Tags Posts tagged with "President John F. Kennedy"

President John F. Kennedy

President Kennedy greets Peace Corps volunteers in 1961. Wikipedia

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Here is an idea that you may find goofy. It has to do with the unaccompanied young people hoping to enter the United States at our southern border and our sperm count crisis.

I don’t know how many of you remember when President John F. Kennedy called to our young and proposed the Peace Corps initiative exactly 60 years ago. How we responded stands as one of our finer moments as a nation. 

In that program, those wanting to make a difference in the world could volunteer to work in other countries on health campaigns, encourage entrepreneurship or teach English to name a few possible jobs. 

Today, the opportunity still exists to serve in over 141 countries (as of 2018), and what was required then still is: resiliency and heart. Those who entered the two-year program had appropriate skills and found the experience gratifying, even life changing.

Now I propose turning the idea on its head. The unaccompanied minors gathered at the border, mostly 16-to-17-year-old males, probably have little in the way of skills except for two assets: youthful energy and desperation. These are both of powerful value.

The government could offer them the following path into the country: They would agree to be assigned to families in different cities and towns and to help those families as directed. This proposition might be of particular aid in agricultural settings but certainly not limited to those. They would not be paid but would enter into a work-study program in which they might gain education, room and board. They would provide much needed work to those who have lost immigrant helpers on farms, in hospitality jobs and childcare, for example, over the past few years due to limitations on foreign workers imposed by the government. 

In return for their efforts, these young people would earn, in due time, a path to citizenship, just as there once was an offer to foreign-born males during WWII to enter the army in return for naturalization. There is still such a pathway today which they could eventually opt for.

A reverse Peace Corps program would require a complex administration in which the families offering such a position would be carefully vetted, as would the young people entering the country. And monitoring within the country would of necessity be in-depth and ongoing. The young people would have to be protected from gangs seeking to force them into their ranks, as well as from exploitive families. Duties would have to be carefully laid out, with hours and goals met. 

It occurs to me that there have been such immigration programs in history, most recently the Kindertransport that brought some 10,000 children up to the age of 17, whose lives were in mortal danger from Nazi atrocities, to England between 1938-1939. After the war, several thousand remained in Britain, and as adults “made considerable contributions to Britain’s services, industries, commerce, education, science and the arts for the defense, welfare and development of their country of adoption.” [Wikipedia.]

Now back to our own situation. Not unrelated, there has been a serious drop in births in the United States over the past half century, in part due to economic circumstances and even to declining sperm count as a result of ongoing pollution. We have learned from previous recessions that for every one percent increase in unemployment, there is a reduction of one percent in the birthrate. 

The current pandemic is anticipated to bring a baby bust, not a baby boom. Even before COVID-19, underpopulation was expected by some researchers, as our falling birthrate was most recently below the 2.1 babies per woman (2019) required to sustain our population through birth alone.

We are, after all, a nation of immigrants, and those seeking to enter our country, by and large, bring the aforementioned energy and grit, determined to realize the “American Dream.” They are an easy way to solve the need for more people. The ultimate goal here is for any such policy to be done according to the law.

Stock photo
Daniel Dunaief

By Daniel Dunaief

Last year at this time, I wrote a column celebrating words. I feel compelled to share another homage this year. This may start a new annual tradition. I hope you enjoy.

Words dart away, just out of reach, like a fish in the ocean, a butterfly in a meadow or a Frisbee lifted overhead by a sudden breeze.

Words emanate from nearby, startling us while we lay in bed, coaxing us to search the house, the closet, the garage for the source of elusive sounds.

Words give strength to our arguments, power to our convictions, and a method to share our hopes, desperation, dreams, fears, needs, wants and cravings.

Individually and collectively, words enable us to invite others to share experiences.

Words form the backbone of a democracy always challenged by new words, concepts, people and ideas.

When we hold an infant, listen to the sound from the air leaving the lungs of a whale surfacing nearby or gaze from the top of a volcano at the rising sun over the horizon, we hope the words we choose to describe what we see, feel and experience bring us back to these magic moments.

Words grow into unmanageable bundles as jargon triggers a metamorphosis that confounds and clutters their meaning, turning them into a sesquipedalian mess — that is the practice of using long-winded, obscure words.

Words tell tales, show emotions and reach out across time from generations long since past, urging us to pay attention and learn lessons from those who came before.

We select rhyming words that sing like chirping birds. 

Words make us laugh, offering a salve to suffering and transportation out of intransigence.

When we can’t understand something, we name it, giving a word to the unknown that allows us to refer to something in the cosmos, in our minds or buried under our fingernails. Ancient Romans used words to construct fantastic stories about the stars, the heavens and the gods, who exhibited a wide range of emotions that seemed remarkably human.

We remember the words from our favorite movies: “May the force be with you” (“Star Wars”) and “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship” (“Casablanca”). And from our favorite presidents, such as John F. Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” (1961) or Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (1933).

We carry with us the words that mean the most from our own lives. We don’t need to check them at the airport when we are in group 9, stuff them in an overstuffed backpack when we go to school or keep them from getting waterlogged when the evapotranspiration cycle decides to dump rain, sleet, hail or snow upon us. We remember the person so critical to our existence that he or she “ruined us for all other” men or women.

The words that elevate, inspire and encourage us to do and be our best allow us to stand straighter and taller, enabling us to wear a cryptic smile that those who know us best perceive immediately.

Words give us hope, help us believe in ourselves and allow us to feel connected to someone halfway across the world.

We pause from uttering words during moments of silence, as we pay respect with the unspoken words in our minds.

We are surrounded by paper thin walls of meaningless, angry, spiteful, hateful words. We can combat those messages with words that reflect the best of us and our country. Words fill the toolbox with the parts to build the world as we choose.

As you ponder words that matter at this time of year, I’d like to wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, left, guards then-Senator John Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. Photo by Kevin Redding.

As soon as you set foot in the second-floor town hall office of Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R), you’re absorbed by the New York City cop-turned-public servant’s accomplished and historic career, on full display in frames and cases around the room. 

“You’ve got to take a look at these walls,” the 86-year-old says proudly, from behind his wooden desk.

Dozens of black-and-white photos of famous politicians, public figures and entertainers from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s decorate the walls, all of which feature a younger yet instantly recognizable Vecchio, side-by-side with everyone from astronaut John Glenn to Queen Sikrit of Thailand to Marlon Brando to Prince Charles to Sammy Davis Jr.

The photo that stands above the others, both in placement and impact, is the giant one that hangs on the wall behind his desk, which shows then-Senator John F. Kennedy (D) and Jackie Kennedy sitting on the back of a convertible waving to a Manhattan crowd while a 30-year-old Vecchio, serving in a special security squad that protected visiting dignitaries, stands alongside the vehicle patrolling his surroundings.

“That was October 1960, a week before he [Kennedy] was elected president, in the lower end of Broadway,” Vecchio recalled.

Vecchio works at his Smitthown office. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a member of the Bureau of Special Services from 1959 to 1966, the Smithtown supervisor said he was assigned to Kennedy on numerous occasions when he was senator, president-elect and president, as he visited New York often. Overall, Vecchio said he guarded Kennedy — whom he considers one of his favorite presidents — about 10 times.

“Occasionally, he would go to a play in Manhattan and so three or four Secret Service men, myself and others would go with him to the play,” he said. “He would come into the city, sometimes alone, and his plane would land at Marine Air Terminal at LaGuardia and he would go directly to the Carlisle Hotel.”

While Kennedy and Vecchio never exchanged words, as the young New York City cop took his job providing security very seriously, he said he remembers Kennedy well.

“I could describe him as my mother once did: He looked like a Ken doll, Barbie’s boyfriend,” he said with a laugh. “I always remember he had a golden tan, he was slim and tapered, and he would smile and give a nod to all around him as he entered or left a room.”

Before Kennedy, Vecchio guarded President Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) in late 1959 and early 1960, to whom he was introduced personally. The photo of them standing shoulder-to-shoulder hangs on the wall.

“I have a vivid memory of Ike coming down the elevator inside The Waldorf Astoria New York hotel in Manhattan,” Vecchio said. “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn and the Secret Service agent, a guy from Queens who headed the Secret Service at that time, said to the president, ‘Mr. President, this is detective Vecchio, he’s been on board with us for three days,’ and Eisenhower reached over and shook my hand.”

Vecchio said he couldn’t help but be elated.

“Let me tell you, for a young guy from Brooklyn never having seen a president, no less meet a president, for him to shake my hand was just … awesome,” he said. “I was [starstruck]. The only other person there was the general that accompanied him … so it’s just me, the president of the United States, the general and a few Secret Service men.”

It was in 1967 that Vecchio moved to Long Island and served as head security of former New York City Mayor John Lindsay, who would help steer him into politics. From there, Vecchio went on to make his own impact as a leader, starting in 1978 when he was appointed Smithtown supervisor.