Monday, 29 May 2017

John F Kennedy would be

100yrs old today were he still alive.
I remember how I heard the news of his death. My brother had a "crystal set". He had made it himself, probably with some help from the Senior Cat. We weren't the sort of family to listen to the radio but my brother would listen to the 6 am news bulletin before getting out of bed.
That morning he came rushing in, white faced, and gave me and then our parents the news. It wasn't that we were particularly interested in American politics. We weren't. We were not even interested in local politics at that age. But my brother had been looking at the United States and Canada in what was then called "social studies" and his teacher had told the class about one of the things which was said in Kennedy's inauguration speech.
The full quote goes, 
     "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
As Downunderites we have ignored the first three words of course but the rest of it was something that my brother's teacher and other teachers in the school asked us all to think about. Over the rest of our time in that school we were occasionally reminded of the words. I suspect the Senior Cat was behind the idea but it had the support of the staff. As "the head's kids" we often knew far more about what was going on than the teachers realised. The teachers would occasionally quote it when someone had done something foolish or selfish.
And that quote was something important. It still is. It might sound hackneyed now but, when we first heard it, the idea was a big one for impressionable children.
I wonder now whether learning that then influenced the lives of the other students? It was almost the end of the school year and, for my year group, we had to make decisions about the subjects we would study in the following year. Those decisions would influence the rest of our lives. I had no idea what I wanted to do or would be able to do. I know there were girls who were thinking of the traditional service occupations of teaching and nursing. Did they do it? I don't know. We moved on a year later to yet another school.
I came to consider the entire world "my country". I admit I haven't always wanted to make the "right" decision, the decision that would benefit my world-country rather than me. I'd be a lot better off financially if I had made decisions in my favour.  But, somewhere at the back of my mind, there has always been the image of my brother's white face and the sound of his breathless voice, "They've shot President Kennedy".  Then the other words come back too.

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