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.”