Beacon to world from Dorchester

Thirty years ago this month, a wonderful Dorchester landmark was unveiled. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated Oct. 20, 1979 here on the shores of Dorchester Bay.
The elaborate ceremony brought an array of dignitaries to our community. Many local and national political, civic, and business leaders were joined by President Jimmy Carter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and members of the large Kennedy family. In his speech, Senator Ted Kennedy described the JFK’s mission:

“This library will be more than just a collection of photographs and objects under glass,” he said. “It will be a living memorial at many levels.

“Here in Boston, it will take up the causes of the community, helping to revitalize this section of our city. Across the country, it will reach out to visitors and scholars, summoning young men and women to careers in public life.

“For the great and humble in other lands, it will be a beacon signaling the message of this nation, a lighthouse bearing witness to Jack’s truth that America at its best can truly light the world.”
Built with private donations, it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in New England. Situated on a spectacular ten-acre site along the water at Columbia Point, the library has attracted some 6.5 million visitors in these first three decades, standing not just as a tourist delight but also as a major educational center for the study of the last half of America’s 20th century.

In a statement, a JFK spokesperson said, “Just in the past year, the Kennedy Library has organized dozens of free public forums on topics ranging from President Obama’s first 100 days and Ernest Hemingway, to Haiti, Madeleine Albright and nuclear proliferation; it has welcomed President Mary McAleese of Ireland and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia; invited the world to re-live the Apollo 11 mission virtually on the website WeChooseTheMoon.org; honored public servants for courageously speaking out against government practices that led to the recession; hosted naturalization ceremonies for thousands of new American citizens; and opened its doors to 50,000 people wishing to pay their respects to Senator Edward M. Kennedy following his death.

“In the years to come, the Kennedy Library looks forward to celebrating the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s administration, to building a new addition that will ensure proper preservation and storage of the Kennedy Library’s vast archive, and continuing to serve Boston and the nation well by promoting open discourse on critical issues of our time.”

In the coming days, several events are planned for the 30th anniversary observation. Among them:
• A behind-the-scenes tour on Sat., Oct.17, from noon to 4 p.m. Visitors may view rooms on the upper floors of the Library that showcase historically significant artifacts from the Kennedy collection;

• On Sun., Oct. 18 from 1:30 to 3 p.m., a special program will host architect and visionary I.M. Pei. Family, colleagues, and critics will reflect on his extraordinary career, including the building’s design. The PBS host Charlie Rose will moderate the tribute.

* On Mon., Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. the Library will host a debate between Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and City Councillor Michael Flaherty. It’s a ticketed event, but will be broadcast on NECN, WGBH2, and WBUR.