I had a very unique opportunity to ask Admiral David G. Throop, who is the United States Coast Guard’s Force Readiness Commander (FORCECOM) a question when he came and visited a school I was at with the Coast Guard, right around this time last year. When I asked him, “Admiral, what would you recommend for a book to young leaders of this service?” he was stumped. He said, “You’re going to need to give me a minute. Hmmm…” I awaited anxiously as I waited for a decorated officer share his wisdom to me, a young BM3 at the time. He said, “I would highly recommend Killing Kennedy. It really exposes how a young president, a young leader, needed to overcome his mistakes from the Bay of Pigs, and regain the trust of Congress, his cabinet, and the nation.”
I was sold.
I read, “Killing Kennedy” and absolutely loved it. I couldn’t put that damn book down, and I am not a reader by any means. That book created an obession I never thought I would have towards a president. JFK, to me, is the most infatuating president this country has ever had, and it upsets me when you realize that someone who was finally settling into a groove, was taken from us all too soon.
I am now reading “JFK’s Last 100 Days” which is only feeding my obsession with the guy. Everyone seems to describe him as this man that had nothing but charisma. His smile would light up a room. He wasn’t the tallest guy in the room, but he would command the room with such a presence that he may as well have been the tallest guy there. He had handsome eyes, that gave a sense that he truly was listening to you. These are all character traits I want to possess. Jack had this ability to have everyone listen to him, even when he wasn’t speaking.
Some of this comes with being President of the United States, seeing as you’re well the president and you have your own dedicated press corps following you around reporting your every waking movement. But the things that made John Fitzgerald Kennedy, JFK, were something that he was inherently born with. He simply had it.
I never realized how incredible this guy was. I didn’t know he served in the Navy and not only served but was attacked by a Japanese submarine and had to lead his men to safety, and figure out how to save his crew and himself. He swam five miles, with a badly burned crew member on his back, while holding onto his life jacket by his teeth. He was mutilated by coral reefs, and extremely dehydrated from swallowing so much salt water. And he persevered. He saved his crew and himself, and that to me was just some foreshadowing for what was to come for the young president.
JFK to me is what every man should aspire to be. He has these traits, that make men, well men. A handsome smile. Style. Hair always done perfectly. The ability to make you feel like he is talking directly to you and you only. Commanding a room’s attention from simply walking in. All masculine traits that in my mind, make JFK the most interesting man. He also was extremely sensitive, but you never wanted to cross paths with him. He was a true icon of masculinity, in his perfectly pressed Brooks Brothers suits and crisp polo shirts. He just had that swagger that, when all of these traits combined, just made him so, perfect. JFK was the guy. He was the dude. He’s the kind of guy that was a man’s man, something that really doesn’t exist anymore with my generation. He served his country, he knew how to sail, he was smooth with the ladies. Trait after trait, I can’t help but think he was everything a man should be.
Now I am sure a lot of you are saying, “But wait a minute, he was a womanizing bastard who constantly cheated on his wife.” Well, you’re not wrong. Jack was one horny son of a bitch, with an insatiable desire for sex, and usually with someone who wasn’t his wife. This kind of plays into my obsession of the guy. Someone who married an absolutely beautiful woman, and had been elected into the highest office, only to need to have the Secret Service constantly watching his back to prevent stories of his infidelity being leaked. This is the dark side of Jack that I love. Someone who literally seemed so perfect, was human just like the rest of us, and had some sort of vice. I suppose his was being an unfaithful husband.
But during 1963, before Jackie gave birth to their third child, Patrick, the couple seemed to be more in love with each other than ever before. The pregnancy seemed to be bringing Jack back on track and he wanted to be a devout husband and father. Unfortunately for the president and his wife, Patrick passed away when he was born five weeks prematurely suffering from hyaline membrane disease (what is now known as respiratory distress syndrome). This was the last thing the first couple needed.
His ability to carry on after losing his son Patrick, and run a country, to me is nothing short of incredible. Many people shut down, forever crippled by something so severe, and yet to me, Kennedy and his wife, were able to carry on picking up right where he left off when he returned to the White House. It is that ability to come back from something so devastating and realizing you still have a job to complete is something more young men need to have instilled in them. Life is not going to be easy or be terribly fair, and look how life treated the first family. Literally the most horrific thing that could happen to a couple happened to the President and his wife, displaying how no one is immune to the tragedies of life. It is how you get back up on your feet after such a horrific event that defines you as a man, and JFK really exemplified that.
JFK came from a family that wouldn’t allow crying in the house. His father was horrifically abusive, and permanently disabled one of Jack’s sisters. And yet someone so compassionate, and someone so intriguing was able to become the President of the United States out of what I would think was a horrible environment.
In 1963, JFK was really beginning to flourish as a leader, and as a great president, to only be taken from the nation all too soon, when he was shot on the 22nd of November, 1963, leaving the nation asking itself, “What if” for years to come.