Archives For JFK

I recently finished reading Killing Kennedy, an interesting take on the JFK assassination from Bill O’Reilly. I knew some of the indiscretions of Kennedy through reading history but getting a more full picture through the book was eye-opening. It also educated me about the indiscretions of some other well-known leaders of his time.

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Here is a brief history of some of the most well-known people in the world.

  • John F. Kennedy was a serial adulterer
  • So was Martin Luther King, even with prostitutes
  • Nelson Mandela was involved in terrorism early in life
  • George Washington owned slaves
  • Benjamin Franklin slept his way across America and Europe
  • Margaret Thatcher had an incredible short temper
  • John Lennon all but abandoned his son Julien when he married to Yoko Ono
  • Elvis Presley was a drug addict
  • Oprah Winfrey is known to be a diva that expects royal treatment
  • Ronald Reagan was a lousy actor divorced early in life

The list goes on and on and you’ll be surprised to learn some of these things from some of the most admired people in recent history.

One of my favorite authors and historians David McCullough shares a brilliant piece about how we should view our leaders but more importantly, how we should see ourselves.

“Now those who wrote the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia that fateful summer of 1776 were not superhuman by any means. Every single one had his flaws, his failings, his weaknesses. Some of them ardently disliked others of them. Every one of them did things in his life he regretted. But the fact that they could rise to the occasion as they did, these imperfect human beings, and do what they did is also, of course, a testimony to their humanity. We are not just known by our failings, by our weaknesses, by our sins. We are known by being capable of rising to the occasion and exhibiting not just a sense of direction, but strength.”

Ephesians 1:7 sums it up.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

Thank God for grace and recognition that he sees the potential in all of us and wants us to do good and succeed in his eyes. God sees us as perfect, even in our imperfections and it makes his grace shine brighter than ever.

 

 

An Experienced Life

January 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

One of my favorite and most inspirational movies of the past twenty years is Good Will Hunting (1997). It has many memorable and important scenes is between Robin Williams’ character as teacher and Matt Damon’s character Will Hunting. Damon’s character had just insulted William’s character so they sat down to have a talk. Watch the movie clip but you can also read part of it that I provided.

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You’re a tough kid. And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I’d ask you about love, you’d probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone who could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you.”

This is the conversation that guides the story toward action and resolution for Damon’s character. This scene gives me chills every time I watch it. Damon’s character, although clearly brilliant, had not truly lived life in all of its pain and glory. He had been stuck in his neighborhood thinking he knew all there was to know about life. There was a bigger life to experience if he would open himself up. It is hard to  miss that I am like Damon’s character and fear the risk of going out into the world to really experience life.

Recently I visited one of the most infamous city settings in the world: Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. On November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated here. Dealey Plaza rests on the southwest side of downtown Dallas. I’ve read multiple books and watched countless documentaries and movies about the JFK Assassination. But none of his compared to actually being at the site of this tragic event. As Robin Williams mentioned above, there is nothing like visiting it to smell the air, feel the history, and to stand where history changed us forever. It was eerie and it brought a bit of  sadness to me that I didn’t expect to feel. Reading and watching stories about JFK always brought intrigue but rarely did it ever bring emotion like this. Silently, I walked all around the area with my brother-in-law and my wife and toured the JFK 6th Floor Museum. It is an experience I will not forget.

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View from the 7th Floor of the infamous Texas School Book Depository overlooking Dealey Plaza. One floor directly down from me was assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s sniper nest.

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Standing next to the street where Kennedy was shot. Two “X’s” mark mark on the street where he was shot. To my left is the infamous grassy knoll where conspiracy theories point toward a second gunman.

Walking and visiting the places of history reminds us that we are part of a big story. It is full of beauty, adventure, victory, loss, and tragedy. It should provoke the feelings to make us want to make a lasting impact on this world because we are called to a great story. This trip reminded me that I can live life comfortably at home but if I don’t take a step out to truly explore what God is nudging me to do, I will miss the real life.

“To know there is a better story for your life and to choose something other is to choose to die.” – Donald Miller

Have you ever visited a place of history that gave you the chills?

Does it make you think about how your lasting impact will be on the world?

 

 

Recently a friend shared about the disappointment of being passed over for a promotion. In addition, he was removed off of a key project thus feeling a setback in his career. Our friends spent time encouraging him and letting him know he was not alone. I as well have felt similar setback in my life.

I was reading through The American Patriot’s Almanac the other day and scanning key events of Abraham Lincoln’s life. It was interesting to study his life’s major events.

  • 1832: Elected captain of an Illinois militia company
  • 1832: Defeated for state legislature
  • 1833: Failed in business
  • 1833: Appointed postmaster of New Salem, Illinois
  • 1834: Elected to state legislature
  • 1834: Sweetheart died
  • 1836: Received license to practice law in Illinois
  • 1838: Defeated for Speaker of the Illinois House
  • 1841: Suffered deep depression
  • 1842: Married Mary Todd
  • 1844: Established his own law practice
  • 1846: Elected to U.S. Congress
  • 1849: Failed to get appointment to US. Land Office
  • 1850: Four-year old son died
  • 1855: Defeated for U.S. Senate
  • 1857: Earned large attorney fee in a successful case
  • 1858: Again defeated for Senate
  • 1860: ELECTED PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

I noticed a few things. Lincoln’s life was full of ups and downs. It reveals the ebb and flow of life and we cannot expect everything to work out perfectly. What we do learn is that Lincoln kept moving forward no matter how many setbacks. His failures made him a better, stronger person that was able to never give up.

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Lincoln said,

“I do the very best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep doing so until the end.”

Galatians 6:9 offers additional encouragement,

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

By studying people I admire the most like Lincoln, I discover their great failures and tragedies.

  • King David of the Bible committed adultery
  • George Washington experienced military setback after setback during the American Revolution
  • C.S. Lewis lost his mother when he was young and was passed over at Oxford for promotions for years
  • Winston Churchill experienced a military disaster at Gallipoli in World War I
  • John F. Kennedy’s PT boat was demolished and was injured in World War II
  • George H.W. Bush lost a daughter to leukemia
  • J.K. Rowling was on the verge of homelessness

When I feel letdown, lose something or someone, or wonder why something didn’t go my way I am drawn to these great lives for inspiration.

They all shared adversity. Most importantly, they shared perseverance and all kept moving forward.

In a few short weeks we approach the anniversary of a tragedy that most of you reading this remember well.

I didn’t know anyone directly who perished on 9/11.  I still feel for them and pray for their families.  I pray that I am living better because of what we have learned from that day.  I now am married and have two little girls and when the time is right, I will share what happened on that fateful day and what we all have learned from it.  My parents had shared where they were when hearing that JFK was assassinated and their parent’s experience when hearing about Pearl Harbor being attacked.  Each generation had its defining moments.  In my early 20s, I wondered if my generation would have that kind of moment.  Before 9/11 I remember vividly the following events; The Challenging exploding in 1986, Operation Desert Storm in 1991, Black Hawk Down in 1993 (occurred on my birthday), and yes even Bill Clinton’s speech acknowledging his indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky.

I had only been working in my new job out of college for a few months when the 9/11 attack happened.  My routine each day was a 10 mile drive toward downtown St. Louis.  My routine was filled with two cups of coffee, one at home, one for the ride to work and I would listen to talk radio.  On 9/11 the routine was broken.   My car had broken down the day before so I borrowed my parent’s car.  Instead of the daily radio talk, I put in Travis’ new album The Invisible Band and listened. Perhaps nothing for anyone was routine following 9/11.  I would have listened to the live reporting of the attack on my drive in but instead was in some other world.  I learned immediately when I entered the door at work from a colleague that planes had hit the towers.  We had a person from our New York office visiting us that day and she was emotionally distraught not knowing if her loved ones were okay (She learned later that they were).

The next morning, I took a look at lyrics from one of my favorite songs on that album that I listened to that fateful drive to work.  It was the song, Pipe Dreams.  

I read it all, every word
And I still don’t understand a thing
What had you heard?
What had you heard?

Very few things were ordinary about 9/11.  What had you heard on that day? 

The day after 9/11, I like many still went to work.  No music today  as I paid close attention to the talk radio.  It was full of fear, confusion, sadness, full of messages about economic demise, and anger.

My office was a half a mile down the street from the UPS central depot in St. Louis.  If I was just a little late getting to work, I would be stopped by the trucks leaving for their daily delivery route.  On the normal day, I would have been extremely annoyed if getting caught by these trucks.

On 9/12,  I was stopped by those UPS delivery trucks.  I sat in my car cheering for 30 UPS trucks leaving their depot.  I was not alone and saw several others doing the same.  Were we cheering for giving terrorists the finger and that economically we would not slow down?  Not really.  It felt more like a symbolic way that people were willing to keep moving forward even after being knocked down.

Ask any boxer about this feeling.  You get hit.  You get knocked down.  You get back up and fight.

My responsibility as a human being living during such a tumultuous period is to share the lessons we have learned.  I wonder how we will remember 9/11, 50 years from now?  Unfortunately events like these could probably happen again in some fashion.  My daughters’ generation will have defining moments but may they learn from 9/11, JFK, and Pearl Harbor an important lesson I learned as well as my parents.

We must keep going forward.