Saturday, December 08, 2012

signing jfk

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.


Andean said...

Some of the best gifts have little, or no monetary value. But are often the most memorable.

Al said...

He spoke at Marshfield, too. Probably on the same swing through Oregon, but I don't remember. I don't remember the content of the speech, either, but I do recall that Jackie was with him.

Felipe Zapata said...

When I was a teenager, I wrote Bertrand Russell, and he replied, so I had his autograph too. I saved it for years, but I have no idea where it ended up.

Steve Cotton said...

It would be an interesting artifact to frame.

Steve Cotton said...

For some reason.she did not take me with her. Even at 10, I would have enjoyed the experience.

jennifer rose said...

When I was in 3rd grade, I wrote President Eisenhower, and he sent me an autographed photograph. I thought it was pretty cool -- until a few years later when I learned about the autopen.

Steve Cotton said...

I suspect most of the photographs on my former office wall were either auto-signed or inern-signed. One exception is my WFB piece that he signed at dinner in Corvallis.

Bob said...

Kennedy must have flunked Penmanship.

Steve Cotton said...

Looking at other ample autographs, it seems to have been his style.