After President George W. Bush somehow made intellectualism a negative thing, our politicians seem to feel that showing they are educated, that they have curiosity about our world and its history is bad. (Makes them, in Rick Santorum's famous phrase, "snobs.") I think it's sad that, instead of being proud that he's fluent in French, Mitt Romney refuses to speak it on camera. President Kennedy reveled in other cultures. He also believed that history, our own and that of other countries, "can teach, offer hope, provide inspiration."
These references were not scripted. They came from his voracious personal reading, they reflected what captured his imagination and touched his heart.
Today, on the 95th anniversary of his birth, I want to celebrate what it is about him that captures my imagination and continues to touch my heart -- his optimism, his willingness to experiment and innovate, most of all, his love of words and ideas and history. When JFK was in the Oval Office, what is now considered "elitist" was glamorous. One of my favorite moments in his widow's Historic Conversations comes when she describes his reading. He spent every spare moment reading, and he kept a book open and within sight even when he was shaving or tying his tie.