‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ er hat gesagt

JFK and my mother (maybe!)

I always think of the late, great, President JFK in November. It is the month when we remember the dead after all, but his anniversary on the 22nd always attracts media attention from which there is little escape.

Growing up, my mother often recounted the story of the day she went into Dublin city centre just to catch a glimpse of the dashing American President, a gust of glamour to these shores. Ironically, years later I met President Bill Clinton in Dublin, a man sculpted in the likeness of Kennedy, the same twinkle in the eye, the similar drawl of the accent, the glossy American-ness of the man; I even got to shake his hand and be on the receiving end of that famous eye contact. The fact that I was wearing a pair of trousers that had split open at the seam where only trousers can split open, is a detail to this story that will remain with me forever and I’m sure will remain in the memories of the very handsome FBI agents who were guarding Clinton at the time. Let’s just say there was much hilarity on the sixth floor of the Guinness Storehouse as President Clinton made his shiny way to the Gravity Bar. The trousers in question were by a reputable Irish designer who shall remain nameless. I kept my back close to the wall, an FBI agent either side of me, ‘guarding my trousers’ they said, sides shaking with laughter, and I shook the great man’s hand.

Years later, I was wandering around the Kennedy homestead in New Ross, Co. Wexford, run by relations of JFK, who bear more than a passing resemblance to him and I saw this photo and really, it is a complete and utter assumption, but I’m sure that is my mother waving in the centre. And if it’s not, I’d like to believe it is. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. Suddenly, a tangible image to all those stories down through the years was in front of me. The homestead is a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon if you ever find yourself in New Ross and the eternal flame, Irish style, is on the quay in the town centre, a nod to the flair and style of Jackie Kennedy; it was her idea to place an eternal flame in Arlington cemetery and the Irish flame was taken from there.

It is fifty-four years now since his death, yet he’s still arrestingly handsome, the footage of the assassination still heartstoppingly gruesome, the facts still shrouded in mystery all these years later despite President Trump unsealing some of the confidential files.

JFK – like Princess Diana, their youth and glamour lent an impenetrable shield of armour which deflected any dents to their reputations, rumours simply bounced off it. They will remain forever young, forever golden, forever beautiful. They were and still are poster children for their respective dynasties, those that came after seem colourless by comparison. They both carried pain in their bodies but it was never visible on their faces; their beauty was so overwhelming, so blinding, it made it impossible to see beyond it. It simply dazzled away the bad news. His story is still captivating, as is hers. They blazed through their lives, often wreaking havoc domestically, politically, nationally, internationally, larger than life, their impact so immense the world stopped when their lives did.

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