…I was just a boy, not quite ten years old, but I heard the grown folks when they talked about the young guy with the big ideas and different ways of doing things who happened to be President of the United States. Though it doesn’t seem like much nowadays, back then it was a big thing that he bothered to speak, even clandestinely, with people like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., about things that were pretty much not acknowledged publicly - like racial inequality.
Another thing the grown folks talked about was that young guy’s audacity in how he approached people and situations that he wasn’t supposed to be experienced enough to deal with; boldly, with a sense of history, progress, and great faith in people – or at least the better angels of our nature. A man of vision, energized by a sense that it was high time for great change, he’d gone to Berlin and addressed the people – Ich bin ein Berliner! – and continued to step into those places and do those things conventional wisdom declared were beyond him because of his age or his backfround and circumstance; though he was a decorated World War II hero, and despite his education at the best schools.
That man’s days ended in the Fall after his Berlin trip, and for me and many of those I grew up with, my country lurched into a pause with his untimely passing, and the time instead moved erratically backwards as that great progressive sea change which seemed promised to us – to the world – instead appeared on the stage as some hollow facsimile marked by dissension, repression, and the cynically expedient politics of false consensus, camouflaged by slogans and nationalistic fervor dangerously close to those horrors that characterized the myopic political economics that gave us two Great Wars during the 20th Century.
As I happened upon this stone monument in the museum campus I was suddenly aware of the sense that the time has returned when that great sea change might finally occur, or as Senator Barack H. Obama says “This is our time” – the time that lurched suddenly to a stop on a cool and sunny afternoon in Dallas Texas USA; when fear’s grip snaked and slipped silently around the throat of our consciousness and lingered there, with just enough pressure to remind us vaguely of its presence, just enough to color our impressions as we lay down our suddenly too-heavy hopes of brightness.
I recall that he was not my first choice – “he seems to be a good enough person, but -he didn’t wait his turn” – but he does seem to have stepped forward in our time - and Time waits for naught…