We all know the story of JFK, and if you don’t then perhaps you need to read more.
Young, handsome politician gets elected in the 1960s and proceeds to change America by starting the space race, trying to invade Cuba, sending advisers and troops to Vietnam, pushing for civil rights and bringing a bit of glamour to the White House.
Then he gets shot by a madman, or the CIA/military industrial complex/Cuban exiles/mafia/second gunman/magic bullet/etc/etc.
JFK’s time in power is still subject to great debate but every president gets the chance to tell their own version of events by creating a presidential library and museum. I’ve always been fascinated by JFK so when Carmen and I went to Boston, his home city, we decided to check out the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Take a look at our video below:
Why visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum?
I was a bit suspicious about what it would be like. After all, even Richard Nixon and George W Bush have their own presidential libraries and they were two of the most unpopular leaders of all time when they left office. Their official versions of what happened must make interesting reading!
So what would JFK’s be like? I was sure there would be no mentions of trysts with Marilyn Monroe or all of those the attempts to kill Fidel Castro.
But after visiting the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston I was surprised at how thorough, candid and open it was. I left feeling inspired. And the JFK legacy does still inspire despite all its negatives.
Inside the library and museum
You walk in and you are in the White House of the early 1960s. The presidential seal on the wall leads to a red carpeted hallway lined with photographs, gifts from foreign dignitaries and ante rooms where powerful people met to make the big decisions. Then there’s a replica of the oval office and JFK’s desk, all of it just how it was.
But beyond all of that the museum focuses on Kennedy the man. There are personal letters, possessions and recordings that showed him as a person. His book collection demonstrates how he loved art, sailing and classical history. Diaries and correspondence illustrated his obsession with quotations by famous thinkers and writers and how he tried to shoehorn them into his speeches. It showed him as a human being, capable of greatness and infamy in the same measure as all of us.
Threaded through it all were examples of his success and ambition. There was a Mercury series spaceship that reflected JFK’s desire for America to go to the moon first. My favourite thing was a calendar JFK had made that highlights the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962. He gave a calendar to each person that was principally involved in defusing what was very, very nearly a nuclear war with the Soviet Union – including his wife Jackie.
The final chapter – the assassination
The ending of the tour is of course the assassination in Dallas in 1963. There is no attempt to make a definitive explanation of why it happened. The museum simply states the known facts and instead focuses on America and the world’s reaction to JFK’s death. There are schools, streets and children named after John F. Kennedy around the world and the exhibit showed how his death affected more than just the people who could vote for or against him.
JFK has his critics, and if you are one then you’ll probably find gaping holes in the storyline presented at the JFK Library and Museum. Such as his many alleged affairs. But that’s not the point. All politicians have their myths and JFK’s is probably the highest example. I didn’t care that the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum refrained from airing the dirty laundry.
It did what JFK set out to do, inspire and lead.
‘‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
Enough said really.
Have you been to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum? What did you think?
Thanks to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum who provided us with complimentary entry. All views are our own.
What you need to know:
How much – Adult tickets are $12. Seniors and students get in for $10, teenagers are $9 while children under 12 are free.
Getting there – The museum is perched on Boston Harbour at Colombia Point with plenty of parking if you drive. If you take public transport head to the JFK/UMASS train station and take the free shuttle bus there and back.
When to go – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is open 7 days a week from 9 to 5 except on major holidays.
Carmen VO – John F. Kennedy is a legend in Boston, his home city – there are so many schools and streets named after him you lose count.
But the greatest tribute Boston gives its favourite son is this building overlooking the waters of the harbour.
Dave PTC – The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum tells the story of Kennedy’s presidency from the day he was voted in to the day he was shot in Dallas.
Dave VO – Kennedy’s bid to become president in 1960 was unprecedented – no Catholic had ever been America’s leader and he was very young, but the Museum’s exhibits show how skilfully his campaign team rallied support for him around the country
Carmen VO- The most famous Kennedy triumph was his television debate against Richard Nixon – which people say he won because of his good looks.
Carmen PTC – Now you may be forgiven for thinking we are in the White House but we are actually in the JFK presidential library an it’s a replica of what it’s like inside the White House itself.
Dave VO – As you walk the halls of power you learn about all the highs and lows of JFK’s time at the top – our favourite was a replica of the oval office and the desk where he worked on some of America’s most difficult problems – the cold war, the space race and the battle over civil rights.
Carmen VO – The section dealing with JFK’s assassination in 1963 is very sad, and there is a portion dedicated to his brother Robert F. Kennedy who was also gunned down a few years later.
But we couldn’t help but be inspired by the experience – Kennedy’s ideals leave you thinking about what could have been; as well as what you can do to improve the world.