Scott D. Reich, author of “The Power of Citizenship: Why John F. Kennedy Matters to a New Generation,” will be in town Nov. 13 for the Dallas Jewish Book Fest.
Reich, a practicing lawyer in New York, is an unlikely JFK author. He claims to be the only Millennial (that’s somebody born roughly after 1979) writing on the subject. As the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination approaches this month, Reich’s book addresses Kennedy’s presidency from a fresh angle.
As a fellow “Millenial,” my interest was piqued by Reich’s passion for a presidency that he never witnessed. Through an email interview with the Advocate, Reich shares what inspired him to write his first book:
Why write a book about JFK now?
For my generation, the JFK story is “history” and not “experience,” and young people today need to hear Kennedy’s message of good citizenship and public service – especially given what’s going on politically in our country. I wrote my book so a new generation can learn about this important time in our past, and so we can use this history to look forward.
What sparked your fascination with JFK? Why does JFK “matter” to you?
I’ve been fascinated by JFK ever since I saw a video clip of his famous inaugural command as a teenager: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”I believe JFK ought to matter today because he offers us a timeless vision for how we can be good citizens and improve our nation. This message of service and civic activism is particularly relevant now as we grapple with great national challenges and a divisive political arena.
How do you think the current political climate around President Obama compares to the political climate around President Kennedy back then?
The political climate has changed considerably. The biggest difference is that we are no longer able to have a dignified exchange of ideas. People attack one another simply based upon whom they supported in the last election, and they seek to destroy the “other” side. At times, it seems that the parties barely have a dialogue at all. Issues were heated and controversial in Kennedy’s day, too, but there was a more civil tone to public discourse that is completely missing today. We need to bring it back.
Do you think your generation could benefit from looking to history? How should they do that?
Looking back at history can be very valuable. We can learn what previous generations did well and try to emulate such action. We can similarly study what others did not do well so we can avoid repeating mistakes.
I believe JFK’s presidency was about challenging Americans to be good citizens, and that the spirit he aimed to foster can still guide us today. The Millennial generation can choose to embrace this legacy by behaving in ways that reflect our national values – by recognizing the truth that appears on the Seal of the United States: “E pluribus unum” – Out of many, we are one. We should therefore strive to serve the public interest.
What do you hope readers will take away from reading your book?
I hope readers will take away the feeling that we can each make a difference in our communities, however small, and that together, we can shape a bright future for our country.
(This interview has been edited for brevity.)
The Dallas Jewish Book Fest, held Nov. 10-13 at the Jewish Community Center, not only gives readers a chance to get their books signed by authors, but also an opportunity to be able to discuss the books with the authors as well.
Tickets for each individual book signing cost $10 per person. Click here or call 214.739.2737 to see the full schedule and purchase tickets.
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