Presidential Memories and Today’s Local Politics - Is laughter the best medicine for politics?

By Connie Conley | September 15, 2015 | Though Election 2016 is 14 months away, with The Donald and Hillary in the news everyday...

By Connie Conley | September 15, 2015 |

Though Election 2016 is 14 months away, with The Donald and Hillary in the news everyday and the subject of late-night jokes, I began thinking about when I really started to pay attention to the President of the United States.  It was President John F. Kennedy. 

JFK will be remembered for many things including the Cuban missile crisis, NASA, the Peace Corps, his personal life, and one of which may or may not surprise you, his uncanny sense of humor.  That is the focal point of this Op-Ed.

Oh, as with any President, JFK had his failures, but our Country’s youngest elected president with his charisma and his beautiful young wife, both left a legacy that will be emulated throughout time. [The youngest person to assume the Presidency was Theodore Roosevelt (age 42), who became president following William McKinley's assassination.]

JFK’s famous adages fill the quote websites, but I will only pick a few that resonate even today; ones that reflect his keen wit and perfect timing. 

Elk Grove News has had several articles, and subsequent comments, about the Elk Grove City Council and what some believe to be the “buying of votes.”  When JFK was faced with the same criticism during the 1960 campaign when political foes in the press and opponents complained about his wealth, he simply replied, "I just received the following wire from my generous Daddy.  'Dear Jack, Don't buy a single vote more than is necessary.  I'll be damned if I am going to pay for a landslide.’"

Or when he was highly criticized for nepotism after appointing his brother Robert F. Kennedy Attorney General, he responded, “I see nothing wrong with giving Robert some legal experience as Attorney General before he goes out to practice law." 

Of course in modern day politics, the reality is there appears to be both the buying of votes and nepotism – both of which might be reasons for such apathy and distrust, especially at the State and local level, as we have seen recently from former California Senators Ron Calderon, Rod Wright, and Leland Yee.  In Elk Grove, some believe we are at an ethical low point involving some projects covered recently on this news website.

Today’s local politicians could also take a lesson in humility from JFK.  He always shied away from talking about World War II and being a war hero.  So when he received a question from a young boy asking, “How did you become a war hero?”  Kennedy simply responded, “It was absolutely involuntary. They sunk my boat."  There is nothing worse or destructive in politics than an overgrown ego that we have seen here in Elk Grove.

JFK put wit into politics with his self-deprecating humor.  We don’t see much humor in politics these days – maybe because the politicians themselves are the jokes – or the torch has been passed to comedians like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

I think most people will say that the public’s view of politics, even at the local level, has taken a nose dive.  What was true with JFK, and is true today, people want positive leadership with honest messaging.  Humor can help deliver that message. 

Isn’t it true that you remember something that made you laugh?  People are better informed these days, both in local and national politics.  I just heard a quote yesterday from Judge Judy that speaks directly to this statement and made me laugh out loud, “People aren’t stupid.  They can tell when you are peeing on their leg and telling them it’s raining.”

History has shown us that some of our best leaders have proven you can be both a successful leader and be witty and humorous once in a while.  JFK knew the line between being a constant wisecracker and when to display his uncanny wit which is why he was so effective.

As the wise Willy Wonka once put it: “A little nonsense, now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.”

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The vocal minority said...

Our so-called local leaders have plenty of humility and lack of ego. After all, you have to stoop pretty low to incorporate as a source of municipal financing--and to talk about it in the "People's House"!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Connie. Well written and a pleasure. I wish I knew you.

Now, I am going to read some books about JFK. It's time I knew more about him.

Any recommendations for which books to start with?

Connie said...

To Anon at 18:51: Thank you for the compliment. Many of us pen OpEds and Dan of EGN is kind enough to post them. It is a good avenue in which to share thoughts and opinions, especially on local government issues, whether one agrees or not. Opposing OpEds are even better!

The first book I read was “Profiles in Courage” written by JFK. It was wonderful. The book I would recommend about JFK – I didn’t need to read all the books about the assassination, as it was a special class in high school, complete with the Zapruder film and all the movies since then, is “Conversations with Kennedy,” written by Benjamin Bradlee, former famous editor of The Washington Post. They were close friends and off-the-record confidants. Outstanding educational read!

Anonymous said...

15:28...I agree, that was pretty low. We've had mention of 2 other Sister Cities and we don't even have a New City Committee for the one we have. Perhaps even a list of volunteers, letters of support from local organizations and businesses, a proposal for programs & activities and maybe even a budget might have been a good idea. Does the city just pick a Sister City and then step aside, no further obligations on their end.

Laughter may be the best medicine for politics, but that's becoming much harder here in the city.

Steve L said...

To Anon 18:51;

If you'd like to see who JFK really was, check out his June. 1963 commencement speech at American University in Washington. You can find it on You Tube. The speech was all about striving for world peace and ceasing nuclear weapons proliferation for the benefit of future generations.

It was a very unpopular speech to those in the US military-industrial complex who thought of JFK as a coward. This based on his failure to provide US air support during the Bay of Pigs, his failure to nuke Russia and/or Cuba during the missile crisis, the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, and National Security Action memorandum 263, scheduled to go into effect after the 1964 election, which would have ordered the withdrawl of ground forces from VietNam in '64 and '65.

If you're a conspiracy theorist regarding JFK's assassination, many say this speech was the final straw that led to JFK's death. Look to those who later benefitted from VietNam War to see who could be behind the deed. If you are interested in reading about the assassination, I highly recommend,"JFK and the Unspeakable" by James Douglas. He makes a very compelling argument.

JFK did have a very keen and subtle sense of humor. We could use some of that from our politicians today, both nationally and locally.

Thanks for reminding me of this CC. - Good Op-Ed.

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