A caravan traveled north on Torresdale Ave. in northeast Philadelphia PA, summer 1960. He was wearing a short-sleeved plaid shirt with a button down collar and lightweight pants. In typical Philadelphia fashion for a sixteen-year-old that summer, my shirttail was off. There were large crowds on both sides of the busy avenue. A few blocks to the west, neighborhoods lined the Delaware River and its busy Inner Harbor. At the time, a transportation hub and the most industrialized area in the world.
Tens of thousands of citizens lined the avenue to see Senator John Kennedy, who had recently announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States.
The light-colored Cadillac approached slowly, behind a wedge of the Philadelphia Motorcycle Police. A professional voice through a megaphone urged: “Senator Kennedy’s caravan is coming, please stand aside.”
The front-right profile of the candidate was clearly visible. I tried to look him in the eye. Confident at first, but then realized it wasn’t happening, he was leaving. I could see the back of his right shoulder as he held it and waved to the crowd. The convertible passed slowly and his back came into view.
Someone told me a few days earlier that Kennedy’s father had been nicknamed ‘Black Jack’ during the prohibition days. “Hey, Black Jack,” I yelled. He turned abruptly and looked me straight in the eye. JFK waved as Kennedy’s caravan disappeared from view. In my teenage mind, I rationalized that it was okay. We would meet in the future. I was wondering if the relatively unknown, until recently, Senator would remember me.
Everyone knew Kennedy. It seems as if it is a collective extension of our individual personalities. We admire your dedication to always doing your best. That is why we love him so much.
Every year since JFK’s assassination, thoughts on the incident return. On Tuesday, as rain soaked hemlock and great western cedar on one of those humid and misty Pacific Northwest afternoons, I spent some time alone, meditating in my living room.
In my mind, I saw the mist swirling outside the sliding glass door. The steam passed through the glass and took the shape of the spirit of President John F. Kennedy.
“Come,” said the spirit, taking my hand. “We do not have much time”.
In an instant, we stopped on a cliff on the Washington coast overlooking the Pacific.
If our time was limited, we had to do without the formalities.
“Mr. President, was Lee Harvey Oswald the only murderer?” Finally, we would get an answer to the most puzzling question of my life.
“Everybody asks that,” replied President Kennedy. “The last thing I remember of my earthly existence was going downhill in the back seat of a convertible. Just for an instant, I was shocked. I could see the front left profile of a person in the drainage culvert at the bottom of the slope. about thirty meters in front of us. There was a flash from that spot. Something sharp prodded me in the Adam’s apple. I choked and gasped. Jackie called my name. There was blood, blood, brains and the back of my skull on the trunk of the convertible. He was already dead. “
The response was unexpected and disappointing, but I appreciated our time constraints.
“Do Americans today still share your values and vision?” I asked quickly. Kennedy pondered the question as he watched the waves crash against the jetty in the distance below us.
“I, ah, always, loved the sea,” he smiled, gesturing toward the white water and the peaceful green beyond, against the backdrop of a wet gray sky. “In my earthly life, I started sailing as a child,” said the president with a thick New England accent. “What about you?” He asked. “Have you gone to sea?”
“Yes sir,” I replied. “He was serving in the United States Coast Guard at the time of his murder.”
“Well, ah, you probably already know my feelings towards the Coast Guard; I had to transfer them from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Transportation,” he said. “I wanted to disband the service completely, but the people around me advised against it. The new Department of Transportation provided a perfect match.”
“With today’s mounting port security issues and changing marine weather conditions, we will need the Coast Guard more than ever. I managed to purchase the Honey Fitz, our family yacht, from the Coast Guard.”
“The rest of the army was a different problem. The Joint Chiefs of Staff did not show any respect for me. They continually made jokes about my naval experience, or to be correct, naval inexperience,” he said with a smile. “Remember, the lower ranking officers under your command had the authority to start a thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union. Can you imagine what it was like for me, with all the hawks involved in politics? Those with whom I surrounded myself helped snatch me away. control. I made many enemies among our military ranks. To make matters worse, I received daily reports of an explosion of racial tension in the military. “
“My administration got to work on the problem and we were able to make a lot of adjustments and improvements. Understand, ah, the South is still fighting the Civil War. Any change in that direction will always be fought hard. My administrations, ah, they got the ball. he’s rolling for, ah, implementing the Civil Rights Act. Racial issues contribute to so much pain in the hearts of Americans. You’d think after all this time it would be better today. “
“Mr. President,” I asked him, “do you think climate change and its negative effects on humanity are America’s most pressing problem?”
“Absolutely! Absolutely! Yes. Just, ah, the weather anomalies alone should cause alarm. During my administration, both sides came together and paved the way for Public Works Projects like, ah, the construction of more plants of Nuclear power. Just before I, Ah, I was hit, my administration was seriously considering a land reclamation project that had been, ah, proposed a decade earlier by the Army Corps of Engineers called the North American Water and Power Alliance. “
“Well, I was removed from the scene just as Los Angeles took steps to start the project. Note that, uh, we plan to divert water from Alaska and Canada through the Tintina Trench, near the British Columbia border and Yukon. To the Rocky Mountain Trench. Actually, it’s just a continuous trench. The project would create hundreds of major construction projects and millions of construction jobs over two decades. We could supply water to all major agricultural areas in the Southwest , California and Mexico. Rivers like this in front of us, the Columbia River, “Kennedy said, pointing,” and the Frazier River in Canada, would have improved flood control and constant supply of irrigation water. image, action began in Southeast Asia. America and the Corps of Engineers had other priorities and the idea faded. California, our main agricultural agent is experiencing years s of drought. It would not be a problem if NAWAPA had been used. Compare it to Washington’s Grand Coulee Dam and the irrigation it provides from the Columbia River, where, ah, drought problems are mitigated. “
“Our youth were excited about the direction America was taking. We were the first in technology, especially communications technology, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, production, transportation, energy, and almost every economic sector,” continued the spirit. “We recognized the need for improvements in education, health care and began to build an improved social safety net. The tax rate for the middle class was much higher then. I think people today want the best things the government can do. can provide, but is not willing to pay for it. That is the main difference. Increase Public Works and you will put our younger generation back to work with good jobs in business and successful careers. Only the government has the capacity to put it together, but you, ah, must be willing to pay for it. “
“I think the difference between the young men and women of November 1963 and today is, ah, today’s workers have a different value system,” Kennedy said.
“Do you think those values are valid?” I asked hesitantly.
“Of course,” Kennedy said, smiling. “Just be open to review. My dad had a saying: ‘Trust everyone, count everything.’ Check the numbers. Actually, it’s fifth grade math. Nuclear power is the only solution to balance energy needs and climate change “.
A dog barked in the distance. It seemed to get stronger and closer. When the animal came into view, I saw that it was my little Chiwene, Nene. He was scratching at the sliding patio door. I was in house. My ghostly friend had disappeared.