Sunday, April 20, 2014
John F. Kennedy visited Maine several times before and after he became president.
“Maine had glimpses of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy as a campaigner, as a speechmaker and as a man seeking rest and relaxation,” The Associated Press reported after his assassination on Nov. 22, 1963.
“Maine seemed to like him in all these roles,” the story continued, though the state’s five electoral votes and 57 percent of the popular vote went to Republican Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 election.
Kennedy’s most recent visit had been on Oct. 19, 1963, when he received an honorary degree from the University of Maine in Orono and gave a major foreign policy speech calling for an atmospheric nuclear test ban.
“While maintaining our readiness for war, let us exhaust every avenue for peace,” JFK told a crowd of 15,000. “Let us distinguish between our hopes and our illusions, always hoping for steady progress toward less critically dangerous relations with the Soviets, but never laboring under any illusions about Communist methods or Communist goals.”
In August 1962, the president visited Maine on a “bachelor weekend,” according to Portland Evening Express reporter Maxwell Wiesenthal.
Kennedy flew to Johns Island, off Pemaquid, where he stayed at the summer home of former heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney. He attended Mass at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in Boothbay Harbor and he gave a speech during the Summer Navy Festival at Brunswick Naval Air Station.
“It is the United States Navy and their companions in the Air Force and in the Army that today stand as the great defenders of freedom all around the globe,” Kennedy said at the airbase.
In 1960, JFK delivered campaign speeches in Bangor, Presque Isle, Portland and Lewiston. “Maine has a chance, and so does the country, to choose progress,” the senator told the crowd in Lewiston. “We need employment in our textile mills. We need development of our natural resources.
“We need to provide education for our children, jobs for our people, medical care for our aged tied to Social Security,” he said. “We need to do all these things in a country and in a society that is on the move.
“If we are going to be strong abroad, if we are going to win the peace, if we are going to maintain our prestige, it will be not only by speeches and debates and good-will missions,” he said. “It will be by building in this country a strong and vital and progressive society, committed to finishing the unfinished business, building here the kind of country which will serve as an example to freedom all around the globe.”