it showed a diverse crowd singing "We Shall Overcome" as people were moving boxes. People were given pins that said, "I march for jobs and freedom" and that everyone who was going to march wore one. I remember watching footage of people praying in a church, people seated in buses traveling to Washington D.C., a person testing the microphone: "1, 2, 3, 4, 5. This is an audio test." On the night before the march, few people arrived. The leaders thought they had failed. All they had to do was wait for the next day. I saw footage of people arriving by train, dressed as though going to church. Some of them were singing "We shall not be moved." There was footage of Joan Baez on the National Mall singing "We Shall Overcome", Odetta singing "I'm on way." An announcer then declares a march to the Lincoln Memorial. There were people from all walks of life walking and singing together in harmony. It made me wonder what it would have been like to have been there and to experience that atmosphere.

At the Lincoln Memorial, everyone at the March is assembled. Marian Anderson, an African-American contralto and one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century, is introduced and then sings, "He's got the whole worlds in His hands." Then footage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the podium appeared on the screen. It showed a small portion of the speech that would soon be seized into history. "I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today. . ... This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope." It had a powerful impact on those who were in the room with me. When that portion of the speech was over, everyone in the room applauded. I was choked up and held back tears. I still wonder why I felt that way since I did not live through that time. I never experienced racism first hand, but yet the speech was so moving that I almost cried. The film then showed the crowd, linking arm in arm, singing "We Shall Overcome". Then A. Philip Randolph appeared on the screen once more, declaring, "I think history was written today which will have its affect on coming generations, with respect to our democracy, with respect to our ideals, with respect to the great struggle of man, God, freedom, and human dignity." Then the film concludes with footage of people sleeping on a bus, which I presume were on their way back to their homes to continue the struggle, as the narrator speaks: "There were many who praised this day and said that there had been a new awakening in the conscience of the nation. Others called it a national disgrace. In the wake of this day, more violence was to come, more hatred, but in the long history of man's cruelty to man, this was a day of hope." A crowd sings, "Freedom" as it fades to black.

As the film ended and as the audience was clapping, I noticed Congressman Lewis entering the room and taking his seat. At 1:00, Mr. Putnam went on the stage to introduce Benjamin Swan, the State Representative from Springfield, MA for almost twenty years and a long-time member of the NAACP. I shook his hand when I was in line to confirm registration. He actually attended the March at the age of 30. After giving some brief remarks, an excerpt from a film called "Eye on the Sixties: The Iconic Photography of Rowland Scherman", directed by Chris Szwedo was shown. Scherman had actually covered the March as the primary photographer for USIA. At 1:30, the people participating in the panel discussion were introduced and made their way to the stage. They were historians Clayborne Carson (professor of history at Stanford University and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute) and Peniel E. Joseph (Professor of History at Tufts University, Author, and founder of a growing subfield in American History and Africana Studies that he has characterized as "Black Power Studies"), Elaine Jones (prominent civil rights leader, attorney, and activist. She joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) in 1970 and in 1993 became the organization's first female director-counsel and president), Harris Wofford (special assistant to President Kennedy from 1960 to 1962 and then Democratic Senator from Pennsylvania from 1991 to 1995), and veteran journalist Callie Crossley (a host of several programs on PBS) would be leading the panel discussion.

I can't tell you all that was spoken in the panel because I cannot recall their words. The entire discussion lasted for about an hour and a half. I have searched for the footage of the discussion online, but have not found it yet. As they were going into the question and answer session, I decided to go and use the bathroom, thinking that in the future I would watch the entire discussion online. After washing my hands, I noticed that I had a five o'clock shadow. I had brought my shaving razor, hoping to shave earlier. As I finished shaving using only to rinse my face, I had cut too deeply in some areas on my face, particularly my neck and chin. As the red blood spots continued to appear and bleed, I thought I might go to the head of security and ask him if he had some rubbing alcohol for me to use. They patiently obliged and sent a vehicle over to give just to give me a bandaid and two small packets of P.A.W.S. (Personal Antimicrobial Wipe by Safetec). I'm very grateful to them for the time they took just to help me. As I waited for them, a lady came up to me asking questions about the library thinking that I worked there and I answered all her questions as though I was an expert. When they brought me the band-aid and wipes, I thanked them and returned to the bathroom. I applied the wipes and it helped somewhat. Eventually, my face stopped bleeding just before the discussion ended.

At 3:00 a fifteen minute break was in effect. I took this opportunity to take pictures with the people on the panel. As I made my way to the stage, I noticed a gentleman in the audience I had seen on television. He was not a part of the panel, but I decided to have a picture taken with him. His name was Paul Begala. For those who don't know, he is an American political consultant, Democratic strategist who serves as a political commentator, and was an adviser to President Bill Clinton. He also appears frequently on CNN. I asked him if I could have a picture with him and graciously accepted. I think it was his son who took the picture. After the photo op, he then said, "I love your tie." To be honest, I didn't know whether it was Paul Begala or Jon Meacham since to me they look similar. I dared not ask him, but after doing some research I discovered that when Mr. Wofford ran for the senate in 1991, his campaign was run by Paul Begala and James Carville so I concluded that it must be Mr. Begala. Anyways, I then made my way to Harris Wofford (age 87). I asked a gentleman who came with his son to take the picture and then I asked Mr. Wofford who also graciously accepted. Then went to have a picture with Callie Crossley. A companion of hers took the photo of us shaking hands. I tried to take one with Clayborne Carson, but he was distracted by other people and by that time, the fifteen minute break was over. It would also be the last time I would be able to use Jennifer's camera.

At 3:15, Massachusetts State Senator Linda Dorcena Forry went to podium to introduce Congressman John Lewis. She called the moment standing in the presence of greatness. She outlined the history of his life, highlighting important historic events that he participated in and accomplishments that he achieved. At 3:30, as the 73 year old pioneer stepped forward to speak, everyone in the room rose from their seats to applaud him, including myself. How could I not? I read about him on Wikipedia and saw interviews of him in which he shared his stories. This was a hero to many people and he had suffered physically for the movement. In fact, he and Pastor Hosea Williams were leading a march in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. That day, in which is now remembered as Bloody Sunday, the state troopers began shoving and knocking the demonstrators to the ground and beat them with nightsticks, including Lewis, who had his skull fractured. President Clinton said of him in his memoirs, "On August 28, the thirty-fifth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous 'I have a dream' speech, I went to commemorative service at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, which had been a vacation mecca for African-Americans for more than a century. I shared a platform with Congressman John Lewis, who worked with Dr. King and was one of the most powerful moral forces in American politics. He and I had been friends for a long time, going back well before 1992. He was one of my earliest supporters and had every right to condemn me. Instead, when he rose to speak, John said that I was his friend and brother, that he had stood with me when I was up and would not leave me when I was down, that I had been a good president, and that if it were up to him, I would continue to be. John Lewis will never know how much he lifted my spirits that day" (Page 805-806).

After everyone had quieted down, his voice boomed into the microphone. It was like being at church and watching a really good and uplifting sermon. I almost said amen out loud when he talked about points in which I agreed. He spoke about the preparation for the March in 1963. He had recently been named chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and his first responsibility was to travel to Washington as one of the "Big Six", with leaders, which included A. Phillip Randolph (leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and also advised Presidents Roosevelt and Truman on issuing executive orders regarding racial discrimination), Whitney Young (leader of the National Urban League), Roy Wilkins (executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or NAACP), James Farmer (founder the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (the chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference or SCLC, a Southern Baptist minister, and the most famous leader of the Civil Rights Movement) to meet with President John F. Kennedy to discuss the planning of the upcoming March on Washington in June of 1963.

He then spoke of the meeting with President Kennedy in the Oval Office of the White House and they told him that they were going to march on Washington. The president did not like the idea of hundreds and thousands of people coming to Washington. Kennedy then turned to Mr. Randolph, who was their spokesperson and said, "If you bring these, all these people to Washington, won't there be violence and chaos and disorder? And we will never get a civil rights bill through the Congress." He said that Randolph responded and in his baritone voice, which Lewis attempted to mimic, "Mr. President, this will be an orderly, peaceful, nonviolent protest." Then they left that meeting, came out on the lawn of the White House, and informed the press that they had a meaningful and productive meeting with the President of the United States.

He went on to speak about the speech he made at the March. Some time before, they had a meeting concerning Lewis' speech and had a very tense discussion about what he was saying and not saying. There was concern about the end. They analyzed the said words and phrases. He remembers one line in which he said, "You tell us to wait. You tell us to be patient. We cannot wait. We cannot be patient. We want our freedom and we want it now." Bayard Rustin (master strategist and tireless activist) said to Lewis jokingly, "John, you can't say you cannot be patient. Catholic Church believes in being patient." But then, there were some people who said something like, "In the speech, you're saying revolution, black masses. What are you talking about?" Then Mr. Randolph came to Lewis' defense and said, "There's nothing wrong with the use of the word black masses. I use it in myself sometimes. There's nothing wrong with the use of the word revolution. I use it in myself." So it that part was kept in. It was near the end of the speech, in the original text, which said, "If we do not see meaningful progress here today, the day may come where we may not confine our marching on Washington, but we may be forced to march through the South the way Sherman did nonviolently." They said to Lewis, "Oh, no. You can't go there." And that phrase remained in the speech until they arrived at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Both Mr. Randolph and Dr. King then came to Lewis. Dr. King said to him, "John, this doesn't sound like you." Mr. Randolph said something like, "We come this far together, John. Let's stay together." He mentioned that he couldn't say no to A. Philip Randolph or Martin Luther King, Jr. so he agreed to some changes. He took out the words criticizing the President's bill as being too little and too late. He took out the call to march through the Heart of Dixie the way Sherman did. He took out the question asking which side is the federal government on. He took out the reference to some political leaders as "cheap," because he wanted to honor A. Philip Randolph and Martin Luther King. The speech he made would soon thrust him onto the national spotlight.

Then he spoke on when Martin Luther King Jr. stood up and started speaking and when Dr. King got to the point where he said, "I have a dream today, a dream deeply rooted in the American Dream," He looked at Dr. King, and although he had heard him speak so many times before, Lewis knew then that King was getting over to the American people, and that King was preaching a great sermon. King was trying to convey that were as one family living in the American house and that there was room for everyone from all walks of life. In a good sense, King took advantage of the situation. This was the largest audience he ever had. King had been to Washington before and had spoken in the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on May 17, 1957. But this time, the audience was different and larger. Lewis believes that King was inspired by God and that King had been tracked down by what he called the spirit of history.

After the march was all over, the leaders went to meet with President Kennedy at the White House again since the president had invited them to meet with him. He stood in the door of the oval office and greeted each one of the speakers and said, "You did a good job, you did a good job." When he greeted Dr. King, the president said to him, "And you had a dream." Lewis said that to be in the presence of Kennedy that you knew you felt you were standing in the present of history. As he spoke of these events, I felt as though I was a witness to that immortal day. I could almost see Kennedy at the entry into the oval office, smiling as he looked at King, shaking his hand, saying, "And you had a dream" History came alive for me that day. Its one thing when you read about these events in a book and believe me I own many biographies on different presidents and I'm an avid reader, but to hear it from someone who was actually in the presence of Kennedy and King was a rare privilege.

I can't seem to remember anything else that Congressman Lewis said except that he mentioned that the election of President Barack Obama was not the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream, but that it was a down payment. He spoke for about twenty minutes, although to me it seemed like less. When he finished speaking, all of us in the room rose from our seats to applaud him. Then Callie Crossley went on the stage and they both sat down for a conversation. It seemed more like her interviewing him, but I was fine with that. They took written questions from the audience. She asked him what he would suggest to motivate young people. He said that young people ought to get into "good trouble, necessary trouble" like the way Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King inspired him to. He also mentioned that we ought to watch a fourteen-hour documentary PBS series called Eyes on the Prize. After the conversation was over, a small singing group of students from Harvard University sang two songs. Then there was a group of children and one adult in a choir from the Boston Renaissance Charter School called "The Voices of the Renaissance", which also sang two songs. The songs were wonderful and the music was fitting to the occasion because music played an important role to the Civil Rights Movement.

At about 4:30, there was a book signing in which Congressman Lewis would also be signing copies of his newest book - a graphic novel entitled March (Book One) which is the first volume in a new trilogy of graphic memoirs. I went to the store where they unfortunately ran out of copies. I felt disappointed, but I thought that at least I would get a picture with him. As I approached the line, I met a professor whose name I sadly cannot recall. He teaches public speaking and other courses as well. If he's reading this I hope he'll contact me. Anyways, as we approached the front of the line, we agreed to take each other's picture with Mr. Lewis. We were excited until we were told that unless we had a copy of the book, we had to wait until all the books were signed in order to speak to the congressman. As I waited, I saw a lady carry a copy of Profiles In Courage Historic Hardcover by John F. Kennedy (with 1964 cover design, 226 pages, foreward by Robert F. Kennedy, and introduction by Caroline Kennedy) so it could be signed by Congressman Lewis (By the way, in Caroline Kennedy's introduction in the book, she mentions John Lewis by name when he accepted Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2001). I quickly sped to the library store and bought the same Hardcover copy of Profiles In Courage for $22.00. After the purchase, I hurried went back to the table where Lewis was still seated. He signed my copy of Profiles In Courage.

I was saddened to find out that there were no pictures allowed to be taken with or of him. This made me really upset. I could deal with not being able to acquire a copy of the graphic novel, but not to picture with him when Dr. Peniel Joseph was able to and he posted it online. Wasn't there a panel discussion about the evils of discrimination? He took time for a renowned historian, but not for a Puerto-Rican busboy earning minimum wage? I traveled and saved money for this trip just for that moment, just for this once and a lifetime opportunity, which I may never have again to meet someone who was an inspiration to others and to me and now, I was being denied that privilege. To me that was not fair. I could understand if he was leaving to go somewhere else and that he may have been in a hurry to go somewhere, but he couldn't take five seconds of his time for one picture with someone who also admires what he stood for? Do I have to achieve some sort of celebrity status in order have a picture? It may not have mattered to him or to anyone else who had been there, but it meant the world to me. I went to a photographer who I asked to take a picture of me shaking hands with the congressman before he left. "I'll do what I can", he replied. I stood in front of the table, waiting to seize the opportunity and the chance.

However, one of the staff members (I know who this person's name is, but I will not mention it) deliberately stood in the way so I couldn't get the picture. I had never met or done anything wrong to this person. I'm at the library named after someone who supported civil rights, why am I being discriminated against? I apologize if this sounds as though I'm whining or acting like a spoiled child. I probably may not get invited to meet a person of renown because of this post. All I want is a picture to show others for the purpose of educating. I want to be able to say years from now that I met a person who experienced what generations to come may never have to experience. I met a person who was jailed for the color of his skin, marched for freedom, served his country, met presidents, given many honors and awards, and was rewarded for doing the right thing. I want to say to them, "I met someone who experienced something that you don't have experience and endured so you don't have to." Still, I remained determined to have the picture. I didn't want to make a scene or cause trouble. I just stood there patiently. Soon enough, the person moved away and the opportunity had finally arrived. As Congressman Lewis stood, I shook his hand. I can't seem to recall what he said to me, but I smiled at him and the photographer took the pictures. It was about five seconds, but it seemed like time stood still in that moment.

Finally, I walked with the photographer to the lobby and his name I'll mention. The man's name is Ervin L. "Tootsie" Russell, a retired photographer. Here is his website: http://photosbytr.smugmug.com/ and He is now one of my heroes. He didn't have to take the picture. He didn't have to take the time to e-mail me the photos, but he took it upon himself to take three pictures of a nobody like me with someone I looked forward to meeting. He could have said, "Sorry, son, I can't help you," but he didn't. Instead he chose to help me fulfill a dream and for that, he owes my deepest gratitude. He asked if I was a member of any political party, I told him no. He asked if I was running for office, I told him no. I would not be using the photographs in order to get promoted, only for educating. Besides, I won't be pursuing a political career anymore. My personal involvement with politics is over. That doesn't mean I wouldn't want to attend any events pertaining to history and politics, that doesn't mean I won't do any community outreach and try to uplift humanity, I just won't be pursuing public life as a politician.

I walked outside of the library and met up with Jennifer who was sitting near the dock overlooking the ocean. I joined her and spoke with her on the events that took place. I gave her a ruler depicting the first ladies and a bookmark. Then we walked to the Victura, Kennedy's 26-foot sailboat, on display on the grounds of the Library from May to October. "You've been here alot haven't you," she asked. "No," I replied, "I haven't been here since 2004." That was true. As much I love the JFK Library and Museum, I had gone only three times before. The first time I went was at the age of 16 on July 4, 2003 when I took the train for the first time and then a few weeks later on July 28 after turning 17 only twelve days before. Then I went with a friend on July 4, 2004 just twelve days before my 18th birthday. I would have loved to have made an annual pilgrimage every year on the Fourth of July, but it was not to be since over the years I would be working at different jobs each year and other circumstances. Now as of August 18, 2013, I can say that there have been a total of four times.

Anyways, Jennifer and I talked about the lives of different presidents like FDR, JFK, and Clinton. Then she and I spoke about what we wanted out of life. She wants to be a full-time teacher and I commend her for that. I hope she succeeds. Now it had been more than nine hours since I had last eaten and I suggested that we go out to go eat. After some searching, we went to eat at a D'angelo Sandwich Shop. We both ordered food and ate. Then she took me to Walgreen's and said she wanted to pick up something there. To my surprise, it was a cover because I discovered an old friend from college named Alex, now working as a manager. I had not seen him since December of 2008. Both he and I were heavily involved and deeply interested in politics on campus. During the primaries, he was an early supporter of Hillary Clinton, while I was an early supporter of Barack Obama. Now he and I were no longer involved in political affairs. How much we both had changed. He and I chatted for a while about what we were doing for our lives. Then I proposed that we all have a picture taken together. Jennifer took two pictures of me and Alex, then Alex asked another employee to take a picture of the three of us together again. I may have been bitter about not being allowed a picture with Congressman Lewis, but taking the pictures of the three of us made up for it. It was like a mini college reunion.

With the pictures taken, it was time to leave. My train's departure from South Station would be at 8:30pm and it was getting close to 8:00pm. Before Alex and I parted ways, I suggested that he and I plan to meet up again at the JFK Library. He said sure. I hope to see him again as I know that life often times gets in the way. Jennifer then drove me to South Station, which was 16.1 miles and 21 minutes away. When we arrived around 8:15 pm, I offered to help pay for her gas, but she said no. "It wasn't far," she said since it only took her about thirty minutes to get to Boston. We said goodbye and I went inside the station. The last time I took the train alone; I got lost and went on the wrong train to Attleboro. I was determined that it would never happen again. I asked a lady waiting at the track if she was going to Framingham. When she said yes, I was relieved. The train arrived on schedule at Track 2 and I went on board inbound for Framingham. While sitting my seat, I tried to read my copy of Profiles In Courage, but I started to fall asleep. My lack of sleep (only four hours' worth) really started to catch up with me. By 9:30 pm, I was in Framingham and decided to go the place I was staying by walking up Waverly St, through Fountain Street, down Dudley Road and Wayte Avenue, and then finally arriving at my destination on Union Avenue. It took me 41 minutes and 2.1 miles. I should have gone another route, which would have taken me less time. Anyways, I arrived the place I stayed, changed, took a shower, checked my e-mails, and fell asleep. That was my day.

So what can I say to conclude my story that I'm sharing here on livejournal? What are my final thoughts on the events that took place yesterday? I know that I've said more than enough and I don't think many people will actually take time to read this as lengthy as it is (eleven pages' worth). Does it really matter? I don't have a wide audience wanting to know my opinion on anything and I'm not a person of great influence. First, I'm grateful to have gone to the JFK Library, learned about a time in history that I now more fully appreciate, met with a few people who witnessed history first hand, had a wonderful time getting reacquainted with friends I had not seen in years. As President Ronald Reagan said in his Final Address on January 11, 1989, "All in all, not bad, not bad at all." I'm sorry, I couldn't resist.

There's something else I want to mention. I'm more grateful for the rights that I've been able to have thanks to people like Congressman John Lewis. He is a living witness, not just to history, but of personal perseverance for a cause that was for a time seemed unpopular and for a goal that seem unattainable. I should be more grateful for the rights I have today cause because of people like John Lewis, Martin Luther King, and so many others involved with the Civil Rights Movement. They went though so much just so that the next generation can be in a better world than what they had. Here in this country, I am judged by what I do, not by who my parents were or where they were born. Here, I can be something despite the color of my skin. I know that my parents were born in Puerto Rico, my mother is light-skinned and my father is dark-skinned. I'm a minority, but I was born here in this country almost twenty-three years after the March on Washington. Fifty years ago, the idea of me sitting next a person of a different color was considered unacceptable. Now, I'm able to communicate, laugh with, and love people of different color. I am indebted to all those who marched, were beaten, bled, and died. I am a product of their bravery, work, and vision. Today, I can drink from the same fountain as another person. Today, I can vote. Today, I also am able to sit at the front of the bus.  While it is true that we have come far, but there is always room for improvement. Dr. King's dream is not yet fulfilled, but we can learn to apply his message of non-violence and love. We can start within our communities by helping our neighbors. After all, we are our brothers' and our sisters' keepers. We are all a part of one family in the American House.

I usually like to conclude a journal entry with a quote and I thought of using an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech. However, I have already used some portions of his discourse in one of the paragraphs above. Instead, I would like to end this post with a small excerpt from President John F. Kennedy's Civil Rights Address, which he delivered to the nation on June 11, 1963: "This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents. We cannot say to ten percent of the population that you can't have that right; that your children cannot have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go in the street and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that."

It has been ten days since I last updated this post. I returned to New Hampshire on Tuesday, November 28 thanks to the generosity of the same person that drove me to Framingham and I’m still here; there’s not much to update. It is now December 2, 2011. I cannot believe that this year is almost over. Anyways, instead of doing an update or speaking about personal reflections, I wanted to share a memory of an event in my life that to me is of significant importance. To everyone else who may be reading or were even at the event along with me, it may not seem all that important. Historically, it is not important and it will not be written in the annals of history. However, this event was one that is deeply sketched into my memories. It is one of my favorites and it is one of those stories that I love to tell. The story is of my meeting with the Junior Democratic Senator of Massachusetts: John F. Kerry.

It was 2008 and the United States presidential election took place that year. It was an exciting time for me. Since I arrived in Fitchburg State College in 2006, I developed an interest for politics, which accompanied my lifelong passion for history. It was a time in which I was involved in campus activities, particularly in one occasion in which I volunteered to register students to vote (87 people in total). I was excited about this election, although a majority of acquaintances did not share my enthusiasm. I want to mention that I’m not affiliated with any political party, but at the time I was leaning towards Democrat. On Tuesday afternoon, November 4, 2008, I walked from my dorm room at Herlihy Hally and walked 1.4 miles to the Fitchburg Armory (also known as the Fitchburg Senior Center) on Wallace Ave to vote for Candidate Barack Obama, then the junior United States Democratic Senator from Illinois. On the ballot was the name of another politician, whom I had voted for in the previous presidential election: John Kerry. He was running for reelection for the senate and I voted to keep him there. Later that night, the results came in and it was announced Senator Obama had defeated Candidate John McCain, the
Republican Senator from Arizona, . It was an historic victory. Also, being a Hispanic American, it made me proud to know that we could move from having no rights for African-Americans to seeing one become elected President of the United States. I felt proud to have seen that in my time. I acknowledge the fact that now that we have all collectively acknowledged this accomplishment it is time to now finally leave race in the mirrors and move forward.

Anyways, the election had ended and everything was returning to normal. With the anticipation of looking forward to the Obama Administration and still reeling from election fever, an acquaintance informed me that Senator Kerry was going to speak at the college about the economy, like a Town Hall Meeting. I couldn’t believe my ears and that same acquaintance sent me an invitation to attend via Facebook. When I read the invitation, I resolved that I would attend the meeting. I had voted for Kerry previously for the 2004 Presidential election. I was 18 years old at the time and it was my first time voting. I still remember my excitement that summer over the 2004 Democratic National Convention at the Fleet Center (now the TD Garden) in Boston, Massachusetts about 30 minutes from where I lived. I was disappointed that he had lost to the incumbent Republican President George W. Bush. Now four years later, being a 22 year old college student, I thought of it as a once in a lifetime opportunity to meeting someone who not only plays an important part in our nation and on the world’s stage, but represents the people of my home state: Massachusetts. I felt privileged and honored that he would come and that I would be able to see him. This would also be the first time in which I met someone who actually appeared on television.

Finally the day arrived, Tuesday, December 2 (I’m typing this post three years to the day) I spent the afternoon after class preparing for the meeting. Even though there was no dress code for the occasion, I wanted to look my best for the event. I shaved, showered, brushed my teeth, dressed in a black suit, white dress shirt, and a patriotic tie with depicting small portraits of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy on an American flag. I then made my way an hour early to Kent Recital Hall in the Conlon Building. I arrived with two acquaintances and we sat in our seats conversing on politics. Soon more people began to arrive so I began to socialize with other acquaintances who chuckled at my patriotic tie. Before he arrived, I asked a friend named Meagan, who happened to have a camera to take a picture of me and the Senator. She said that she would. Soon enough when we were all seated, Kerry then arrived at 6:30pm to the sound of applause. I thought "Oh my goodness, it's really him". I knew he was tall, I didn't think he was that tall. In fact he was 6’5, one inch taller than President Lincoln who was 6'4" tall, which would have made him the tallest president if he had won in 2004. After the mayor introduced him, he then stepped forward to speak and spoke for about an hour. Then he took about 5 or 6 questions from the audience. He mentioned that he had to go to Charleston for another event so he had to leave, in my mind I resolved to have that picture taken with him. When the meeting ended, I noticed the crowd was going through the front entrance so there were not a lot of people around Kerry. Even so, he was going to leave quickly and if I had waited longer, what I’m about to write would not have taken place. As he was stepping through the doorway to leave, I shouted "Senator!" He looked up and then I said in a lower voice, "I'm actually down here". When I finally got his attention, I then said, "Senator, I know that you have to leave right away, but could I please have a picture taken with you." "Oh sure," he said. I didn't think he would actually take five second of his time just to have a picture with a nobody like me. I then took his hand and motioned for Meagan to take the picture. When she did take the picture, Kerry then said, "Good luck in school." "Thank you, Sir." I replied as we shook hands once more. Then he was gone.

How did I end up thinking about him when I met him? Well, he sounded very intelligent during the meeting and I thought he was very articulate. I didn't regret having voted for him for reelection 28 days before and in 2004 in the presidential election. Politics aside, I didn't believe the same person who debated President Bush, sailed with President John F. Kennedy (who shared the same initials: J.F.K. – John Forbes Kerry), worked with Senator Ted Kennedy, campaigned with President Bill Clinton, endorsed and campaigned for future President Barack Obama was right in front of me in person.  President Clinton said of him in his memoirs, "He was one of the Senate’s leading authorities on the environment and high technology. He also had a devoted an extraordinary amount of time to the problem of youth violence, an issue he cared about since his days as a prosecutor. Caring about an issue in which there are no votes today but which will have a big impact on the future is a very good quality in a politician" (Page 659). Kerry has an outstanding record of service in his community and in this country. I was honored and fortunate to have that picture taken him.

The next day, I watched a political animation parody video presented by JibJab called "This Land" and YouTube videos of his speeches, including his acceptance speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and his debates with President Bush. I still couldn't believe it was him. Meagan e-mailed the photo of our meeting twelve days later on December 14 (The 209th Anniversary of the death of President George Washington. I can’t help it, I’m a history nerd) and uploaded it on Facebook that very same night. I owe alot to Meagan for actually being willing to take the picture of me and the Senator with her camera. She captured a moment in time that I would always remember and cherish. I will always be grateful to her for that. On Facebook, I received some very nice and interesting comments on the picture. I even e-mailed the photo to a college professor who replied, “What a wonderful picture! I expect you will do great things in your life.”

After this meeting I began to think about the story of a young President-to-be meeting a sitting President. That young man was 16-year-old Bill Clinton from Hope, Arkansas who while attending Boy’s Nation which was a special youth leadership conference, went with other young men to the White House in 1963 and met the sitting President of the United States: 46-year-old John F. Kennedy. Here is an excerpt that I would like to share from Bill Clinton's autobiography entitled "My Life": "On Wednesday, July 24, we went to the White House to meet the President in the Rose Garden. President Kennedy walked out the of Oval Office in the bright sunshine and made some brief remarks, complementing our work, especially our support for civil rights, and giving us higher marks than the governors, who had not been so forward-leaning in their annual summer meeting. After accepting a Boys Nation T-Shirt, Kennedy walked down the steps and began shaking hands. I was in the front, and being bigger and a bigger supporter of the President’s than most of the others, I’d made sure I’d get to shake his hand even if he shook only two of three. It was an amazing moment for me, meeting the President whom I had supported in my ninth-grade class debates, and about whom I felt even more strongly after his two and a half years in office. A friend took a photo for me, and later we found film footage of the handshake in the Kennedy Library" (Page 62).

That event was one of the most memorable, important experiences of his youth and after his meeting, went on to having in my opinion a successful political career from working on the campaign of the Democratic candidate for president, George McGovern in 1972, getting elected to the position of Attorney General in Arkansas in 1976, elected as the Governor of Arkansas in 1978 and 1982, finally becoming elected to be the 42nd President of the United States in 1992. Clinton mentioned that someone was kind enough to take a photo of their meeting and maybe without this meeting Clinton would have never become president. Now forty-five years later, I had a photo of a meeting with another political figure from Massachusetts and began to wonder if I could ever have a political career. After the election of President Obama, I thought that anything was possible. Some people said that I ought to go into politics, but I'm not too sure about that and even now it seems very unlikely. Perhaps I made too much of the photo and the handshake. Even so, the meeting with John Kerry has inspired me to do one thing that I'm currently undertaking and that is service for the community. I am aware that missionary work is not in same area as public service, but it is service.

True the year is almost over and I'm at a point in my life where I'm on the verge of making that decision as to my future plans. I may never hold a political office, but I would be satisfied to be an adviser or even a speech writer to a political officer. Whatever position or profession I am to be placed in, I hope be a person that can be a good example and a positive influence towards those whom I will be working with. In the meantime, while I am still young I need to work hard, read, study, look, listen, and see. I should not become a day dreamer, but a practical worker. I want to close in another excerpt from Bill Clinton's memoirs: "Much has been made of that brief encounter and its impact on my life. My mother said she knew when I came home that I was determined to go into politics, and after I became the Democratic nominee in 1992, the film was widely pointed as the beginning of my presidential aspirations. I’m not sure about that. I have a copy of the speech I gave to the American Legion in Hot Springs after I came home, and in it I didn’t make too much of the handshake.  I thought at the time I wanted to become a senator, but deep down I probably felt as Abraham Lincoln did when he wrote as a young man, 'I will study and get ready, and perhaps my chance will come.' ”
The following took place in Maryland from December 29, 2010 through January 13, 2011.

I have finally returned to the Northeast after having attended my first youth conference since the one in Stamford, Connecticut. This one was called "Generation of Youth for Christ", also known as "GYC" for short. GYC is an Adventist grassroots movement led by young adults in the United States. This was their ninth annual conference held by them and the location for it was at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, MD. from Dec. 29, 2010 through Jan. 2, 2011. There were about 7,000 young people, from all corners of the globe (42 countries to be exact) came to gather together at this conference. This was something I had never seen before. The theme was called "No Turning Back," which was based on Luke 9:61-62, which says: "And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (King James Version).

They had different seminars covering a variety of topics, which ranged from evangelism, personal spirituality, prophecy, practical godliness, theology, Christian philosophy, worship, biblical instruction, and much more. It was packed with spirit-filled messages, inspiring Bible study, fervent prayer, solemn worship and awesome fellowship. It reminded me of a statement from Ellen White in her book Education page 271, paragraph 2: "With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world!" There were many speakers at the four-day event, which included several church leaders from General Conference. Among the speakers scheduled to speak that Sabbath was the newly elected president of the Adventist world church, Ted N. C. Wilson.

It was different than what I had originally expected. On the first full day there I was not able to attend any of the seminars due to the setting up of the booth for The Mission in the exhibition hall. However, on the second full day there, I went to the seminars on the Gift of Prophecy and Evangelism led by Pastor Mark Finley, who was the former speaker/director of It Is Written from 1991–2004. He is also an Evangelist, Author and Vice President of Evangelism for the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. When he was finished, I approached him and ask if I could have a picture taken with him (thanks to Dorothee’s generous donation of her camera). He consented and when we took the first picture, he remarked, “I think I was talking”. So we took a second photo, which came out much better than the first. I then thanked him for the time he took for the picture. Then I went to another room in the convention center and met James R. Nix, the director of the Ellen G. White Estate and had a picture taken with him as well. Throughout the afternoon, I stayed at the booth for the “The Mission” in the exhibit hall, talking to people, making contacts, and networking. In the evening, I saw Elder Ted Wilson and tried to get to get a picture taken with him, but to no avail. I did meet Pastor David Gates though and had a picture taken with him. Pastor Gates is a Missionary Pilot and Evangelist for Gospel Ministries International. He was very humble and very kind to me.

On Sabbath, I arrived early at the convention center and got a fairly decent seat for divine worship. Elder Ted Wilson preached an inspirational sermon on our mission as young people to reach others for Jesus. He remarked at one point, “be an activist, not a ‘slacktivist.’” That got a chuckle from the audience. He briefly touched on health saying that he tries his best to keep the eight laws of health and encouraged us to do the same. At the end of his sermon, he made a call for young to come forward and become committed to finishing the work. As soon as he said, “please come down front,” I did just that. I prayed with two other young soldiers for Christ near the area where Elder Wilson was preaching. The spirit was really felt there. When we finished praying and made our way, Greg and I saw each other, smiled, and put our shoulders around each other. I have a feeling that he and I will be working closely together. During the afternoon, there were over 70 buses were filled with GYC attendees that went out into to the cold streets and knocked on some 38,000 doors and invited more than a thousand people to study the Bible. Regrettably, I did not get a chance to do outreach as should have (I plan to do so this coming year for GYC 2011), but I did get a chance to catch up with a friend of mine named Peter Chung, an evangelist and in charge of Final Generation Media. We talked about everything, history, family, testimonies, and so on. Later that afternoon in the exhibition hall, I met a kind gentleman named Jim Ayer at a booth promoting Adventist World Radio, the international broadcast ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He told me of the importance of its mission to reach people around the world with our message in different languages, even in places which are hard to reach. I thought I should have a picture taken with him and when I asked him, he graciously accepted. I later found out that he was the vice president for Advancement in Adventist World Radio and he’s been through some amazing experiences on foreign mission trips.

Sunday was spent packing and traveling to a house of a local pastor named Melvyn Hayden III whom we stayed with for about a week and five days. We mostly canvassed parking lots and homes near the church in Largo, which is actually named Mitchellville Seventh-day Adventist Church. On Tuesday, January 11th, I was given the day off from canvassing and I went to visit the World Headquarters of the Seventh Day-Adventist Church in Silver Springs. I missed the early morning tour, but I did attend a Spanish tour of the White Estate. The receptionist, Rachelle, was very friendly. I even spoke up, not abruptly, but calmly and politely, and gave some anecdotes on Ellen White. Rachelle then showed me personally the original manuscripts of the Great Controversy. It was really exciting. Then when a group of students from Oakwood arrived, Rachelle then asked me to give the tour. I accepted and we had a wonderful time on tour and I even answered some questions they had about Sister White. Even James R. Nix, the director of the White Estate, whom I’ve been told is usually very busy, came out and spoke to me afterwards, jokingly saying, “If Rachelle is sick, we ought to give you a call.” We laughed and then he mentioned that he wanted to make the White Estate more interactive and asked what I thought. I suggested some videos of presentations they could show, such as one of Pastor Doug Batchelor’s sermons entitled “Messenger for a Movement” from his '07 revival series is called "Here We Stand", "The Gift", which is a series of sermons by Pastor Dwight K. Nelson on Ellen White and the Gift of Prophecy, and so on. Before I left, Rachelle gave me a free mug depicting from Adventist Communication Network, and a small pin with the initials “EGW,” then she said, “You know, Manuel, We usually give this pin only to pastors, but I want to give this to you.” I was deeply touched and we exchanged contact information. I went back with the other missionaries two days later to our new missionary headquarters in Harrisville, New Hampshire.

Indeed, this is a new era. We are turning a new page and I had turned one for my own life. From the time of GYC, it had caused to really reflect about my faith, my relationship with God, and my church heritage. Indeed GYC was an extraordinary experience for me from the seminars that I attended, the people that I have met, and the activities which I engaged in. Since those events, I was inspired to really study the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. I realize now that I’m not merely a part of some bureaucratic organization, but of a movement. We, young Adventist Christians, are being summoned and need come to the realization that the first step in finishing the work is actually going to work. I want to close with an excerpt from Elder Ted Wilson’s sermon, which I attended that Sabbath – January 1, 2011: “Young people, let me challenge you to go beyond the typical expectations of youth.  Don’t leave here just excited enough about the Advent movement that you merely wear your GYC t-shirt or post a bold but fleeting comment about your faith somewhere online. Do better than that……… BE better than that! In your walk with Christ, genuinely focus on the singular goal of the glory of God. Don’t turn away from God’s Word and turn back to the allurements of the world. Spend serious time in daily prayer and Bible study asking the Lord for a special outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Humbly ask the Lord for a revival of spiritual fervor and a reformation of anything in your life that is not in harmony with the commands of Scripture and the counsels of the Spirit of Prophecy.” It is so simple and yet so true. I hope that flame ignited at GYC will never burn out and that the experience of those two weeks will always be refreshed in my mind. I hope that I will be to attend GYC 2011 – Fill Me: Our Earnest Plea in Houston, Texas. It has made an impact on my spiritual life and I pray that I will be daily motivated to keep reaching people who are searching, helping seekers to find a more peaceful and restful life with Jesus, and come to the point where I always want to do more to serve God.
This is my first entry. I really don't know what to write about and I don't even know where to start. As the saying goes   “Everything must have a beginning” so with that, I suppose I should start from the beginning and try to explain the person I became from the person I was. I was born at 9:51 pm on the night of July 16, 1986. That same night at 9:50 pm, President Ronald Reagan gave a toast as he was hosting a state dinner at the White House for Prime Minister Mohammed Khan Junejo of Pakistan, declaring, "Our countries continue to share common interests and common goals. By standing together, we can make this a freer and a more peaceful world. Pakistan's national poet-philosopher Mohammad Iqbal once said: `My life, O God, should be like that of a candle, so that through my efforts I may try to dispel the darkness of evil and illumine the whole world.' " (Source: http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1986/71686j.htm)
During that toast by the President of the United States, I was born.

I was born to Puerto Rican parents, who happened to be Seventh-Day Adventists. My father was and is a leader in the church, often preaching about the prophecies of the Second Coming and of the Book of Daniel. He's a church elder who takes pride in our faith and actively studies the Bible. All in all, he's a good man and I try be to the way he taught me to be. Is he perfect, well no nobody is. Often times, he gets pretty mouthy and he'll put in himself into situations that he doesn't want to be in. He grew in very poor circumstances and has this old conservative way of thinking. He's a bit rough and his views on certain things tend to upset me, but he's got a good heart. He's a cross between Archie Bunker and Zorba the Greek. Deep down, he's a man of God and practices what he preaches. All the morals I have learned, all the positive traits I have, all I can ever hope to be I owe to him.

My mother is a different story. Like my father, she also grew up in very poor circumstances in Puerto Rico. She grew up Adventist, but she did not have a concrete foundation in the word of God and did not have a deeply rooted faith. That's mainly due in part to her parents (my paternal grandparents) who didn't teach her the ways of faith. My mother never really cared for church growing up and even when she went with us, she never really enjoyed it. She only went with the motions. Faith was not important to her. The only thing she cared about was materialistic things, which unfortunately for all of us turned into disaster. She wasn't a good parent to me or my sister. She always nagged at us saying we were too overweight, too unattractive, always criticizing, but never encouraging or loving us. It's difficult to say anything positive about her.

So here's the story with me. I grew up in an Adventist household, I was not raised with the principles of the Spirit of Prophecy, but I raised according to what my parents knew. At times, home was full of gladness and the love of God was felt there. My father used to read bible stories to me and explain things so I would understand. I remember the friday nights, he would be preparing for a sermon and I'd ask him what he'd be preaching about and he'd tell me by telling me to get my bible and study with him for a little bit before retiring to bed. With my mother, her role was rather small. She merely took care of me and my sister when my father was away at work. My father could never spent a lot of time with us because he would have to work on Mondays thru Thursdays from four in the afternoon until four in the morning, the weekends we had him all to ourselves.

My childhood was a happy one, despite certain moments of sadness. Everything was going fine until High School. High School was a waste of four years I'll never get back. Every day of it was a day of hell. I never had any real friends there, only acquaintances. I was  made fun of constantly because of the way I looked and deep down it hurt. I really suffered in high school, but that was nothing compared to when I came back home and received more and even harsher criticism from my own mother. My mother said things that made me want to physically harm her. "You're too fat," she said, "you need to lose weight." My mother never said anything positive to me while I was growing up so with that, I began to wear black clothing. It got so that every piece of clothing I had worn was black or dark colored.

I took the emotional abuse as far as I could until one day, my mother said something that just made me snap. I then said a form of profanity against her to which she was shocked. I then began to hurl insults at her to damage her emotionally. So from then on, each time I came back from and my mother would say something that would arouse my anger. I let her have it. We hurled the worst insults to each other, wounding each other in the process. While this was going on, my father never really knew what was going on because of the work hours. He had to sleep during the day in order to work during the night. Whenever I did have the chance to speak to him, I never could because I felt he would never understand. After all he was always athletic, while I never was.

As my internal suffering was increasing, my love and faith in God was decreasing. I began to hate Him for bringing me into a world that didn't appreciate me or love me. Even at church, I found no love among my own relatives and nobody there seemed to care at all. With no emotional support, I began to despise God for making me unattractive, giving my a horrible mother, and a terrible and worthless life. I felt that God was cruel to me and I often cursed Him. In Sabbath School, I began to make the other classmates doubt God, just to insult Him. Oh yes, I really hated Him. If that wasn't  bad enough, I began to doubt the existence of God. I felt if God was real, he could have made my life better.

As the high school years drew to a close, I uncovered a dark secret about my past. One that would change my life forever. I found out that my parents had been divorced seven years prior to my discovery. They had only stayed together for me and my sister, for appearances sake. This was a devastating blow to me. I thought about all the vacations, we took in my childhood. All the positive times we spent together. It was all fake. What was the point of all this? I confronted my mother on issue and with my father, I told him gently that I knew. Since graduation was approaching, I told both my parents that I would be attending the ceremony, but I did not want them there. They were hurt, but they respected my decision.

I then went to the graduation ceremony and wondering what was ahead of me. "What am I going to do with the rest of my life? I have nothing to live for now." I remember wishing that my existence would cease. I remember asking God to take my life from me.  What else could I do with my life? As far as I knew, my life was over. I then looked for work and found a job after a year, but after working for two months and nine days I was fired and rightfully so. With no job and the continual battles with my mother, I felt I had nothing to look forward to. The impending separation of my parents unavoidable, but I didn't allow myself to think about it. Did I ever think about suicide? Yes, I did on several occasions since high school. However since suicide is a sin and despite my negative feelings about God, I could never bring myself to do it.

Then in 2005, I befriended a pastor and his wife. They were kind to me, but I had my doubts about them. Due to the emotional damage, it was hard for me to trust anyone. The wife did her best to really show the love of God and I always rejected it. Later, she told me it was as if there was a darkness hovering over me. The demeanor I had shown to everyone was that of darkness and negativity. She told me of a youth congress, to which I initially hesitated to attend. However, with the situation, I wanted to get away for a few days so I eventually accepted. While I was there, they had many religious seminars throughout the day, but I went to one that changed my outlook of life. The theme was "Healing for Damaged Emotions", which was led by an Adventist chaplin. During the seminar, I finally began to see a God of love. The Jesus he spoke about was real to me. A Jesus who really suffered emotionally as well as physically. A Jesus, who like me, felt forsaken, abandoned, betrayed, and alone. This was a Jesus I could finally relate to. Since I had no one to hang out with, I was not distracted so God finally had my attention. I remember praying alone afterwards thanking God and then asking Him what he would have me do now?

On Sabbath that same weekend, there was a preacher by the named of Pastor James Black, who was preaching, I remember he was looking in my area and said that I could make a difference for Jesus and that I should get up and do something about it and at that very moment I felt a calm feeling come across me and I knew then right there Jesus was calling me to spread the word and at that moment as tears were coming down my face and my body felt at ease and I felt that it was my calling to do great things for Christ. I also got to meet people from different churches and different backgrounds. I made new friends and established deep relationships through the spirit of God. I still remember that Saturday Night (the last night of the congress) after the events had ended where we had a vigil with, I think it was about 8 or 9 people all together and all of us gave our testimonies and shared past experiences with each other and we stayed up the entire night, until seven in the morning, but I'm sure that we all felt the spirit of God there, working through us, inspiring us, and since then, I have gained a deeper understanding of God's Love. I came home with a feeling of gladness since I have not felt as a boy when my father read the bible stories.

On Monday, I was invited to attend a prayer meeting so I went and as I shared my experiences at the youth congress and I mentioned the experience of the seminar that I attended and a friend mentioned that I should preach it as a sermon. I then laughed, saying "There's no way I'm going to be speaking in front of the congregation." I was afraid of getting up in front of audience for any reason. I had not done so before in my life and was not about to try it.

The next day, I was writing what I remembered from the seminar so that if I had a bad day, I could read it and feel at ease once more. It then developed into a sermon. In the process of writing (actually I was typing it) I had received an email from my cousin Marlene, who was then the head of the Youth Department, saying that she wanted to "present a special program" with those of us who attended that coming Friday night to present before the congregation our experiences at the youth congress. I don't know how it happened, but I found the telephone in my hand and I attempted to call Marlene. When she wasn't at her house, her youngest daughter gave me her work number to which I then dialed. She picked it up almost immediately and I mentioned to her that I wanted to preach that night. She was genuinely surprised, but she that it would be and that I would be the last person to speak since it would be a sermon.

I then practiced and even called my pastor for guidance and he prayed with me. Finally, Friday night came and after everyone had given their testimonies of the youth congress, Marlene then gave introduction for my sermon. I was so scared and in the moments before my time to speak, my cousin Amy whispered, "You're up." I remembered Marlene saying in Spanish, "So it is with great privilege to introduce to you Manuel Ortega, Jr." I then went up and after a quick silent prayer and I then spoke about my experience and the words I remembered from the seminar. I preached about the Jesus who suffered emotionally, that was betrayed abandoned, forsaken, yet was never alone. During the sermon, I noticed there were a few members who were crying, even the pastor's wife. I later understood that it was the Holy Spirit working in their hearts.

After I finished my final words, I then closed my bible and as I went to go sit down, Marlene came up and hugged me. For the first time, in many years. I felt loved not only by others, but also by God. Afterwords I began read the bible differently and began to think about becoming a pastor. My life certainly did change after the time of the youth congress and feel that maybe I suffered for this so that perhaps I could help bring others to Jesus with my testimony.

Now my family life didn't get better. My parents eventually separated and I went on to dorm in Fitchburg State College where I am now residing. I am convinced that if I had never gone to the youth congress, I don't think I would be alive now. For two years, I have gone through situations and have made mistakes. I have done things that I am not proud of. After all, I'm only human and I'm not perfect either, but that's no excuse. So what happened? Well, my father remarried. He's happier now than he was with my mother. As for my mother, she also remarried, but for money. I don't keep in touch with her often and I do see her from time to time. I don't expect her to change, but I'll try to forgive her.

So all in all, I thank God for my life, it's ups and downs. I sincerely hope that one day I'll be able to share my testimony with others so that they can be blessed. I honestly still don't know what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I know that I want to be a blessing to others and change other people's lives. While I know I'm not perfect and I still feel that I need more maturing for my life. I pray that God will guide me and that I will be motivated daily to serve Him and that one day, I'll find my purpose here on earth and so until then, I'll keep searching.

I have not hidden anything from you (the reader). By myself, I'm still not a good man, but I want to live with a good God. I don't excel in physical strength, but the God I believe in is All Powerful. I may not  have the mental capacity to understanding certain things, but I believe in a God that knows everything and can give me wisdom if I ask.