we were too liberal to be happy with President Eisenhower and, our other choice, Adlai Stevenson, was too cerebral for us. Of course, my parents, being FDR Democrats, loved Stevenson but we needed someone in between.
In 1960, that man came along and he was John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He had the popular appeal of Eisenhower and was also very intelligent, being a Harvard-educated United States Senator from Massachusetts. He was young and good looking and smart and had a terrific sense of humor. He was our man!
...We didn't think Senator Kennedy stood much of a chance and that only made us work harder.
...My friend, Mary Hewes Schmitt, and I distributed flyers and pamphlets and hoped for the best. Mary had five children and I had four but we did what campaigning we could on behalf of our candidate. It took some gumption to wear a giant Kennedy button on your blouse when you went to Main Street. People stared and remarked that we were on the wrong side, but we ignored their taunts and went on asking people to change their minds and vote for Kennedy.
Election day 1960 came and we were up all night waiting to hear the final results. In the very early hours of the morning Richard Nixon conceded the election and JFK was the president-elect.
Mary and Fred and Roy and I were ecstatic. We couldn't believe it. Kennedy had actually won the election. The New Frontier was the direction our country was going to take....
"I thought back to the 1960 election and how much John Kennedy’s victory meant for me as a child growing up in an almost exclusively Irish-Catholic neighborhood in Philadelphia," Butler said. "Most Wabash students might be surprised to hear this, but in the 1960s, Catholics were, to an extent, on the margins of society. Kennedy’s success, with all his enormous gifts, meant that we, too, had arrived. We were really a full part of America. I can imagine that many African-Americans will experience the same kind of joy this year."
When Kennedy was elected, it was a joyful moment in my home as my parents celebrated the victory as theirs. They had faith that a new era of inclusion was being ushered in, and the sadness of seeing those hopes so tragically truncated haunts me to this day.