Here you can read my Author’s Note



Like so many people of the Baby Boomers generation, indelibly etched in my memory is where I was on Friday November 22, 1963 at 12.30 PM, the infamous moment when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. I was fifteen years old. The silence in my room was shattered when my mother came upstairs to deliver the terrible news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. Like so many people all over the world I wept. And I wept again, 45 years later (at Dan’s place in Lexington, in Boston Massachusetts), on November 4, 2008, when it was confirmed that Barack Obama being elected the first black President in American history. On that occasion, of course, they were tears of joy. The huge impact on me of both events is difficult to explain.

But Kennedy’s death certainly ignited a deep passion of mine. I started collecting newspapers, articles, magazines, and books about him, reading everything I could find on the amazing man. As time passed, hundreds of books were written on President Kennedy’s life, family and his administration and I bought every one I could get. Today my private library is certainly the richest private collection on the subject, and, of course, I have read every one of them!

My goal in this, my own account of his life, is to be as accurate as possible on historical facts and dates concerning John Fitzgerald Kennedy – something which cannot be said of many of the books published on the subject during the past fifty years. While writing this book, I was often asked if I would be the one who tells the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Have I succeeded ? Yes and no, because on certain facts in his life, his personal life, it’s impossible to find the truth : you, reader will decide if I have uncovered some truths in his political accomplishments and failures.

I would claim modestly that I have certainly come closer to the truth about JFK – at least as close an investigator, fond of history and passionate for the truth, can get.

And if the reader has learned something from the results of my extensive research, it will be a great satisfaction to me.

Where I quote other works on JFK, the relevant book is referenced in my notes.

However, in my opinion, many authors have been hasty and very sloppy in their historical approach towards John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Some of them have embellished their research for sensationalism, and their abusive, gossipy approach has marred the actual history.

Sheldon Stern, who was the historian at the John F. Kennedy library in Boston from 1977 to 1999, says that some Kennedy biographers have manipulated the evidence and invent “truths” to suit their purposes. (1) Now I have been given the opportunity to write a book with a totally different approach. At least that is my true hope. Never before has the subject of JFK been tackled so thoroughly, in order to help a new generation of readers – countless young readers, who I hope will have a better and more accurate understanding of John F. Kennedy, based truly on the historical facts.

On the assertion that people keep asking me “why another Kennedy book”, I respond with the words of the great Dutch historian Pieter Geyl, who in his view all historians are influenced by the present when writing history and thus all historical writing is transitory.

In Geyl’s view, there never can be a definitive account for all ages because every age has a different view of the past. Geyl felt that history was a progress of “argument without end”.

Finally, about the title‘Life is Unfair.’ I agree with President Kennedy when he said in his press

conference March 21, 1962, “There is always inequity in life. Some men are killed in a war and some are wounded and some men never leave the country, and some men are stationed in San Francisco. It’s very hard in military or personal life to assure complete equality. Life is unfair.”

Some people are born poor; some are born rich.


I am convinced that a lot of people won’t find this a positive statement but it is reality. Moreover, it’s the everyday situation for so many people all over the world. Life is Unfair, but we should

never despair. We need to fight, struggle back, making the best of it, because life can be great, worth living and a great adventure.

There’s a heartfelt quote from Jacqueline Kennedy on life, “Every moment one lives is different from the other. The good, the bad, hardship, the joy, the tragedy, love and happiness, are all interwoven into one single, indescribable whole that is called life. You cannot separate the good from the bad. And perhaps there is no need to do so either.”

In my book I shall illustrate President Kennedy, not as a myth, but as a man. He himself once said at Yale University June 11th, 1962, “For the greatest enemy of the truth is very often not the lie: deliberate, contrived and dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

John Kennedy was an imperfect figure, as a man and as a President. Yet for me, he was still an extraordinary human being; extremely intelligent, charismatic, graceful. A man who, despite his health problems throughout his life, never, ever complained. He inspired, just as he inspired me, and will continue to inspire future generations of Americans to believe in the power of government, and to share the conviction that politics can truly be a noble profession.

I consulted positive and negative books which I have placed in three categories :

  1. The Court Historians: such as William Manchester, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Ted Sorensen, Lawrence F. O’Brien, Evelyn Lincoln, Ken O’Donnell, Dave Powers.

Also, Pierre Salinger and Paul B. Fay, who helped to sustain the Camelot legacy.

  1. The Iconoclasts or Revisionists: such as Victor Lasky, Richard J. Walton, Henry Fairly, Joan and Clay Blair Jr., Nigel Hamilton, Herbert S. Parmet, Noam Chomsky, Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Thomas C. Reeves, Seymour M. Hersh, Mark J. White and many others.

For some (in these two categories) he was an incompetent President whose personal weaknesses limited his ability to carry out his duties, a cold war warrior who brought America almost to the brink of nuclear conflict. For some others he was a compulsive womanizer, a liar, an amphetamine addict, lazy, ruthless and corrupt.

  1. The Political Realists or Post Revisionists: These who take Kennedy on the Record, such as, Michael R. Beschloss, James N. Giglio, Robert Dallek, Michael O’Brien, James W. Douglass, Larry J; Sabato, Irving Bernstein, Hugh Brogan, Alan Brinkley, Sheldon M. Stern, Fredrik Logevall, and many others.

In this last category JFK comes out rather well, because most authors saw him growing in the office, learning from his mistakes -an above-average rated President and certainly one of the few transitional Presidents who remains popular after their death. His influence will continue, because successive generations in America and around the world have discovered, and will continue to discover, that he was a man who could inspire – just like he inspired me to write a book about him.

I own no books on his assassination, because there are too many murder plots, ranging from: the Mob, the Russians, the Mossad, Castro, the CIA, the FBI, his own secret service men, all the way up to Lyndon Johnson. Much of it sounds like science fiction to me : many theories are too crazy to be true. However, I have my personal idea about the assassination, which I will explain in the epilogue.

This book has been a long time in the making.

In 1982, I was preparing an exhibit on President Kennedy and his brother Bobby in Bruges, my home town in Belgium. With my wife and son, I went to see the director of the Kennedy Library in Boston, Mr. Dan H. Fenn Jr., a former Staff Assistant to President Kennedy. The first time I met Mr. Dan H. Fenn was at his office in the Kennedy Library at the end of Columbia Point, which just cuts into Dorchester Bay. I told him the following, “If you think Kennedy is God or Elvis Presley to me, you are


wrong, Kennedy is my hobby, my reading hobby.” I explained to him, that I was preparing an exhibition on President Kennedy for the benefit of handicapped children, as my late wife was a teacher.

Dan later told me that the first time he saw me, “I said to myself, “what a strange, crazy fellow.” But the second time I saw you, I believed in you.” He never imagined Kennedy could be a hobby, a reading hobby, instead of me being another “Kennedy watcher.” I spent the entire week at the JFK Library picking up ideas for my exhibition. I could talk with the director whenever I wanted. I’ll never forget what he said to me on a Friday in August 1982, at noon, “You’re not coming back this afternoon?”

I replied, “No. You know Mr. Fenn, this afternoon, I am going to Hyannisport to knock on Rose Kennedy’s door”. Dan laughed and a friendship for life was born, based on determination, perseverance and wit, Dan and I both share.

The exhibition took place in November 1983, with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (JFK’s niece and eldest daughter of Robert Kennedy) and her husband David and Dan Fenn at the opening ceremonies.

Choosing the guest list generated the following fine anecdote (against me) : Dan proposed Maria Shriver and her husband Arnold Schwarzenegger, because Maria’s mother Eunice Kennedy was the President’s sister. Eunice was married to Sargent Shriver; the Peace Corps Director during the Kennedy Presidency. I telephoned to Dan and said “No, Mr. Fenn, I don’t need a Shriver. And who the hell is Arnold Schwarzenegger?” A year later he became world famous through his Terminator movies.

Around Christmas 1988, Dan’s parents encouraged me to write a book about JFK. They thought that my perspective, feelings and thoughts, about the 35th President of the United States, were fascinating. Anna Fenn died December 28, 1998. Thirty years after her encouragement, and twenty years after her death at 99, I finally fulfilled her wishes and my dream. That being said, I had wanted to start years earlier with my project, I couldn’t find the time. It is very time-consuming being a certified accountant, defending clients against the IRS.

I am aware that it is a very difficult undertaking, writing yet another Kennedy book. It is a daunting task, trying to find an original approach. Not being a scholar, nor a history professor. Simply a deep love of this history; trying to find out the historical truth on John F. Kennedy is like a drug to me. My point of view and candor may surprise you. Politics containing excessive lies, and too many compromises, are completely unacceptable to me. However, I am fascinated with the American political history, along with world history, and always will be. I have the utmost respect for historians, but I want to confront various authors, historians, and scholars, on what they wrote about many events surrounding the Kennedy administration, not least Cuba, Vietnam, the African Americans, the race to the moon, and personal issues of JFK’s life, his health,and his womanizing. In this book these subjects have been approached in a non-gossipy, nor salacious way, while acknowledging that I will not be able to find the entire historical truth. That being said, I am confident that I have been able to expose a lot of falsehoods.

Historian Michael Beschloss asserted during a stimulating television discussion with Thomas C. Reeves, “The burden on all of us who write about those things is to be fair to him (JFK). How much reliability can we place on some of these sources about all these women? Many of them I’m sure are true, but again, you have to be fair to someone.” That Kennedy’s liaisons were extensive is undeniable, but not all of those ascribed to him could have logistically taken place. (2)

On his marriage and his character, not forgetting the influence of his parents on the shaping of JFK,

I have looked for the truth in order to discover fabrications, contradictions, inaccuracies,

inconsistencies. I have searched for real truths or blunt lies, determined to set the record straight.

Historically there are glaring examples of just a day making a great difference, as with the independence of two great countries, July 4th 1776 or July 5th 1776, and “l’appel du 18 June 1940,” the famous speech was not delivered on June 19, 1940 from General Charles De Gaulle.


In ‘Conversations with Kennedy’ by Benjamin C. Bradlee, Kennedy is quoted as saying: “What makes journalism so fascinating, and biography so interesting, is the struggle to answer that single question: “What’s he like?” (3) I have tried to find answers to that fascinating question.

The Camelot legend created by Jacqueline Kennedy during a Life magazine interview with Theodore White and published December 6, 1963, is now consigned to its original origins in the Middle Ages : the reference to a fictional, idyllic world in the Kennedy White House, seems to have done more harm than good to the legacy of John F. Kennedy. I think President Kennedy himself would not have liked the ”Camelot” idea at all. Indeed, his exemplary display of fortitude while facing adversity would suggest the opposite; he would have been disgusted and outraged by the very idea of it.

As with all politically charged depictions, sometimes the approach to President Kennedy depends on the political affiliation of the author, democrat or republican. Other authors seem more to have the propensity towards writing science fiction stories, then claiming it to be history. In 1989, C. David Heymann in his book called, “A Woman named Jackie” wrote that according to the actor, Peter Lawford, Marilyn Monroe was crazy about Jack. He expounds the theory hat the actress had devised all sorts of madcap fantasies with herself in the starring role : Marilyn would have JFK’s children, she would take Jackie’s place as First Lady. Marilyn was said to have told Lawford that she had telephoned Jackie at the White House and Peter Lawford states that according to Marylin, Jackie wasn’t shaken by the call and in fact agreed to step aside.

She would divorce Jack and Marylin could marry him. Her stipulation was that Marilyn would

have to move into the White House and If Marylin wasn’t prepared to live openly in the White House, she might as well forget about it. (4)

In his book “Joe and Marylin” which came out in 2014, two years after C. David Heymann’s death on May 9th 2012, Heymann attributed that story to Ralph Roberts, the late actor, masseur, and dear friend of Marilyn Monroe. (5) Subsequently, Christopher Anderson in his 2013 book, “These few precious days” tells the 1989 version of the author, Heymann’s Marylin Monroe story on “CBS This Morning.” A so called new revelation, when Mr. Anderson told the story of Peter Lawford’s claim. (6) The question is, do you really believe this story?

There is another amazing story repeated in a large number of Kennedy books about a quote attributed to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. After President Kennedy was assassinated, Moynihan, then the Assistant Secretary of Labor, was speaking with the Washington Post’s star writer, Mary McGrory. Mary sadly commented, “We’ll never laugh again.” Moynihan replied, “Heavens, Mary, we’ll laugh again, but we’ll never be young again.” This has now become a historical comment. “We’ll never be young again” is even the title of a book by Chuck Fries and Irv Wislon with Spencer Green from 2003 with recollections on President Kennedy by many famous people. Yet, the simple truth is that the quote, “Heavens, Mary, we’ll laugh again but we’ll never be young again” was from Dan H. Fenn Jr. (7) At the time Dan was staff assistant to President Kennedy. The comment was made in a car the day of JFK’s funeral, November 25, 1963, on the ride to Arlington Cemetery. The first and only author who quoted Dan Fenn instead of Moynihan was Larry J. Sabato in 2013. (8) In future books on JFK they should give credit to my friend Dan.

With the spiritual help of my friend Dan Fenn Jr., my book on President John F. Kennedy is the fulfillment of a wonderful hobby. I consider Dan to be my second father, an exceptional man who combines a great intellect with a great sense of humor and humility. He can be proud that his encouragement was the catalyst for my years of research now coming to fruition in these pages.

For me, writing a book on JFK is the fulfillment of the never ending American dream. If you ask

me what is the link between Kennedy, a man whom I never met, Dan H. Fenn Jr., my friend, and

me, humbly I would venture to state that it isour sense ofhumor. Imagine if the pharmaceutical

industry could produce a humor drug instead of a drug for less cholesterol.: Can you imagine taking a humor drug every day? I bet our cholesterol would go down from alleviating stress with our creating


humor !

Finally, the photograph on the cover is an illustration, as well as an explanation of my title “Life is Unfair.” Depicted is the two-year-old John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr., climbing around the Resolute desk in the oval office. The iconic photo has the young John-John looking through the small door. John Kennedy Jr. has said this is one of the memories of his father, “I have a few. He had this desk in the Oval Office, and I just remember the inside : you could climb around in it. He used to give us chewing gum, because my mother didn’t like us to chew gum. So we used to go over the Oval Office at night, and he’d feed us gum under the desk.” (9)

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Jr. died July 16, 1999 when the airplane he was piloting crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the Coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. His wife Carolyn Bessette and her sister Lauren were also killed. He was on his way to attend the wedding of his cousin Rory Kennedy, the daughter of his father’s brother Robert Kennedy. He was 38 years old; in the prime of his life. How can life be more unfair ?

That tragic event taking a toll on the remaining Kennedy Clan was inevitable. The gracious way that John, Jr.’s sister, Caroline Kennedy, handled the tragedy was phenomenally dignified. Personally, I was privileged to witness her grace for myself, when attending a ‘Meet and Greet’ event at the Kennedy Library on November 4th, 2009. Caroline generously signed four books for my library, one of them titled, “A family of poems.” She opened it, then raising the book to her lips, gave it a discrete kiss. Her lovely gesture touched me deeply; I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life.

Each chapter will show some photographs which will assist with explaining what the chapter is about. These photos are illustrating moments altering their lives, and are shown throughout my book, invoking empathy; which I think is a wonderful human virtue.