Honey Fitz, John Kennedy's grandfather, represented
this misshapen 11th Congressional District in Boston
back when the iceman delivered a block of ice to
your door to keep food cold. The neighborhood was
poor, working class, Roman Catholic Irish and Italian.
Running for office here means you better be a
Democrat if you want to win. The real contest
was between the Irish and Italians.
Jim Curley was a loveable rogue. Getting elected
wasn't a problem. Staying out of trouble was.
Late in the '30's Depression Curley was convicted
of fraud and sent to prison. Once he was released
the voters of the 11th District sent him to Congress
in 1942, when war raged in Europe and the Pacific.
He hated being a Congressman, a nobody far
from home. Curley returned to Boston at war's end
and was promptly elected the city's mayor.
The man had a gift for sweet-talking the folks.
John Fitzgerald, champion backslapper.
He's a natural for politics. Persuasive.
Honey Fitz. Back in 1913 he was going
to be mayor of Boston. That's when the
bad blood started. It was loveable Jim Curley
that let the press in on this thing Honey Fitz
was having with a cigarette girl named Toodles.
Turns out he wasn't going to be mayor
of Boston, after all.
John Kennedy's wildly wealthy father, Joe.
His winnings came from shrewd Wall Street
investing but upper crust Brahmin Boston
excluded Irish blokes from their festivities.
Rumor had it Kennedy made his money from
bootlegging. Joe Kennedy's own political
ambitions were headed nowhere.
But he had big plans for his son, Joe Jr.
The man would be president one day.
Except his cherished oldest son was
blown apart during a high risk bombing
run over Nazi occupied France in WW2.
That left Jack.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy - JFK.
Lieutenant Kennedy, Jack, commanded his
torpedo-armed patrol boat in the enemy infested
Solomon Islands - where Guadalcanal was nestled.
From the ink of night a Japanese destroyer appeared,
and quickly sliced Kennedy's PT boat in half. Two of
the crew were killed instantly. Kennedy led the
survivors on a three and a half mile swim to an
uninhabited island. One man, too injured to swim,
was towed the entire way, bound in a strap that
was tightly gripped between Kennedy's teeth.
This action made the pages of Reader's Digest
with an article by John Hersey that would play
a role in Kennedy's first effort in democratic
It's a commitment, running for office.
Have you the conviction to stand out front
and say what you mean - take it to the people.
Have the voters decide. For keeps.
Even if they wind up going against
your wishes and vote you down,
you wouldn't change your message.
You say what you mean.
That doesn't change.
Can a wealthy Harvard graduate win the trust of the
working class poor? John Kennedy had his doubts.
He was reserved, shy actually - not your
backslapping, baby kissing sort of Dad's kind of
Democrat. Kennedy gave people a cool form
of likeable. He enthused them with ideas.
They understood his meaning and more often
than not they were sold. On the man.
Maybe you should run for something smaller.
You'd be a shoe-in for lieutenant-governor.
Joe Kennedy looked at Jack and concluded his
second son was too frail to run for Congress in 1946.
At times he had a yellow hue from persistent bouts
with malaria. His back injury sustained that
night in the Solomons often required him to
wear a brace. John Kennedy was so skinny
someone remarked he looked like a kid
wearing his father's suit.
Nonetheless, Kennedy won.
He attracted the best of people to him.
In his mind he wouldn't be long for any one
position until he made it to the White House.
Right now it felt like he was on his way.