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Saturday, October 26, 2013

John F. Kennedy Elevated the Tone of National Life, Opened the White House to the Arts



"John F. Kennedy’s optimism and resolve was emblematic of the American mind of the twentieth century, but he also brought a new level of sophistication to public life. Louis M. Lyons wrote, “The elevation of the tone of the national life may be John Kennedy’s most enduring contribution to his country.” 

"Along with his beautiful, stylish wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, JFK brought a savoir faire to the White House and created a magical mood that later moved Jacqueline to use the word “Camelot” to refer to her husband’s presidency. Both the president and his wife were lovers of the arts, and they surrounded themselves with singers, poets, dramatists, artists, and dancers. In a well-deserved nod to the power of poetry, Kennedy invited New England poet Robert Frost to read at his inauguration. Frost later told Kennedy, “You’re something of Irish and something of Harvard. Let me advise you, be more Irish than Harvard.”

"On October 26, 1963, Kennedy gave a compelling address at Amherst College called “On Poetry and National Power,” in which he laid out a vision of American life to which the Irish, the politician, and the poet could relate.

"When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as a touchstone for our judgment. . . . I look forward to a great future for America—a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral strength, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose. I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty. . . . And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well."



Excerpt from Irish Boston, 2nd edition, by Michael Quinlin
Publisher: Globe Pequot Press / Publication Date: October,, 2013 

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