Attorney, college professor, and Edgartown summer resident for the last 25 years, Dennis C. McAndrews has written a play about John F. Kennedy. It begins around the time of his election as president. It is mostly a speculative piece about what would have happened if Kennedy had lived longer. According to McAndrews, “Kennedy was a fascinating figure on multiple levels and his life was cut short, so young. There was so much promise and so many things he had wanted to do.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of President JFK’s election as president in 1960. He was the youngest man ever elected president, the first Catholic, and arguably, the most charismatic. His sense of humor, his style and eloquence, and good looks ushered in a new generation of politicians on the national scene.
Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. His was a presidency that was not only one of the shortest and most tragic but came near the middle of a century filled with perhaps the most significant political, economic, social, and scientific changes since humans first harnessed fire and sat around it plotting their survival. His presidency ushered in the beginning of the Vietnam War era, and he was witness to significant successes and tragedies of the civil rights movement.
On stage, Mr. McAndrews becomes the person Kennedy might have been if he were still alive today and 93 years old. On stage, Mr. McAndrews’ Kennedy uses slides to illustrate events of his life. He reflects on both his public life and the events he might have had a significant part of, and also his private life, which was not without controversy. Mr. McAndrews has made a point of trying to retain the humor that he feels was a significant part of Kennedy’s personality and approach to life.
“Of course Vietnam was such a big issue and is the centerpiece of the play, but I am particularly interested in the effect of Kennedy’s death on civil rights,” says Mr. McAndrews. “Many historians believe that he would not have acted on civil rights during his first term, that without Kennedy’s death the civil rights legislation would not have immediately passed under Lyndon Johnson.”
Numerous historians have speculated on the possibilities of a longer Kennedy presidency. Mr. McAndrews has culled the literature and added his own ideas, developed during his 30 years of teaching political science, concentrating on civil rights and civil liberties. Mr. McAndrews suggests that his play is not suitable for young children because of its frank references to war and death.
Mr. McAndrews is an attorney with offices in his hometown of Berwyn, Penn. He is known for his work representing individuals with mental disabilities. He also serves as a consultant to other public and private attorneys with regard to disability and special education issues, and serves as a special education hearing officer. He is a former prosecutor and served as a special prosecutor in the case of Commonwealth v. John Eleuthère du Pont. He teaches at his alma mater, Villanova University.
The Kennedy family has had strong ties over the years to the Cape and to the Vineyard, and their influence will be felt for years to come. It is an interesting flight of fancy to image how our lives might have changed if John F. Kennedy had lived.
Play: “If JFK Survived Dallas: Presidential Reflections in 2010 at Age 93. How would history have been different if President John F. Kennedy had survived?” Tuesday, July 6, 7:30 pm, St. Andrews Parish Hall, Edgartown. Free. Written and performed by Dennis C. McAndrews, Esq.