Sections

Weather Forecast

Close
Advertisement

First President, first memories

Email Sign up for Breaking News Alerts

opinion Wadena, 56482

Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson, P.O. Box 31 56482

There was a lot of coverage this past week as our country recognized the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Although J.F.K. was President when I was born, my first memories of people who ran for office came from the 1968 presidential campaign. Most of the candidates came to Fargo that year, and I give credit my mom for taking me to Hector International Airport in Fargo to see them!

Advertisement
Advertisement

The 1968 presidential race was indeed a cloudy one. For the Democrats, President Lyndon Johnson had declared not to run after New York Senator Bobby Kennedy had announced that he would seek office two weeks earlier in March, 1968. On the Republican side, California Senator Richard Nixon was the front runner. There was a lot of unrest in the country after Dr. Martin Luther King had been killed in early April.

We lived in north Fargo, which is just minutes away from the airport. When my mom heard that Bobby Kennedy was going to make a quick campaign stop in Fargo, we decided to go.

It was a dark but pleasant spring night with crowds of people attending. Kennedy's plane landed and before he got out of the plane, there was some entertainment that consisted of some sort of dance troupe with baton twirlers and a small band with instruments. Then Kennedy got out of the plane and took several steps down to the ground. He received a loud welcome and made his way from the north side with just a single fence between him and the crowd. Mom and I were close to the fence in the second row back. A big fellow (I was only in first grade), who was probably a college student, saw me and asked if I would like to go on his shoulders to get a better look. Of course I took him up on his offer! Kennedy was still making his way toward us. I looked at the dark sky, then all around and realized I was higher off the ground than anyone else! It was at that point that I realized I had a very good chance to shake Kennedy's hand. Moments later, that is exactly what happened. He looked up, smiled at me, and asked "How are you doing, son?" I remember that he was wearing a nice suit and he had a tan and youthful presence about him. A few months later, he was killed in Los Angeles.

At that point, mom had no idea who she was going to vote for, but she had wanted to give me the opportunity to see the candidates that were national figures. I was now enjoying my summer vacation, looking forward to second grade in the fall. There was one more candidate mom had to see and he was Richard Nixon. Mom wanted to get a front row space at the airport, so, we left early. In fact, we must have been the first people there, and we found a spot right against the fence. It seemed like hours until Nixon arrived; I mean, here I was hanging with my mom during my summer vacation. Plus there was nothing for me to do while we were waiting. No smart phones or electronic games to play. Heck, back then, we did not even have cell phones! So, I actually had to spend all that time talking with my mom, which was not such a bad thing. Finally, Nixon's plane landed. His introduction was different - no baton twirlers of brass bands. Nixon also started from the north and made his way toward us. Although Nixon was right handed, I noticed he was trying to use his left hand more and had his right hand arched down as though he had an injury. I ended up shaking Nixon's right hand after all. The next day, I read the paper and there was a comment that the reason Nixon was shaking hands oddly was that he was trying to protect a blister that he had received from bowling.

These memories will last forever for me, thanks to my mom.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement