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Nobody’s Perfect

September 4, 2013

Artemus Ward was the pen name of American humorist Charles Farrar Browne, and his writings brought delight to the war weary Abraham Lincoln.  The fictitious Ward was supposed to have delivered a 4th of July speech at Weathersfield, Connecticut in 1859.  This oration was cited by Senator John Kennedy on October 14, 1960 when he was campaigning for President in Albion, Michigan.  Here is some of what candidate Kennedy, more than 101 years after the speech by Ward, said: “I am glad that you are participating actively in the political process.  Artemus Ward, fifty years ago, said, ‘I am not a politician and my other habits are also good.'”

This is a presidential gaffe that seems to have been forgotten.  In fact, it was published not as an embarrassing event, but rather as an example of JKF’s cleverness.  It can be found on page 22 of the 1964 book entitled The Kennedy Wit.

Now, what are we to make of this?  Suppose another President or also-ran had made such an error.  Would it be overlooked, or would it be loudly trumpeted as an example of stupidity?

Should we care that Kennedy’s reckoning was off by more than 51 years?  No!  Considering the context, such concern would obviously be petty.

What lesson should we derive from this gaffe?  Nobody’s perfect.

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