Today is the 50th Anniversary of the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy. I spent the morning discussing this monumental event with my mother, who was 17 at the time of the President's swearing in. She spoke with stars in her eyes about the glamour and youth and beauty of this young President and his princess-like wife. And then the conversation turned, as it inevitably does when speaking of this historical presidency, to his assassination. To the day when a hometown hero was gunned down. When all of the dreams and hopes and excitement that was placed on his shoulders fell to the ground, and our country was left reeling.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," my mother said. And this stopped me for a moment and made me sit up and recognize the power literature has in uniting us and defining life for us. Last night I had been discussing with my parents that I was reading Oprah's latest book club selection, A TALE OF TWO CITIES and GREAT EXPECTATIONS. I spoke about how when these books were assigned in school I had little to no appreciation for what Dickens was trying to say to his readers. Now, with years of experiences under my belt and a stronger appreciation for universal lessons and themes in life, I have a much stronger appreciation for the words of Dickens and for literature in general. The fact that my mom and I could be discussing such a monumental event as the inauguration, and subsequently the assasination, of JFK and bring in themes from a classic piece of literature, only further proves the power of literature to unite us and comfort us and help us to comprehend events that seem beyond comprehension. Life can be the best of times and the worst of times. It can be everything and nothing. It can be hopeful and fearful. And it is up to us, as humans, to recognize and appreciate life for being both and knowing that even in the darkest of times, there is hope just around the corner.
I am grateful for the enduring power of a book like A TALE OF TWO CITIES and GREAT EXPECTATIONS and a writer like Dickens who can show us that the human condition never changes, it evolves with time, but the defining characteristics of what makes us human, never changes.