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By Olivia Kiers / May 8, 12:00 AM
Boston Accent: Honoring JFK

Kennedy Library Foundation Executive Director Steven Rothstein previews the upcoming centennial celebration of President John F. Kennedy’s birth


New England may have only one presidential library, but it’s one that celebrates the legacy of John F. Kennedy, one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is located on Columbia Point, just a quick trip via public transportation from Downtown Boston. Kennedy Library Foundation executive director Steven Rothstein feels honored to be part of preserving such an important legacy. “I’ve always had great respect for the work of President Kennedy. In fact, his call to service is something that has impacted my entire life.”  

Rothstein, who previously worked with non-profits like Perkins School for the Blind, believes that Kennedy’s calls to service, government by inclusion and ambitious goals are just as relevant today as they were back in the 1960s. “Today, when a company has a big idea, they refer to it as a ‘moon shot.’ JFK literally brought us the first moon shot.…It’s important to understand that he’s not just an interesting historical figure, but his words and deeds are important to today’s society.”

2017 is the centennial of Kennedy’s birth, so this spring there are numerous special events—forums, a Navy fly-over and days devoted to NASA and the Peace Corps—as well as a special exhibition, JFK 100: Milestones and Mementos, opening May 26. “Roughly 40 of [the 100 items on display] have never been shown to the public before,” Rothstein says. “Even for people who have been to the museum many times before, this is a unique opportunity.” Highlights range from personal effects like neckties and a suitcase, to artifacts relating to Kennedy’s public life and military experiences. With JFK 100 and the special events augmenting the already comprehensive permanent displays, Rothstein hopes that “people who visit will be inspired to make society better in their own communities, appreciating the work that he did.”

Rothstein is also eager to explain that the website, jfklibrary.org, is an important resource, containing a wealth of digitized archival material. Yet if you are in Boston, a visit to the library and museum is truly worth it. “One of the key things about Boston is its connection to history,” says Rothstein. “The Kennedys are a part of that history.”

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