It wasn’t even your idea.
If you’d had your druthers, in fact, you would’ve chosen another course of action but the decision was out of your control. The situation was picked not by you but for you and though it wasn’t your idea, you’ll press on. As in the new book “Incomparable Grace” by Mark K. Updegrove, there’s no option but you’ll do your best.
It was blisteringly cold on the day that John F. Kennedy was inaugurated. After he took the oath, he removed much of his cold-weather wear to give a brief speech; afterward, he departed for various celebrations while his wife, who’d recently given birth, retired to rest.
“Jack” hadn’t initially wanted the job of President, and he wasn’t originally supposed to have it. According to his father, Jack’s eldest brother was perfect for office but when Joe Jr. was killed in World War II, Joe Sr.’s focus turned to Jack. All nine of the Kennedy children grew up with the idea that politics were essential to the family, so while Jack seemed sometimes to grouse about this assumption that he wanted to be President, he ultimately embraced it.
Insiders say that he was driven, always wanting to be in “the center of the action,” and for this, Americans gave him stellar approval ratings. But within weeks of the inauguration in 1961, JFK was faced with his first crisis in the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. He had to deal with a growing Civil Rights Movement that year, and unrest in Vietnam as well as troubles with Russia and East Germany. His own health issues plagued him, as did his father’s.
The following year was no better: early in 1962, Kennedy tangled with steel executives and the media wasn’t kind. The South boiled with Civil Rights issues; the Kremlin and Cuba forced him to face a real possibility of nuclear war. And during all this, his health issues worsened, and Kennedy was in pain nearly all the time.
He would not see the end of 1963…
In the past near-60 years, hundreds, if not thousands of books about the Kennedy assassination have packed bookshelves tight. “Incomparable Grace” touches upon that event briefly, but only after taking readers back and around.
Certainly, author Mark K. Updegrove shows that his subject possessed the trait that gives this book its title but still, it isn’t lavishly complimentary to the Kennedy legacy. While other political players circa 1955 to 1964 make their appearances here, JFK’s presidency – including his mistakes and trials – is the focus of this book, which helps to remind readers that there wasn’t a perpetually-glossy sheen to Camelot. Hints of what could have happened, in fact, seem to hover just on the edge of some paragraphs; so do more than a few great anecdotes that will make historians grin with delight.
Readers may also be surprised to see that nothing is new in politics – there are parallels for the drawing here, fascinating evidence remains and for history-lovers, reading “Incomparable Grace” is a good idea.
For another scenes-before-the-White-House, look for “Growing Up Biden” by Valerie Biden Owens (Celadon Books, $28.00). It’s a great memoir of Owens’ big brother, his career, and how his life-long passion for politics has shaped her own life.