Tag Archives: John F. Kennedy

Rosemary is a Horrific Kennedy Tale

If you already don’t like the history of the wealthy Kennedy family, this book will likely take you over the top.

Kate Clifford Lawson published a book entitled Rosemary:  The Hidden Kennedy Daughter Kate Clifford Lawson Picture(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), which exposes information that is not well known to casual followers of the clan.  (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), which exposes information that is not well known to casual followers of the clan.

Lawson received her doctorate in History from the University of New Hampshire.  Her first book was a biography of Harriet Tubman, Bound for the Promised Land , published in 2003.  Next was The Assassin’s Accomplice, about Mary Surratt and her role in the assassination of President Lincoln, published in 2008.

RosemaryFuneralPictureProblems for Rose Marie “Rosemary” Kennedy began when her mother was forced to delay her birth, as a nurse, waiting on a doctor to arrive, forced her to remain in the birth canal for two hours, resulting in a loss of oxygen.  She was born on September 13, 1918, and was the first daughter born to Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and Rose Fitzgerald.  Rosemary was the eldest sister of the three Kennedy brothers, John, Robert, and Ted.  This is her last-known picture, before her death on January 7, 2005.

You get the feeling throughout the book that she was an embarrassment to the Kennedy family.  While she was RosemaryBookCoverbeautiful, she was not nearly as talented in school and sports as her siblings.  The cause was a mental disability, for which her father authorized a prefrontal lobotomy for her at age 23.  The procedure was a failure, and she was permanently incapacitated. She spent the rest of her life in an institution in Jefferson, Wisconsin, with minimal contact from her family. Her condition is believed to have inspired her sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, to start the Special Olympics.

As an example of the likely embarrassment she represented, the book discusses the way that Rosemary’s existence was hardly acknowledged during JFK’s 1960 campaign to the White House, even though he stated that conditions such as hers should be brought out into the open.

The book is  not the only work that has addressed Rosemary.  Yet, it is well-researched and documented, and perhaps it will inspire other writers to research even more about her.

King’s Speech was Great – But Not the Greatest!

I am frequently asked what I think was the greatest speech of all time.  I receive these questions since I coach professional presenters in the marketplace, as well as teach business presentations as part of the MBA program in the College of Business at the University of Dallas.  I think that many people like to benchmark features of their own presentations against famous speeches that they are familiar with.

Since we recently passed the 50th anniversary of the great “I Have a Dream” speech by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., you have likely seen several editorials about the context, the speaker, and the speech.  I will not repeat any of these here as they are readily available for you.  There is no question in my mind that it is one of the greatest of all time, but it is not THE greatest.

That honor goes to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, gave the most inclusive presentation I have ever seen.  That evening, he put it all together.  There is no single presentation that I have seen which embodies all of the elements of successful speechmaking this well.  No matter what you wish to critique – projection, tone, eye contact, posture, gestures, language, verbal and vocal variety, storytelling, and on, and on, and on….this speech is a model.  I am especially impressed when I see how he touches all elements of his audience – young and old, white and black, rich and poor, able and disabled, male and female, and any other demographic classification that you want to examine.  I especially encourage you to watch Part 7 by clicking here.  He would be nominated for the presidency of the United States the next evening.  Had he been elected, I think he would have been powerful with foreign leaders, but would have had great difficulty passing legislation through his own bodies of congress.

Two other items about this speech stand out to me.  First, he has energy.  Even 75 minutes from the beginning, Jackson has the same enthusiasm he started with.  Second, he puts elements from the African-American pulpit into a political speech very successfully.  As you watch Part 7, note features such as repetition, parallelism, cadence, etc., which you would see any Sunday in this type of church.

So, for what it is worth, here is my list of the top five American speeches of all time, with links to a YouTube version of the speech where available:

1.  Rev. Jesse Jackson – 1988 Democratic National Convention

2.  President Ronald Reagan – Challenger Explosion Speech – January 28, 1986 – in just 4:40, he settles down the country, gives hope to children who watched the broadcast, praises NASA, and restores faith in the United States space program.

3.  Robert F. Kennedy Announces Death of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – April 4, 1968 – en route to a political campaign stop in Indianapolis, RFK receives word of the King assassination, and speaks from the heart in an attempt to unify the country which could experience significant polarization; he holds an envelope with scribbled notes that he barely refers to.

4.  Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. – “I Have a Dream” – August 28, 1963 – an electrifying, sincere, and emotional presentation filled with striking metaphors and allegories that marks a transition in civil rights

5.  Jim Valvano – ESPY “Don’t Ever Give Up” – March 3, 1993 – filled with terminal cancer, the famous NC State basketball coach stirs the crowd with hope, passion, and humor

You may ask where are these American speeches?  Yes,  they are great, and likely in a “top 20,” but….

JFK inaugural address – January 20, 1961 – upbeat and enthusiastic, but disorganized, and one famous line does not make an entire speech famous

Abraham Lincoln Gettysburg Address – November 19, 1863 – we all memorized it, but our effort is why we probably think it is great

Richard Nixon “Checkers” Speech – September 23, 1952 – the first of many defiant and denial attempts by an elusive liar

Barbara Jordan addresses Democratic National Convention  –  July 12, 1976 – a remarkable address by a woman of color who left us way too soon, but she was the star, not the speech

What do you think?  Do you have other favorites?  Let’s talk about it really soon!

Alford Book is Revealing and Not Salacious

Over the last few weeks, you have undoubtedly heard the publicity surrounding the newsest revealed mistress during the presidency of John F. Kennedy

Her name is Mimi Alford, and over the past three weeks, she has appeared on practically every news and talk program that you can access.

I read her book this weekend.   It is entitled Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath (Random House, 2012).  You can read one of many reviews of the book here, published in the Wall Street Journal on February 13, 2012.

I found the book to be very personal, reflective, and insightful.  If you are looking for a “kiss-and-tell” book, it has those elements.  You will read the details of her first sexual encounter with JFK in Jackie’s bedroom, and how months later, he pressured her to perform oral sex on his key aide, Dave Powers.  But that is not what this book is about, nor does it focus on sex.

Instead, you will find a revealing narrative about key elements and events in the Kennedy administration through a different set of eyes.   Those are the eyes of a naive, but bright 19-year old White House intern.  I have read many books about Kennedy and his thousand days in office, and can honestly tell you that I read things here that I had not known before.  This book covers 18 months, from 1962-1963, and then, shifts to the rest of her life through two marriages.

She is now 68.  Her back cover picture makes her appear more attractive than what you see on talk shows.  You can find many of those interviews on YouTube if you want to see them, including her appearance on ABC’s The View, with its illustrative panel.

Is this worth buying and reading?  I think so.  It is overpriced at $25, in that it is less than 200 pages long.  But, I read enough.  I finished satisfied that my time was well-spent.

Maybe we have finally met the last JFK mistress.  At least, there are no other remaining footnotes or cryptically identified characters such as produced Mimi Alford.   Maybe not.  That’s not the point.

Her book gives us insight into an unsettling yet exciting time.  And, this book makes it clear she found both.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it really soon.