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 December 5, 2011


This is 1st thing JFK could teach President Barack Obama according to an article which appeared in Time Magazine on November 7, 2011. 

The article is written by Chris Matthews who is author of the latest book on JFK: “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero” published by Simon & Schuster.

                    JFK Library Image

Christoper John Matthews, host of MSNBC’s “Hardball”,  was born in Philadelphia on December 17, 1945.

Mr. Matthews was born, like JFK, to Irish-American parents.

He graduated from the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, served in the Peace Corps from 1968-1970, & was a top aide to Speaker of the House Tip O’Neal.

                          Chris Matthews
           Host of MSNBC’s “Hardball”
               Photo by Bbsrock (2008)

When asked what his new book offers, Mr. Matthews responded:

“I wasn’t going to try to write another iconic book about President Kennedy.  I wanted to answer his own question when he read biographies: ‘What’s he like?'”

JFK+50 has not read ‘Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero’ yet, but we are looking forward to doing so.  When we do, JFK+50 will be publishing several posts on it.

Today, we are going to look at, in Chris Matthews’ words: the “first thing JFK could teach Obama: YOU’VE GOT TO ASK.”

First this introduction from the Time article:

“(JFK) was the kind of leader Americans wanted to follow (but) there was something else about him, something we knew only when we lost him.  His wife Jacqueline called him ‘that elusive, unforgettable man.’

Boy, was she right.  We miss him now, with those thin ties & that crisp authority in an era of snappy salutes & getting things done.  We believed we could do anything back then.  Things were different back then.  He was different.”

Amen, Chris Matthews.

Mr. Matthews goes on to remind us that JFK’s phrase ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ was “a call to duty.”

It was, in Matthews view, a “very personal invitation” that expressed the reality that we, as a nation, are all in this together.

JFK would soon “fill in the details” through the Alliance for Progress, the Peace Corps, the space program & more.

Matthews writes:

“The important thing to note is that his presidency was not going to be a spectator sport, something so sit back, watch & judge.”

In Matthews’ view, this is “what’s missing most” in the leadership of President Obama, the failure to a call to service.

Chris says that asking people to follow you is the “1st basic” to becoming a leader.

He quotes a fellow Peace Corps friend’s comment: “People don’t mind being used. They mind being discarded.”

Chris Matthews believes this is something Mr. Obama “has to fix” by simply “asking”.*

             British PM David Cameron &
                 President Barack Obama
                            G20 Summit
                      Toronto, Canada
                        June 26, 2010
                 Photo by Pete Souza

*Source:  “Five Things JFK Could Teach Obama” by Chris Matthews, Time Magazine, November 7, 2011.

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