Butler ’90 on JFK’s Legacy

With the approach of the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, it’s fair to ask: Will his legacy endure?
By Tom Kertscher

Emily Jennett Butler '90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is enduring and relevan today.

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is relevant today.

Last July [2016], President Barack Obama signed a law creating the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission, which will develop and carry out activities to mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth on May 29, 2017.

Kennedy, polls have shown, continues to be among the most highly regarded presidents. But only about a third of Americans were alive when he was assassinated in 1963.

So, it’s fair to ask: Will Kennedy will remain relevant?

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, says “yes” and offers data to prove her point.

While not everyone, of course, recalls the Kennedy years as an idyllic time, his appeal endures:
● In 2015, the library released an iPad app for kids—“The JFK Challenge”—that was featured as a best new app in the Apple Store. It has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

● Of the library’s 80,000 Twitter followers, more than 40 percent are age 34 and under; and of its 80,000 Facebook fans, 35 percent are in that age group. On Facebook, the 25-34 age group is the most engaged with the library on Facebook.

● The library recently launched the New Frontier Network, a group for young professionals in the Boston area. Its membership of 350 has doubled in the past year.

“I think most of the people who join the network are looking for ways to give back, and certainly JFK’s call to ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ still resonates today,” Butler said. “Part of the New Frontier Network’s focus is service projects in the community. So by joining this group, many members are fulfilling a very strong desire to stay engaged and to make a positive contribution to society, locally and globally. A lot of the people currently in the network are involved in politics and believe strongly, as JFK did, that government can be a force for good.”

“I do think it’s probably good for the national psyche to remember a great leader who brought people together.”

Tom Kertscher is a PolitiFact Wisconsin reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the author of two sports books.