Since John F. Kennedy's death, there's been little presidential rhetoric that was not either bombastic and self-serving – Reagan's "tear down this wall" – or cringingly dishonest – Nixon's "I am not a crook" or Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." Which may be why JFK still inspires many, writes Beverly Bandler.
The special quality of John Fitzgerald Kennedy still defies those who would diminish him. He touched something in the American spirit. It lives on 51 years after his death.
And, in an era when many Democrats shy from a political fight and reject the "liberal" label as somehow too controversial, it is worth recalling the more courageous attitude of John F. Kennedy.
"What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label 'Liberal'?" Kennedy asked in accepting the New York Liberal Party's presidential endorsement in 1960. "If by a 'Liberal' they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a 'Liberal,' then I'm proud to say I'm a 'Liberal.'"