I worked on John F. Kennedy's 1960 election campaign. Newly arrived in New York City, an aspiring actress, I joined the cadre of young hopefuls passionate about the future and direction of the country. It was an exhilarating and rewarding undertaking.
I handed out literature, "JFK FOR PRESIDENT" buttons, made phone calls and danced in the streets when The New York Times declared him the likely winner in the wee hours.
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His presidency, with its seal and glamour (I ushered the night Marilyn Monroe sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" in Madison Square Garden), lit a fire under America's youth, He was "ours." Jackie's attention to fashion and the arts fueled our dreams, and JFK's devotion to civil rights, aid for the aged and disarmament, and his determination to meet challenges to "The New Frontier," roused our energies.
The assassination broke my heart. I was on tour for rehearsal for "A Thurber Carnival" at the Ford Theatre in Milwaukee. We all froze in stunned disbelief. The show was postponed.
I watched the horror and days of shock and ceremonies at my brother Bob's house in Fox River Grove, and I remember his wife bursting through the door with groceries shouting, "Did you see? Someone just shot Oswald!" The mental hits kept coming.
After the funeral, the riderless horse, Jackie's long walk supported on either side by Bobby and Teddy, tiny JFK Junior's salute, and all the tears, I returned to Milwaukee. We opened on Dec. 11, 1963.
The audiences and critics welcomed us warmly, seemingly grateful for some path to forgetfulness. We performers, masking our heavy hearts, exercised our comedic turns almost as therapy.
I often think of Kennedy's words, courage, accomplishments and style, but it was those days spent working on his 1960 campaign that launched my commitment to political activism.