A sail taut in the wind

A sail taut in the wind

Sailing and the sea were great loves of John F. Kennedy and they are symbolised on the Boston waterfront in his elegant presidential library and museum, designed by the great architect I. M. Pei.

At the entrance of the museum, I pass under a towering sail-like frontage which stands as if taut in the wind. Curved white stone come close to the entrance, like waves lapping at a great yacht.

A mostly chronological path takes me past the paraphernalia for the 1960 election campaign he fought against Richard Nixon, who I learn with surprise, was a friend of Kennedy’s in the early years of their political careers.

As I journey through the White House years I see the hand-written notes of the president, including in red pen the phonetic version of the key words Ich bin ein Berliner (I am a Berliner) that he delivered in a key speech to citizens of a city surrounded by Soviet troops.

Simply framed is the typed manuscript of JFK’s speech I remember hearing when a boy, telling the world of his decision to “quarantine” Cuba from Soviet ships bearing nuclear weapons. Nearby are gowns once worn by the president’s elegant wife, Jacqueline.

President John Kennedy and Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy with the Shah of Iran and his wife, the Shahbanu

President John Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy with the Shah of Iran and his wife, the Shahbanu (photo on display)

In the museum’s replica of the office of his brother, Attorney-General Robert F. Kennedy,  who himself was assassinated five years later. I scoot around the side of his desk and plant myself down on his chair, but there is no opportunity in the “Oval Office” to sit in JFK’s rocking chair.

A corridor more narrow than the others somehow captures the shock, horror and grief that I still recall from November 22, 1963 when the president was assassinated. Soon  I am in the legacy section which displays  highlights of JFK’s career and those of his brothers Robert and Edward.

A view from the bow

A view from the bow

I emerge into a spacious pavilion that juts out into the seawater, serving as the bow of this most gracious of museums.

As if a sail in the wind

As if a sail in the wind

A convex curve of the building behind is like a sail, this time bending in the wind.

A gown and hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy.

A gown and hat worn by Jacqueline Kennedy.

The words of President Kennedy engraved in marble.

The words of President Kennedy engraved in marble.

The bow of the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.The bow of the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.