Did you know that President John F. Kennedy’s final speech, at the dedication of Amherst College’s Robert Frost Library in 1963, hailed Robert Frost as a guardian of democracy and a role model for students?
It was in this ultimate speech that Kennedy said: “When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truths, which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.”
The documentary film JFK: The Last Speech, produced by several students in the audience that day, works to explain the continuing vitality of President Kennedy’s exaltation of Frost and defense of the humanities.
On Thursday July 1st the San Diego Public Library, in collaboration with the Amherst College Alumni Class of 1964, Edinboro University, the San Diego Public Library Foundation, and the Robert Frost Society, will host a screening of the film, followed by a panel discussion.
“Robert Frost was one of the granite figures of our time in America. He was supremely two things: an artist and an American. A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”President John F. Kennedy on Robert Frost
Following the screening, Elisa New will be featured on a panel discussing the relationship between poetry and power, with season 3 Poetry in America guest Jay Parini; poets Ruth-Ellen Kocher and Robert Bernard Hass; Professor Seth Lerer; and members of Amherst ‘64 Neil Bicknell, Robert A. Knox, and Robert Benadetti.
Poetry in America’s upcoming third season will include an episode on Frost’s “Mending Wall” featuring Parini, political commentator David Gergen, writer Julia Alvarez, and JFK’s daughter Caroline Kennedy.