In 1960 my mother took a speech course.
Oregon was a perfect practical laboratory for a young mother interested in improving her public speaking technique. The Democrat primary election was drawing all of the major contenders to our small state -- one of the few states where cigar-chomping bosses did not control the system.
Lyndon Johnson had cornered a large number of delegates selected by party bosses. John Kennedy could stop him only by winning in the few states that chose delegates through primary elections.*
That was why Kennedy was in Oregon in April. Speaking at Milwaukie High School.
My mother's speech class attended. As a practicum. After all, what better way to learn public speaking than from political masters of manipulation?
She was not impressed. Kennedy was personable. But his policies ran up against her Republican filters. Filters that had been in place since Lincoln.
After the speech, Kennedy did what he did well. Connected directly with the crowd. Mom tore paper out of her notebook, and asked Kennedy for two autographs. One for me. One for my brother.
For years mine sat on a bookcase in my boyhood bedroom. Then on a display case at my first house.
When I moved to Salem in 1993, I lost track of it. Just like my Mel Blanc autograph. And it turned up in the same way this month. Stuffed in the bottom of a box.
For now, I have put it aside. It has almost no monetary value. The countryside is littered with similar autographs.
But it is a gift from my mother. And that is what makes it valuable.
* -- Kennedy's campaigning made a difference. He took 51% of the vote in Oregon's winner-take-all primary. Besting favorite son Wayne Morse at 32%. Kennedy's most credible rival in the primaries, Hubert Humphrey, garnered only 6% of the vote.