And now it's the new JFK, as in John Forbes Kerry

This article originally appeared in the June 1, 1971 issue of Boston After Dark.
By JOE KLEIN  |  January 31, 2013


"Out of the chaos and heartache of the past year comes a voice of such great reasoning and strength – John Kerry. Oh, I hope the young hear him and keep him so he may one day lead them and this nation in Peace."

– from a letter to the Boston Globe

"The trouble with John Kerry is that he's never really gotten over the fact that his initials are JFK."

– a member of Vietnam Vets Against the War

The middle-aged woman with hair the color of a spoiled tomato was hovering over John Forbes Kerry as he sat at his desk in the basement of his Waltham home. She was almost panting.

"Please, Mr. Kerry, please. Could you sign these for my nieces?" she asked, handing him two copies of his speech before the Senate Relations Committee.

He started scrawling, "For Peace, John F. Kerry" when the phone rang and he answered. "Yes, this is he ...; Sure, I'd be glad to do an interview...; Only let's not make it personal, let's talk about the veterans ...; No, I don't have any plans... I really don't ... But the veterans have some very important things planned for this summer."

The phone conversation was over and the speeches were signed, but the woman was still standing there, clutching her purse with white knuckles. "Mr. Kerry. There's one other thing. Could you tell me who you think the five men you admire most are?"

"Huh?" Kerry looked up at her. "That I most admire? Why?"

"It's for my niece. She's a sophomore in high school and she has to write this term paper on important men."

"Yes, but why me?"

"Well," said the woman. "My niece thinks you're going to be a very important man some day. I do too."

"The five most important men, huh?" Kerry repeated, still a little off balance. "Well, uh, I guess I'd have to say Churchill...;Disraeli...;" He laughed. "I don't know. Johann Sebastian Bach."

Kerry looked warily at the reporter sitting across the desk and said, "Maybe I'd better write them down."

When the woman left, Kerry swirled around in his chair and looked at the piles of messages, yellow legal pads with scrawled notes, clippings, and said, "See? That's what it's been like. The telephone and all these people. I never expected it would be like this ...; All they ask me is whether I'm going to run for something. How the hell should I know? I don't have any plans. I've decided I just want to work for the veterans."

In the entire state of Massachusetts and perhaps, in the entire nation, John Kerry may be the only one who really believes that last statement.

Within a week after he helped lead the Vietnam Veterans Against the War to Washington and made his now-famous speech to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the political seers had John Kerry running against Edward Brooke for Senate in 1972, running for Governor in 1974, running for Congress from no less than three districts, and some of the more modest seers had him knocking on the door of the state legislature.

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  Topics: Flashbacks , Boston Globe, JFK, Kerry
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