In the crisp fall of 1960 as presidential hopeful Senator John Kennedy beckoned us into a New Frontier I would be embarking onto my own new frontier – Kindergarten.
This New Frontier of 1960 that stood in front of me, was not a set of promises- it was a set of challenges.
What was going to be asked of me?
It held out the promise of more sacrifice, instead of more security. Beyond that frontier were uncharted areas of reading, writing, unsolved problems of arithmetic and science, unconquered puzzles of grammar and geography, unanswered questions of history and civics.
It would be easier to shrink back from this New Frontier, to look to the safety of my home. Mom was the center of my world and the gravitational pull was strong. My parents and the Board of Education, was asking me to be a pioneer on that new Frontier, and it was here whether I liked it or not.
The crowd of mothers at the bus stop cheered; Brownie cameras clicked, the glare of flashbulbs popped; in a few moments the school bus pulled up and my Mom began to melt away into the suburban landscape.
My long journey had begun.
The John Street Elementary school was beautiful, sunny and fresh. The teachers were sunny and fresh too.
“It was time for a new generation of leadership, the class of 1973 begins now!” Mrs. Johnson, my kindergarten teacher exclaimed in a stirring voice addressing me and my new classmates.
We were, she said “…Boys and girls who were not bound by the traditions of the past, boys and girls who are not blinded by the old fears and hates and rivalries, children who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.”
I was part of a new, thrilling generation. John Kennedy and Mrs. Johnson both said so.
Never before such a generation… never before a candidate…both so new and different.
On the Campaign Trail
As the presidential campaign progressed that fall with Kennedy and Nixon vying for our votes, so did my campaign in trying to win over my new classmates.
I felt like I was connecting, gaining momentum.
Kids were responding to my wit. My firm resolve to stay within the lines of coloring won admiration. It wasn’t long at all before everyone knew my name.
I felt connections as wildly cheering crowds surged around me on the monkey bars, exhibiting unusual grace under pressure, just as I had successfully won over the grumpy kids on the swing set. My campaign was plainly catching fire.
The surge continued for a number of days. Then toward the end of the month as mysteriously as it had begun it started to wane. It was a strange, impalpable ebbing away as kids deserted me at the sandbox.
Did I spend too much time trying to win over the playground swing set gang, was I not relating to the core group of block builders, did I flip-flop too much during our somersault sessions?
Or was it simply a false boost in ratings.
I soon came to the conclusion that my name recognition had less to do with me and my actual feats and more to do with sharing the same moniker as our humble basic reader – Dick, Jane and Sally!
The New Frontier, I found out could be could be fickle.
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