The thrill I felt as a young man voting foroh so long ago was palpably echoed 52 years later as I voted for for the second time.
Yes, this is personal reflection, deeply felt and embedded in the mind, psyche and heart of the writer, but one that yearns to be shared with anyone who will listen, and perhaps take heed of what we need to do as a people, as a nation.
If this seems like a paean to JFK and Barack Obama, so be it. I won't hide my feelings, or my intent - to offer a nugget of sincere gratitude to the two presidents who most influenced me, albeit a half-century apart.
In 1963, only three years after the incredibly patriotic and meaningful experience of casting his first vote, this journalist concluded one of his regular New Jersey Herald columns, a posthumous tribute to our slain leader, with these words:
"He never knew the hate that slew him."
Unfortunately, Barack Obama knows that hate all too well. It is offered freely from many sources, unchecked and unfettered.
However, just like JFK, Obama has chosen a path toward bringing a divided nation together. I hope he travels that path for the next four years safe from the haters.
That bridge of time that separates JFK and Barack Obama spans presidents, both good and bad, effective and ineffective, inspiring and dull. I believe that President Obama has been and can continue to be good, effective and inspiring.
It was JFK who propelled me into lifelong devotion to following and being involved professionally in politics. JFK's beacon lit my path to an almost three-decade career as a political adviser and campaign consultant to both Republicans and Democrats, including two GOP Congressmen and several New Jersey legislators.
JFK's example inspired me to offer my best input to elected officials and candidates of both parties as the situations and personnel warranted. They always had full knowledge of who I was and what I stood for, and that I would represent their interests, not mine (although thankfully they often asked for input about that).
They sought me out not because I am so wonderful, but because they knew I would be completely honest, and that if they didn't do anything unethical, immoral or criminal, I would help them.
Why am I writing this now? I've written five books since putting away my consulting career 10 years ago. It is because politics then were never then like they are now!
During the 1970s and 1980s, surviving in that ferocious, tough and partisan genre was demanding, but only to a point. I do not recall it ever being grossly uncivil, demeaning or cruel beyond limits, like now.
Bottom line: It is time to respect human dignity in politics! Fight, yes, but with unflagging integrity. Unmask an opponent, yes, but with facts not stretched beyond credulity. Tout one's self, yes, but by maximizing and not totally exaggerating the record.
Let's respect each other. Soothing words, of course, but is mutual respect possible? Well, this kid who grew up on the rugged streets of Brooklyn says yes, but he also knows it will take the combined will of all segments of this wounded nation.
And that is a struggle worth having.
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