Saturday, June 22, 1961
Hanging over the balcony rail of New York’s Majestic Theater was an almost 12-year-old girl falling deeply, passionately in love for the very first time. Tales of the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson were juvenile; belief in tooth-hoarding pixies, egg-gifting rabbits and jolly old men who performed miracles on 34th Street had long departed, but what unfolded before her eyes rekindled an innocent longing for magic and faeries, romance and idealism. Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet transported her to Camelot, a kingdom where there was “simply not a more convenient spot for happily-ever-aftering…”
It wasn’t the marvelous Lerner and Lowe musical score, exquisite costumes or acting abilities of the award-winning cast (although it did give me a lifelong-crush on the inimical, gone-too-soon Burton) that captured my heart. It was the persuasion and promise of the theatrical premise. Maybe Camelot, a world where right took precedent over might, where shared at a round table with no ONE individual claiming totalitarian authority, social differences could be peacefully resolved by communication was not just a pretty pipe dream. Maybe it could really happen.
That possibility became more of a reality when in late 1960, the office of U.S. President was about to be vacated by battle-weary and war-beleaguered General Dwight David Eisenhower. In a national election that the American public could easily follow – and was totally befuddled by – via newsprint, radio AND television, we young people watched a youthful, charismatic, charming fellow narrowly defeat a dour, middle-aged man who seemed to us a mere extension of the same old-same old.
At the age of 43, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, beating Republican Richard Nixon by only 115,000 votes, took the oath of office as the 35th President of the United States on January 20, 1961.
Next: We listened and heeded the words of our own “King Arthur,” when his inaugural speech staunchly challenged us…