Profile in Courage – Standing for life is doing the right thing and that takes courage.
Over the years since his assassination, we have learned a great deal about the private life of President John F. Kennedy, much of it salacious and scandalous. A lot has been written about his political associations and strategies, his foreign policies, the secret deals to promote the interests of the United States around the world. In both cases, the private and public life of the president, it is hard to know what is true and what is false.
Like most people we could honestly say that President Kennedy was a complex mix of motives, character, and vision. And among this mix was also a profile in courage and this courage was not a marketing gimmick to promote his career. Kennedy was truly a courageous man, and the story of his courage is well known and was reported, not by him, but by those he saved.
On the web site Military.com, Blake Stilwell tells the story of Kennedy’s military heroism during World War II. In April 1943, Lt. Kennedy was stationed in the Solomon Islands, commanding twelve crewmen on PT-109. In the darkness at about 2am on Aug. 1, 1943, the Japanese destroyer Amagiri hit PT-109 on its starboard side, cutting the boat in two. Two crewmen were killed instantly, and two others were thrown into the ocean. Kennedy dove into the flaming water surrounding the wreck and pulled three crewmen aboard what was left of the boat. The Amagiri departed the scene, and Kennedy with his 10 remaining crew held on to the floating bow of PT-109 for the next 12 hours.
They drifted toward Plum Pudding Island, a small uninhabited island that was 3.5 miles from their position. Clinging to the debris, most of the crew kicked its way to the island. One of the survivors, Patrick McMahon, was critically wounded with burns over 70% of his body, he was unable to swim. McMahon was put in a life jacket, and Kennedy, with the life-jacket strap clenched between his teeth, swam his crewman to the safety of the island, a four-hour effort. It was all for naught, however. Though the crew was safe from drowning, Plum Pudding Island offered no food or water.
Kennedy's swimming ability became critical for the next few days. Despite his chronic back pain, he swam to try to hail passing American PT boats. He then led the hungry and thirsty crew on a nearly four-mile swim to Olasana Island, which had edible coconuts. Kennedy made the trip with McMahon's life-vest strap in his mouth once more. He then swam to Naru Island with another crewman, where he found an abandoned canoe with some food and a drum of water left by the Japanese. Kennedy paddled the canoe to his men on Olasana. For six days, they subsisted on a few coconuts, the captured food and rainwater caught on leaves. On Aug. 5, two native Melanesians discovered the survivors, and, thanks to their efforts, the crew was rescued on Aug. 8. When John F. Kennedy was asked about what he did to become a hero in the Pacific War in 1943, he responded by saying, "It was involuntary. They sank my boat."
A second time JFK showed what it meant to “Rise above” and “Be a man for others,” happened over 13 days in October 1962. After informing and consulting living past presidents, congressional leaders, and world leaders, on the 22nd, October 1962 President Kennedy announced to the people of the United States and the world that the Soviet Union had built missile launchers, and was about to supply, nuclear missiles in Cuba. My mother remembers where she was when she heard the news of the Cuban missile crisis. She and my Da were at my grandparents’ house when the Irish television news broadcast the story. My granny screamed that it was the end of the world.
Amazingly, and courageously, President Kennedy wrote to the Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, prior to addressing the American public: “I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would in this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor.” The president imposed a naval blockade around Cuba and for thirteen days the world teetered on the edge of annihilation.
We should ask, what sort of deep conviction and character was necessary for a president to be able to stand alone? For even with all the support he had surely the president was alone. He was the one everyone looked to, he was the one who would make any decisions, he was the one who held the future of humanity in his hands. And yet, he did not flinch. Surely, a profile in courage, from a flawed man.
John F. Kennedy led the people of the world while the world was on the brink of war, and possibly annihilation. He stood firm in the face of tyranny, terrible consequences, and human destruction, not because he didn’t care about the lives of the world’s people, but, rather, because he wanted a better tomorrow for the children of the world. In the face of all the pressure and opposition he must have faced, the self-doubt, in face of the voices of appeasement and compromise, weighing the advice of his own team, the recommendations of the leaders of the world, he still, ultimately, stood alone. How hard must it have been personally on President Kennedy to maintain his firm stance against the advance of Soviet aggression. How do you live with holding the world in your hands?
Sometimes we must be courageous in the moment, for those around us, those who need us to stand up and be counted today. And sometimes we need to be courageous for future generations, for those who need us to make sure they have a tomorrow, a future, a life. This coming week we have one of those moments when we can make a difference for today and for tomorrow. We don’t often have the lives of others in our hands but this week, we do. It’s time for courage, heroism, it’s time to stand up and be counted, it’s time to protect the children, the parents, and future generations who can’t speak for themselves, who don’t have a vote to save their own lives, who are dependent on us to do the right thing. Without us standing for them today they won’t have a day. Today we need to protect parents’ rights to care and make decisions for their children, to speak for the unborn who will see the dawn of day tomorrow because of our decision, the vote, you make today. If we are a generation that is willing to tolerate the mutilation of our children and the destruction of a child in the womb, what sort of future are we creating for those who will follow us? Sometimes “no” is the right answer. We have in our hands the possibility of making Ohio a place of life and a culture of hope. Voting No on Issue 1 is a good step in that direction.
Intercession for God’s Protection for Ohio Families
In times of crisis the people of God raise their voices in prayer to the Holy Trinity, and seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, the Angels and the Saints. It would be good for us to pray for the defeat of Issue 1 through our own personal prayers, but we might also consider joining in extra prayer at one of the prayer opportunities offered at the churches of our Family of Parishes.
Make an extra effort to attend one of the daily Masses.
Mothers Mass (7pm Victory, 7th November)
Spend some time in Eucharistic Adoration at Victory (Monday 9am-7pm) St. Dominic (Wednesday 8am-12noon).
Recitation of the Rosary (every morning after 8.30am Mass at Victory and St. Dominic Monday, 6.45pm).
At St. Simon and St. Al parishes extra times of prayer for parishioners to defeat Issue 1 will be announced at the weekend Masses.