Author: Peter McKenna
Publisher: New Fronter Publishing
With the US election coming in November, its is no surprise to see new tomes appearing in bookstores and online about past presidents. Into the fray steps Peter McKenna with All His Bright Light Gone: The Death of John F. Kennedy And The Decline of America.
In the Prologue McKenna sets the tone for this excellent and informative book by realizing, after reading a speech made by Kennedy at a dinner in 1962 honoring Nobel Prize winners, that it is possible to convey a complex, meaningful thought with a mere handful of words. He furthers sums up Kennedy's purpose as not political or pandering to voters but rather that of inspiring the citizens of the USA to admire men who used their minds to improve the human condition. Succinctly, he was celebrating intellect and accomplishment, attributes that up to that point McKenna had never considered important. As pointed out, the USA began as a democratic republic and it was Kennedy's strong belief that it remain as such which led him to preserve and protect the principles of government that make the republic strong. As McKenna reminds us, he brought them to life for the American people and that was his genius.
We have to pose the question, and which is dealt with in the book, how many presidents after Kennedy celebrated these two virtues? Under Kennedy's leadership, would the USA have suffered a crisis comparable to the horrendous meltdown of 2008? McKenna maintains that Kennedy was too sophisticated to have allowed a massive collapse of the U.S. economy. He states that the the loss of Kennedy's overall approach to government has changed this country more profoundly than is commonly believed. Without his kind of leadership, the United States has become a bewildered nation, awash in childish political bickering and unable to resolve or even intelligently address the political and social issues that determine the quality of our lives.
The book divides itself into four parts, beginning with an historical context of Kennedy's formative years which is followed with the birth of a public servant, the nation Kennedy was building and the nation we became without Kennedy. Within these sections McKenna addresses a multitude of themes that try to come to grips with a better understanding of how Kennedy gained the wisdom to make America an enlightened nation.
Did Kennedy leave behind enduring gifts or merely a few years of style and glamor? Was he a great president or, as some have argued, a great pretender? Unfortunately, the long term consequences of losing Kennedy has never been confronted and the harm addressed by some of the presidents who succeeded him have gone largely unaddressed. As McKenna rightfully asserts: “without much opposition, his successors have transformed the United States into a nation controlled by the wealthy, a plutocracy in which corporations are considered the equal of human beings. In the process, the political system bequeathed to us by the Founding Fathers has become secondary and dysfunctional.”
There is no denying McKenna's thoroughness when it comes to research concerning the Kennedy years as evidenced from the five pages comprising the bibliography which has helped us to have a better understanding of the experiences and sometimes misunderstood life of a great president. Moreover, the book raises deep questions concerning not only Kennedy's legacy but how the USA has arrived at the situation where there is on a daily basis insane rhetoric mouthed by ignorant individuals who pander to fear and narrow minded held convictions common to certain elements of the population.