Tag Archives: john f kennedy

Natalie Portman explores the mysteries of Jackie Kennedy

Jacqueline Kennedy did not have a conventional speaking voice. It’s part New York, part prep school Mid-Atlantic, and it’s jarring to most modern ears. Natalie Portman remembers her first few days on the set of “Jackie,” going all in on that very specific accent and looking up to see her director Pablo Larrain’s wide-eyed bafflement.

“Pablo’s face was like ‘uhhhhh…’,” Portman said laughing.

They were filming a recreation of the television special “A Tour of the White House with Mrs. John F. Kennedy,” where CBS News correspondent Charles Collingwood followed the first lady around with cameras as they spoke about each room and her pricey restoration. Larrain stopped during one take and played footage of the actual tour just to check. He was amazed at how spot-on Portman’s interpretation actually was.

Still, “at the beginning it was shocking,” Larrain said.

It was also, he notes, different from how Jackie Kennedy sounded in other circumstances. She had a public voice and a private voice, which Portman was able to study through Kennedy’s recorded interviews with Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

The film “Jackie,” out in limited release, explores the nuances of these public and private sides of the enigmatic figure in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband in 1963 as she plans the funeral, exits her home, comforts her children and tends to her husband’s legacy.

It’s what compelled screenwriter Noah Oppenheim to make her the subject of his first script.

“Most often she is perceived through the lens of being this style icon, this beautiful woman at her husband’s side. People are fascinated by their marriage and his infidelities. But I didn’t feel like she had ever gotten enough credit for understanding intuitively the power of television, the power of imagery and iconography and her role in defining how we remember her husband’s presidency,” Oppenheim said.

It was she, a week after the assassination, in an interview with Theodore H. White for LIFE magazine, who first uttered the word Camelot in reference to their time in power.

“I always assumed that the Kennedy administration had been referred to as Camelot from the beginning, that they were this young, handsome couple and American royalty,” Oppenheim said. “The fact that she came up with Camelot is incredible. That one reference accomplishes more than any list of policy accomplishments ever could have in terms of cementing in people’s minds who Jack Kennedy was.”

The film, however, isn’t out to provide answers. It relishes in Jackie being this inscrutable figure, showing the subtle differences in her interactions with the people around her, including a priest (John Hurt), the journalist (Billy Crudup), her longtime friend Nancy Tuckerman (Greta Gerwig) and Bobby Kennedy (Peter Sarsgaard).

“(Oppenheim) told her story through these different relationships and the different roles she played around the people in her life at different times. I think that’s really powerful … Consistency or arc is really a narrative fiction. Human beings are not like that,” said Portman, who is earning some of the best reviews of her career for her performance.

Larrain wouldn’t do the film without Portman. The script had been around since 2010 before getting the attention of Darren Aronofsky, who was set to direct his then-fiance Rachel Weisz in the role. After exiting, Aronofsky stayed on to produce and was the one who made the somewhat unconventional ask of Larrain, a Chilean filmmaker, to consider it.

When Portman met with Larrain, she said it was akin to “being dared” to do the film.

“He was like, ‘we’re going to do this together or we’ll both walk away,’” she said. “I was like ‘all right, this is good. Let’s take each other’s hands and jump.’”

The tone, thanks to studied editing of Sebastian Sepulveda and a striking score by Mica Levi, can sometimes seem more like a psychological thriller than a conventional character study. Larrain delights in the beauty of bringing an audience to “that indeterminate place.”

Portman, on the other hand, knows she’s at the disposal of her directors and often isn’t aware of the exact tone until she sees the finished product.

“When we were making ‘Black Swan,’ I thought I was making a completely different movie from the one I saw. I thought we were making something almost like a documentary and then I saw it and I was like ‘What? What is this!?’ I literally had no idea,” she said. “I thought it was like a realistic portrait of a psychological breakdown of a person and it was not at all. You can totally misunderstand tone, but still it can work.”

The film, heavy with historical and emotional significance, did allow for some levity, though, compliments of that White House Tour.

“We enjoyed that so much,” Larrain said. “It was just talking about furniture and chairs. And she would even make the same mistakes Jackie did.”

Portman: “We laughed a lot. Pablo kept being like ‘be more excited about the chair!’ She’s REALLY excited about the chair.”

Larrain: “But it was necessary because it shows a kind of splendor. I think when you are portraying such a tragic and critical moment, you need to have splendor to really understand that.”

‘I am’ doc celebrates life of JFK Jr.

“I Am JFK Jr. — A Tribute to a Good Man,” which hits select theaters on July 22, captures the fascination with John F. Kennedy Jr., from his early days toddling around the White House to his death in a plane crash in 1999.

Network Entertainment’s Derik Murray made the film in the mold of his other “I Am” movies, including “I Am Bruce Lee,” “I Am Chris Farley” and “I Am Evel Knievel.” The film also airs on Spike TV at 9 p.m. EDT on Aug. 1, and a DVD release is set for Aug. 16.

The film captures JFK Jr. as John John, the tousle-haired toddler of the late President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, saluting his father’s casket after his 1963 assassination.

Highlights include JFK Jr.’s time as an assistant district attorney in New York, his 1988 People magazine Sexiest Man Alive cover and his 1995 debut as publisher of the splashy but short-lived magazine George.

Interspersed are snippets of interviews with celebrities and politicians who knew him well. They include supermodel Cindy Crawford, who famously posed as a midriff-baring George Washington, complete with powdered wig, for the inaugural issue of George; actor Robert De Niro; boxer Mike Tyson; journalist Christiane Amanpour; Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt; former Brown University roommate Chris Oberbeck; and Grateful Dead songwriter John Perry Barlow.

“John Kennedy Jr. was destined for greatness, the heir apparent to his father’s legacy, and he knew that,” Murray said.

But the son, a student of history’s great men, had an overriding interest in goodness over greatness.

“After reading about them and who they were at home, how they treated their families, he thought it was more important for him to commit to being a good man,” Murray said. “In his mind, that was often missing in great men.”

Not surprisingly, the film focuses on JFK Jr.’s death at age 38 on July 16, 1999, when the single-engine private plane he was piloting from New Jersey to Martha’s Vineyard en route to a family wedding on Cape Cod crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Killed with Kennedy were his wife, Carolyn Bessette, and her sister, Lauren Bessette.

Friends, acquaintances and pundits reflect on a life cut short and speculate on what he might have become.

President, for instance?

A clip of an interview that JFK Jr. gave to Oprah Winfrey is telling. She insists he surely must have thought about running for office, and he responds, somewhat coyly, “There is this great weight of expectation and anticipation.”

But maybe not.

“John was smart enough to know, ‘I’m Junior. I’m not my father,”” another presidential son, Michael Reagan, says in the film.

“I believe that he had greatness in him,” CNN journalist Chris Cuomo tells the producers. “And I don’t give a damn if that meant anything about politics.”


On the web

Online: http://www.iamjfkjr.com/


President presents Medal of Freedom to 16 Americans. Transcript

President Barack Obama honored 16 Americans today (Nov. 20) with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award the U.S. gives a civilian.

The ceremony at the White House opened a day of tributes to former President John F. Kennedy, who established the modern version of the medal.

Recipients include:

• Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Ride received the award posthumously. Her partner, Tam O’Shaughnessy, accepted the award.

• Bayard Rustin, civil and gay rights activist and adviser to Martin Luther King Jr. Rustin received the award posthumously.

• Bill Clinton, the 42nd president and former Arkansas governor, who was also recognized for his post-presidency humanitarian work.

• Oprah Winfrey, broadcaster, actress, activist and philanthropist, who was an early supporter of Obama’s first presidential campaign.

• Daniel Inouye, former senator from Hawaii, World War II veteran and the first Japanese American in Congress. Inouye received the award posthumously.

• Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of the Washington Post who oversaw the newspaper’s coverage of Watergate.

• Richard Lugar, former senator from Indiana who worked to reduce the global nuclear threat.

• Gloria Steinem, writer and prominent women’s rights activist.

• Ernie Banks, baseball player who hit more than 500 home runs and played 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.

• Daniel Kahneman, psychologist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics.

• Loretta Lynn, country music singer.

• Maria Molina, chemist and environmental scientist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

• Arturo Sandoval, Grammy-winning jazz musician who was born in Cuba and defected to the U.S.

• Dean Smith, head coach of University of North Carolina’s basketball team for 36 years.

• Patricia Wald, first woman appointed to U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and became the court’s chief judge.

• C.T. Vivian, civil rights leader and minister.

The following is a transcript of the president’s remarks from the East Room at the White House. He concluded at noon:

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning!  (Applause.)  Good morning, everybody!  Everybody, please have a seat.  Have a seat.

Well, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.  This is one of my favorite events every year, especially special this year, as I look at this extraordinary group of individuals and our opportunity to honor them with our nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

And this year, it’s just a little more special because this marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy establishing this award.  We’re honored, by the way, today to have with us one of my favorite people — Ethel Kennedy — and a pretty good basketball player, President Kennedy’s grandson, Jack.  (Applause.)  

This medal has been bestowed on more than 500 deserving people.  Tonight, I’m looking forward to joining some of these honorees, as well as members of the Kennedy family, as we pay tribute to these 50 years of excellence.  And this morning, we’re honored to add 16 new names to this distinguished list. 

Today, we salute fierce competitors who became true champions.  In the sweltering heat of a Chicago summer, Ernie Banks walked into the Cubs locker room and didn’t like what he saw.  “Everybody was sitting around, heads down, depressed,” he recalled.  So Ernie piped up and said, “Boy, what a great day!  Let’s play two!”  (Laughter.)  That’s “Mr. Cub” — a man who came up through the Negro Leagues, making $7 a day, and became the first black player to suit up for the Cubs and one of the greatest hitters of all time.  And in the process, Ernie became known as much for his 512 home runs as for his cheer and his optimism and his eternal faith that someday the Cubs would go all the way.  (Laughter.)   

And that’s serious belief.  (Laughter.)  That is something that even a White Sox fan like me can respect.  (Laughter.)  But he is just a wonderful man and a great icon of my hometown. 

Speaking of sports, Dean Smith is one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history, but his successes go far beyond Xs and Os.  Even as he won 78 percent of his games, he graduated 96 percent of his players.  The first coach to use multiple defenses in a game, he was the pioneer who popularized the idea of “pointing to the passer” — after a basket, players should point to the teammate who passed them the ball.  And with his first national title on the line, he did have the good sense to give the ball to a 19-year-old kid named Michael Jordan.  (Laughter.)  Although they used to joke that the only person who ever held Michael under 20 was Dean Smith.  (Laughter.)   

While Coach Smith couldn’t join us today due to an illness that he’s facing with extraordinary courage, we also honor his courage in helping to change our country — he recruited the first black scholarship athlete to North Carolina and helped to integrate a restaurant and a neighborhood in Chapel Hill.  That’s the kind of character that he represented on and off the court. 

We salute innovators who pushed the limits of science, changing how we see the world — and ourselves.  And growing up, Sally Ride read about the space program in the newspaper almost every day, and she thought this was “the coolest thing around.”  When she was a PhD candidate at Stanford she saw an ad for astronauts in the student newspaper and she seized the opportunity.  As the first American woman in space, Sally didn’t just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it.  And when she came back to Earth, she devoted her life to helping girls excel in fields like math, science and engineering.  “Young girls need to see role models,” she said, “you can’t be what you can’t see.”  Today, our daughters — including Malia and Sasha — can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way.

Now, all of us have moments when we look back and wonder, “What the heck was I thinking?”  I have that — (laughter) — quite a bit.  Psychologist Daniel Kahneman has made that simple question his life’s work.  In a storied career in Israel and America, he basically invented the study of human decision-making.  He’s helped us to understand everything from behavioral economics to “Does living in California make people happy?”  It’s an interesting question.  He’s also been called an expert on irrational behavior — so I’m sure that he could shed some light on Washington.  (Laughter.) 

But what truly sets Daniel apart is his curiosity.  Guided by his belief that people are “endlessly complicated and interesting,” at 79 he’s still discovering new insights into how we think and learn, not just so we understand each other, but so we can work and live together more effectively. 

Dr. Mario Molina’s love of science started as a young boy in Mexico City, in a homemade laboratory in a bathroom at home.  And that passion for discovery led Mario to become one of the most respected chemists of his era.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize — or the Nobel Prize, rather, not only for his path-breaking research, but also for his insistence that when we ignore dangerous carbon emissions we risk destroying the ozone layer and endangering our planet.  And thanks to Mario’s work, the world came together to address a common threat, and today, inspired by his example, we’re working to leave our planet safer and cleaner for future generations.

     We also have to salute musicians, who bring such joy to our lives.  Loretta Lynn was 19 the first time she won the big — she won big at the local fair.  Her canned vegetables brought home 17 blue ribbons — (laughter) — and made her “Canner of the Year.” (Laughter.)  Now, that’s impressive.  (Laughter.) 

For a girl from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, that was fame.  Fortunately for all of us, she decided to try her hand at things other than canning.  Her first guitar cost $17, and with it this coal miner’s daughter gave voice to a generation, singing what no one wanted to talk about and saying what no one wanted to think about.  And now, over 50 years after she cut her first record — and canned her first vegetables — (laughter) — Loretta Lynn still reigns as the rule-breaking, record-setting queen of country music. 

     As a young man in Cuba, Arturo Sandoval loved jazz so much it landed him in jail.  It was the Cold War, and the only radio station where he could hear jazz was the Voice of America, which was dangerous to listen to.  But Arturo listened anyway.  Later, he defected to the United States knowing he might never see his parents or beloved homeland again.  “Without freedom,” he said, “there is no life.”  And today, Arturo is an American citizen and one of the most celebrated trumpet players in the world.  “There isn’t any place on Earth where the people don’t know about jazz,” he says, and that’s true in part because musicians like him have sacrificed so much to play it.

     We salute pioneers who pushed our nation towards greater justice and equality.  A Baptist minister, C.T. Vivian was one of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s closest advisors.  “Martin taught us,” he says, “that it’s in the action that we find out who we really are.”  And time and again, Reverend Vivian was among the first to be in the action:  In 1947, joining a sit-in to integrate an Illinois restaurant; one of the first Freedom Riders; in Selma, on the courthouse steps to register blacks to vote, for which he was beaten, bloodied and jailed.  Rosa Parks said of him, “Even after things had supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights, he was still out there, inspiring the next generation, including me,” helping kids go to college with a program that would become Upward Bound.  And at 89 years old, Reverend Vivian is still out there, still in the action, pushing us closer to our founding ideals.

     Now, early in the morning the day of the March on Washington, the National Mall was far from full and some in the press were beginning to wonder if the event would be a failure.  But the march’s chief organizer, Bayard Rustin, didn’t panic.  As the story goes, he looked down at a piece of paper, looked back up, and reassured reporters that everything was right on schedule.  The only thing those reporters didn’t know was that the paper he was holding was blank.  (Laughter.)  He didn’t know how it was going to work out, but Bayard had an unshakable optimism, nerves of steel, and, most importantly, a faith that if the cause is just and people are organized, nothing can stand in our way. 

So, for decades, this great leader, often at Dr. King’s side, was denied his rightful place in history because he was openly gay.  No medal can change that, but today, we honor Bayard Rustin’s memory by taking our place in his march towards true equality, no matter who we are or who we love.  (Applause.)

     Speaking of game-changers, disrupters, there was a young girl names Gloria Steinem who arrived in New York to make her mark as a journalist, and magazines only wanted to write articles like “How to Cook without Really Cooking for Men.”  (Laughter.)  Gloria noticed things like that.  (Laughter.)  She’s been called a “champion noticer.”  She’s alert to all the ways, large and small, that women had been and, in some cases, continue to be treated unfairly just because they’re women. 

As a writer, a speaker, an activist, she awakened a vast and often skeptical public to problems like domestic violence, the lack of affordable child care, unfair hiring practices.  And because of her work, across America and around the world, more women are afforded the respect and opportunities that they deserve.  But she also changed how women thought about themselves.  And Gloria continues to pour her heart into teaching and mentoring.  Her one piece of advice to young girls is — I love this — “Do not listen to my advice.  Listen to the voice inside you and follow that.” 

When Patricia Wald’s law firm asked if she’d come back after having her first child, she said she’d like some time off to focus on her family — devoted almost 10 years to raising five children.  But Patricia never lost the itch to practice law.  So while her husband watched the kids at home, she’d hit the library on weekends.  At the age 40, she went back to the courtroom to show the “young kids” a thing or two.  As the first female judge on the D.C. Circuit, Patricia was a top candidate for Attorney General.  After leaving the bench, her idea of retirement was to go to The Hague to preside over the trials of war criminals.  Patricia says she hopes enough women will become judges that “it’s not worth celebrating” anymore.  But today, we celebrate her.  And along with Gloria, she shows there are all kinds of paths listening to your own voice.

We salute communicators who shined a light on stories no one else was telling.  A veteran of World War II and more than a dozen Pacific battles, Ben Bradlee brought the same intensity and dedication to journalism.  Since joining The Washington Post 65 years ago, he transformed that newspaper into one of the finest in the world.  With Ben in charge, the Post published the Pentagon Papers, revealing the true history of America’s involvement in Vietnam; exposed Watergate; unleashed a new era of investigative journalism, holding America’s leaders accountable and reminding us that our freedom as a nation rests on our freedom of the press.  When Ben retired, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan put the admiration of many into a poem:  “O rare Ben Bradlee/His reign has ceased/But his nation stands/Its strength increased.”

And I also indicated to Ben he can pull off those shirts and I can’t.  (Laughter.)  He always looks so cool in them.  (Laughter.) 

Early in Oprah Winfrey’s career, her bosses told her she should change her name to Susie.  (Laughter.)  I have to pause here to say I got the same advice.  (Laughter and applause.)  They didn’t say I should be named “Susie,” but they suggested I should change my name.  (Laughter.)  People can relate to Susie, that’s what they said.  It turned out, surprisingly, that people could relate to Oprah just fine. 

In more than 4,500 episodes of her show, her message was always, “You can.”  “You can do and you can be and you can grow and it can be better.”  And she was living proof, rising from a childhood of poverty and abuse to the pinnacle of the entertainment universe.  But even with 40 Emmys, the distinction of being the first black female billionaire, Oprah’s greatest strength has always been her ability to help us discover the best in ourselves.  Michelle and I count ourselves among her many devoted fans and friends.  As one of those fans wrote, “I didn’t know I had a light in me until Oprah told me it was there.”  What a great gift. 

And, finally, we salute public servants who’ve strengthened our nation.  Daniel Inouye was a humble man and didn’t wear his Medal of Honor very often.  Instead, he liked to wear a pin representing the Good Conduct Medal he earned as a teenage private.  “To behave yourself takes special effort,” he said,  “and I did not want to dishonor my family.”  Danny always honored his family and his country, even when his country didn’t always honor him. 

After being classified as an “enemy alien,” Danny joined a Japanese American unit that became one of the most decorated in World War II.  And as the second-longest serving senator in American history, he showed a generation of young people — including one kid with a funny name growing up in Hawaii who noticed that there was somebody during some of those hearings in Washington that didn’t look like everybody else, which meant maybe I had a chance to do something important, too.  He taught all of us that no matter what you look like or where you come from, this country has a place for everybody who’s willing to serve and work hard.

A proud Hoosier, Dick Lugar has served America for more than half a century, from a young Navy lieutenant to a respected leader in the United States Senate.  I’ll always be thankful to Dick for taking me — a new, junior senator — under his wing, including travels together to review some of his visionary work, the destruction of Cold War arsenals in the former Soviet Union  — something that doesn’t get a lot of public notice, but was absolutely critical to making us safer in the wake of the Cold War.

Now, I should say, traveling with Dick you get close to unexploded landmines, mortar shells, test tubes filled with anthrax and the plague.  (Laughter.)  His legacy, though, is the thousands of missiles and bombers and submarines and warheads that no longer threaten us because of his extraordinary work.  And our nation and our world are safer because of this statesman. And in a time of unrelenting partisanship, Dick Lugar’s decency, his commitment to bipartisan problem-solving, stand as a model of what public service ought to be.  

Now, last, but never least, we honor a leader who we still remember with such extraordinary fondness.  He still remembers as a child waving goodbye to his mom — tears in her eyes — as she went off to nursing school so she could provide for her family.  And I think lifting up families like his own became the story of Bill Clinton’s life.  He remembered what his mom had to do on behalf of him and he wanted to make sure that he made life better and easier for so many people all across the country that were struggling in those same ways and had those same hopes and dreams.  So as a governor, he transformed education so more kids could pursue those dreams.  As President, he proved that, with the right choices, you could grow the economy, lift people out of poverty.  We could shrink our deficits and still invest in our families, our health, our schools, science, technology.  In other words, we can go farther when we look out for each other.  

And as we’ve all seen, as President, he was just getting started.  He doesn’t stop.  He’s helped lead relief efforts after the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake.  His foundation and global initiative have helped to save or improve the lives of literally hundreds of millions of people.  And, of course, I am most grateful for his patience during the endless travels of my Secretary of State.  (Laughter.) 

So I’m grateful, Bill, as well for the advice and counsel that you’ve offered me on and off the golf course.  (Laughter.)  And most importantly, for your lifesaving work around the world, which represents what’s the very best in America.  So thank you so much, President Clinton.  (Applause.)

So these are the recipients of the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom.  These are the men and women who in their extraordinary lives remind us all of the beauty of the human spirit, the values that define us as Americans, the potential that lives inside of all of us.  I could not be more happy and more honored to participate in this ceremony here today.

With that, what I would like to do is invite our honorees to just sit there and let all of us stand and give you a big round of applause.  (Applause.) 

I guess we should actually give them the medals, though.  (Laughter.)  Where are my — here we go.  Lee, you want to hit it?

MILITARY AIDE:  Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients.

Ernie Banks.  (Applause.)  With an unmatched enthusiasm for America’s pastime, Ernie Banks slugged, sprinted and smiled his way into the record books.  Known to fans as “Mr. Cub,” he played an extraordinary 19 seasons with the Chicago Cubs, during which he was named to 11 All-Star teams, hit over 500 home runs, and won back-to-back Most Valuable Player honors.  Ernie Banks was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977, and he will forever be known as one of the finest power hitters and most dynamic players of all time.  (Applause.)  

Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee.  (Applause.)  A titan of journalism, Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee is one of the most respected newsmen of his generation.  After serving our nation in World War II, Ben Bradlee went on to defend liberty here at home. Testing the limits of a free press during his tenure as executive editor of The Washington Post, he oversaw coverage of the Watergate scandal and successfully challenged the federal government over the right to publish the Pentagon Papers. His passion for accuracy and unyielding pursuit of truth continue to set the standard for journalism.  (Applause.) 

The Honorable William J. Clinton.  (Applause.)  Among the finest public servants of our time, President William J. Clinton argued cases for the people of Arkansas, served his state in the Governor’s Mansion, and guided our nation into a new century.  As the 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton oversaw an era of challenge and change, prosperity and progress.  His work after leaving public office continues to reflect his passionate, unending commitment to improving the lives and livelihoods of people around the world.  In responding to needs both at home and abroad, and as founder of the Clinton Foundation, he has shown that through creative cooperation among women and men of goodwill, we can solve even the most intractable problems.  (Applause.) 

Irene Hirano Inouye, accepting on behalf of her husband, the Honorable Daniel K. Inouye.  (Applause.)  A true patriot and dedicated public servant, Daniel K. Inouye understood the power of leaders when united in common purpose to protect and promote the tenets we cherish as Americans.  As a member of the revered 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Daniel Inouye helped free Europe from the grasp of tyranny during World War II, for which he received the Medal of Honor.  Representing the people of Hawaii from the moment the islands joined the Union, he never lost sight of the ideals that bind us across the 50 states.  Senator Inouye’s reason and resolve helped make our country what it is today, and for that, we honor him.  (Applause.) 

Dr. Daniel Kahneman.  (Applause.)  Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking work earned him a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his research developing prospect theory.  After escaping from Nazi-occupied France as a young boy and later joining the Israel Defense Forces, Dr. Kahneman grew interested in understanding the origins of people’s beliefs.  Combining psychology and economic analysis, and working alongside Dr. Amos Tversky, Dr. Kahneman used simple experiments to demonstrate how people make decisions under uncertain circumstances, and he forever changed the way we view human judgment.  (Applause.) 

The Honorable Richard G. Lugar.  (Applause.)  Representing the State of Indiana for over three decades in the United States Senate, Richard G. Lugar put country above party and self to forge bipartisan consensus.  Throughout his time in the Senate, he offered effective solutions to our national and international problems, advocating for the control of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction.  Working with Senator Sam Nunn, Richard Lugar established the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, one of our country’s most successful national security initiatives, helping to sustain American leadership and engage nations in collaboration after decades of confrontation.  He remains a strong voice on foreign policy issues, and his informed perspective will have broad influence for years to come. (Applause.) 

Loretta Lynn.  (Applause.)  Born a coal miner’s daughter, Loretta Lynn has followed a bold path to become a legend in country music.  A singer, songwriter, and author, she has written dozens of chart-topping songs, released scores of albums, and won numerous accolades.  Breaking barriers in country music and entertainment, she opened doors for women not only by winning tremendous achievements, but also by raising issues few dared to discuss.  Fearlessly telling her own stories with candor and humor, Loretta Lynn has brought a strong female voice to mainstream music, captured the emotions of women and men alike, and revealed the common truths about life as it is lived.  (Applause.)  

Dr. Mario Molina.  (Applause.)  The curiosity and creativity that inspired Mario Molina to convert his family’s bathroom into a laboratory as a child have driven him through decades of scientific research.  Born in Mexico, Dr. Molina’s passion for chemistry brought him to the United States, where his investigations of chlorofluorocarbons led to breakthroughs in our understanding of how they deplete the ozone layer.  The impact of his discoveries extends far beyond his field, affecting environmental policy and fostering international awareness, as well as earning him the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.  Today, Dr. Molina remains a global leader, continuing to study air quality, climate change, and the environment that connects us all.  (Applause.)

Tam O’Shaughnessy accepting on behalf of her life partner, Dr. Sally K. Ride.  (Applause.)  Thirty years ago, Dr. Sally K. Ride soared into space as the youngest American and first woman to wear the Stars and Stripes above Earth’s atmosphere.  As an astronaut, she sought to keep America at the forefront of space exploration.  As a role model, she fought tirelessly to inspire young people — especially girls — to become scientifically literate and to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.  At the end of her life, she became an inspiration for those battling pancreatic cancer, and for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.  The tale of a quiet hero, Sally Ride’s story demonstrates that the sky is no limit for those who dream of reaching for the stars.  (Applause.)

Walter Naegle accepting on behalf of his partner, Bayard Rustin.  (Applause.)  Bayard Rustin was a giant in the American Civil Rights Movement.  Openly gay at a time when many had to hide who they loved, his unwavering belief that we are all equal members of a “single human family” took him from his first Freedom Ride to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movement.  Thanks to his unparalleled skills as an organizer, progress that once seemed impossible appears, in retrospect, to have been inevitable.  Fifty years after the March on Washington he organized, America honors Bayard Rustin as one of its greatest architects for social change and a fearless advocate for its most vulnerable citizens.  (Applause.)  

Arturo Sandoval.  (Applause.)  Arturo Sandoval is one of the world’s finest jazz musicians.  Born into poverty in Cuba and held back by his government, he risked everything to share his gifts with the world — eventually defecting with help from Dizzy Gillespie, his mentor and friend.  In the decades since, this astonishing trumpeter, pianist, and composer has inspired audiences in every corner of the world and awakened a new generation of great performers.  He remains one of the best ever to play.  (Applause.)

     Linnea Smith, accepting on behalf of her husband, Dean E. Smith.  (Applause.)  Dean E. Smith spent 36 seasons taking college basketball to new heights.  As head coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he led his team to 11 Final Fours, two national titles, and 879 victories, retiring as the winningest men’s college basketball coach in history.  Dean Smith brought the same commitment to supporting his players off the court.  He helped more than 96 percent of his lettermen graduate.  And in an era of deep division, he taught players to overcome bigotry with courage and compassion.  He will forever stand as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history.  (Applause.)

     Gloria Steiner.  (Applause.)  A trailblazing writer and feminist organizer, Gloria Steinem has been at the forefront of the fight for equality and social justice for more than four decades.  Instrumental to a broad range of initiatives and issues, from establishing Ms. Magazine and Take Our Daughters to Work Day, to pushing for women’s self-empowerment and an end to sex trafficking.  She has promoted lasting political and social change in America and abroad.  Through her reporting and speaking, she has shaped debates on the intersection of sex and race, brought critical problems to national attention, and forged new opportunities for women in media.  Gloria Steinem continues to move us all to take up the cause of reaching for a more just tomorrow.  (Applause.)

     Reverend C.T. Vivian.  (Applause.)  Equipped only with courage and an overwhelming commitment to social justice, the Reverend C.T. Vivian was a stalwart activist on the march toward racial equality.  Whether at a lunch counter, on a Freedom Ride, or behind the bars of a prison cell, he was unafraid to take bold action in the face of fierce resistance.  By pushing change through nonviolent demonstration and advocacy, C.T. Vivian established and led numerous organizations to support underserved individuals and communities.  His legacy of combating injustice will shine as an example for generations to come.  (Applause.)

     Patricia McGowan Wald.  (Applause.)  Patricia McGowan Wald made history as the first woman appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.  Rising to Chief Judge of the Court, she always strove to better understand the law and fairly apply it.  After leaving federal service, Judge Wald helped institute standards for justice and the rule of law at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague.  Hailed as a model judge, she laid a foundation for countless women within the legal profession and helped unveil the humanity within the law.  (Applause.)

     Oprah G. Winfrey.  (Applause.)  Oprah G. Winfrey is a global media icon.  When she launched The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986, there were few women — and even fewer women of color — with a national platform to discuss the issues and events shaping our times.  But over the 25 years that followed, Oprah Winfrey’s innate gift for tapping into our most fervent hopes and deepest fears drew millions of viewers across every background, making her show the highest-rated talk show in television history.  Off screen, Oprah Winfrey has used her influence to support underserved communities and to lift up the lives of young people — especially young women — around the world.  In her story, we are reminded that no dream can be deferred when we refuse to let life’s obstacles keep us down.  (Applause.)

     THE PRESIDENT:  The Medal of Freedom honorees — please.  (Applause.) 

Well, that concludes the formal part of today’s ceremony.  I want to thank all of you for being here.  Obviously, we are deeply indebted to those who we honor here today.  And we’re going to have an opportunity to take some pictures with the honorees and their family members. 

The rest of you, I understand the food here is pretty good. (Laughter.)  So I hope you enjoy the reception, and I hope we carry away from this a reminder of what JFK understood to be the essence of the American spirit — that it’s represented here.  And some of us may be less talented, but we all have the opportunity to serve and to open people’s hearts and minds in our smaller orbits.  So I hope everybody has been as inspired, as I have been, participating and being with these people here today.

     Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

JFK portrayals brought challenge for screen actors

A wide range of actors have played President John F. Kennedy in the movies and on TV, starting even before his assassination 50 years ago. Some memorable portrayals:


• Cliff Robertson, “PT 109,” 1963.

Released while Kennedy was still in office, the film starred Robertson depicting Kennedy as a Navy lieutenant in command of Motor Torpedo Boat PT-109 during World War II. JFK selected Robertson after viewing his screen test; first lady Jackie Kennedy’s choice for the role was Warren Beatty. “It’s a whopping adventure story of courage and action,” said Robertson in the trailer.

• Brett Stimely, “Watchman,” 2009; “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” 2011; “Kill the Dictator,” 2013; “Parkland,” 2013.

Stimely, who has played Kennedy more than anyone, recalled meeting JFK’s niece and sister-in-law, Rory and Ethel Kennedy at the 2012 Sundance HBO party for their documentary “Ethel.” He said, “Ethel thanked me for doing a great job portraying Jack. I was nervous at first — playing the ‘most important man in the world’ has its responsibilities. But hearing that made it all worthwhile.”

• Bruce Greenwood, “Thirteen Days,” 2000.

Playing Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis, Greenwood said he wanted to reflect what might have been JFK’s state of mind “and the moment of clarity he had that (Soviet leader Nikita) Khrushchev was as human and terrified of the potential consequences as was Kennedy.” Paraphrasing William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,” the actor said, “yet things did not fall apart/ the center held / anarchy and chaos / undone in an hour of reflection / that we are one / and each other’s keeper.”

• James Marsden, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” 2013.

Marsden prepared for the role by listening to podcasts of JFK’s speeches, and yet getting the Kennedy accent right was “virtually impossible,” the actor told Conan O’Brien. “It was a daunting thing stepping into those shoes,” he said. After 11 weeks in theaters, the film had made more than $138 million worldwide.


• William Devane, “The Missiles of October” (ABC movie), 1974.

Devane bore a striking resemblance to the president in the television docudrama, which chronicled the Kennedy administration’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis. It was loosely based on Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s book “Thirteen Days.” The first TV movie about the Kennedys after JFK’s assassination was watched by more than 25.4 million viewers when it first aired.

• James Franciscus, “Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy” (ABC movie), 1981.

Known for his roles in television series such as “Mr. Novak” and “Longstreet,” Franciscus starred as JFK in this TV movie focusing on the life of the first lady, who was played by “Charlie’s Angels” star Jaclyn Smith. Airing the same year as the final season of “Charlie’s Angels,” the movie drew nearly 45 million viewers.

• Martin Sheen, “Kennedy” (NBC miniseries), 1983.

Before playing fictional President Josiah “Jed” Bartlet on “The West Wing,” Sheen starred in the five-hour miniseries chronicling JFK’s presidency. It aired just two days before the 20th anniversary of the president’s assassination. Kelsey Grammar also appeared in the miniseries, which had 18.5 million viewers across three airings.

• Stephen Collins, “A Woman Named Jackie” (NBC miniseries), 1991.

While recreating Kennedy’s inaugural address for this Emmy-winning miniseries, Collins recalled seeing a man around 70 who had stopped to watch the filming. “He took off his hat and stared in my direction as if he were seeing a ghost,” said Collins. “He stayed still, like a soldier at attention, until I finished. It seemed to be as meaningful for him as it was for me.  Connecting with my impromptu audience of one was the most satisfying moment of the shoot.”

• Patrick Dempsey, “J.F.K.: Reckless Youth” (ABC movie), 1993.

Before saving lives as Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepard on “Grey’s Anatomy,” Dempsey wooed 10.8 million viewers as young Kennedy. The movie looked at JFK’s childhood years, his young adulthood and his nomination for Congress. 

• William Peterson, “The Rat Pack” (HBO movie), 1998.

A dashing Peterson embodied JFK in the film focusing on the famous entertainers’ circle, offering a glimpse into JFK and Frank Sinatra’s wavering friendship. Ray Liotta starred as Sinatra, Joe Mantegna as Dean Martin, Don Cheadle as Sammy Davis, Jr., Angus Macfadyen as Peter Lawford and Bobby Slayton as Joey Bishop.

• Tim Matheson, “Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis” (CBS miniseries), 2000.

Playing JFK in the two-part miniseries, which attracted 10 million viewers, was an honor, said Matheson, but also a challenge to find the real person beneath the glamour. “So it was trying to find those human moments beneath all of the monumental things that he said and did. He was movie star-like, and Jackie was sophisticated and educated. They represented a new page in American history.”

• Greg Kinnear, “The Kennedys” (Reelz miniseries), 2011.

When the four-time Emmy-winning “The Kennedys” made its world premiere on REELZ, it brought in record viewership for the cable network, reaching 17.5 million viewers in its first month. Katie Holmes played Jackie Kennedy.

• Rob Lowe, “Killing Kennedy” (National Geographic Channel miniseries), aired Nov. 10, 2013.

While researching JFK for the role, Lowe, a father of two, said he was moved by a recording of Kennedy giving dictation when he’s interrupted by John, Jr. “Their conversation together was priceless,” said Lowe.

Marked forever by the 1960s

The 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination brings back many memories. It reminds me how growing up in the 1960s was as traumatic as it was exhilarating.

I was 5 years old in 1960, when JFK was elected. I still remember the ditty that we kids from proud Democratic and Catholic families sang at the time: “Kennedy, Kennedy, he’s our man! Nixon belongs in the garbage can!”

I was 15 when the dramatic decade ended in 1970. Richard Nixon was president. His invasion of Cambodia in April of that year expanded the Vietnam War and led to the shooting of student protesters by National Guardsmen at Kent State in Ohio.

Those years were a kaleidoscope of wild events. From the Cuban missile crisis to Beatlemania to civil rights protests, it was all brought up close and personal through TV and AM radio. 

I remember being scared out of my mind at age 7 in 1962 when I walked down the hall in my house to use the bathroom. I was sure that once I was in there alone that bad guy Castro, who my parents were talking about in alarmed whispers, was going to get me.

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in my third-grade class at St. Mary’s when the principal came on the PA system to announce that President Kennedy had been killed. It was disturbing to see the teachers so distraught. We were marched to church to pray for the president. Then the buses came to take us home.

What followed were three days in front of the TV watching the national tragedy. I remember how sad everyone was. It seemed like everyone in my family and everything on TV moved in slow motion. The only thing that’s come close since were the days after 9/11, when we were all in a state of shock. 

It was about the time of Kennedy’s assassination that the Beatles invaded the United States, bringing us all a blessed distraction. I screamed along with everyone else, and all the kids on my block started garage bands. I recently listened to my Beatles records again and found, to my delight, that I haven’t forgotten a word.

By age 12, I had to think hard about the civil rights and anti-war protests. My working-class dad used racial slurs. My mom wasn’t a lot better, but she sometimes said, “Elmer!” in a chiding tone to curb his tongue. I knew it was wrong and I remember thinking how dumb it was to hate people you didn’t know and to call them names. I was a fat girl and I knew how hurtful name-calling was. It may seem like a shallow analogy, but it was the beginning of empathy.

Civil rights marches and our napalm attacks in Vietnam spurred my critical thinking. The parish priest grew impatient with my questions and demanded  that I “believe and obey!” Then Martin Luther King Jr. was killed in Memphis and Bobby Kennedy was murdered on his way to the presidency. WBBM had just started 24/7 news radio, and I listened on my transistor for days.

What doesn’t crush you makes you stronger. What I gleaned from the 1960s was a profound cynicism tempered by the necessity for questioning authority. I always question authority and urge others to do the same. This one’s for President Kennedy and all the children of the ’60s who grew up too fast.

FBI removes many redactions in Marilyn Monroe file

FBI files on Marilyn Monroe that could not be located earlier this year have been found and re-issued, revealing the names of some of the movie star’s communist-leaning friends who drew concern from government officials and her own entourage.

But the records, which previously had been heavily redacted, do not contain any new information about Monroe’s death 50 years ago. Letters and news clippings included in the files show the bureau was aware of theories the actress had been killed, but they do not show that any effort was undertaken to investigate the claims. Los Angeles authorities concluded Monroe’s death was a probable suicide.

Recently obtained by The Associated Press through the Freedom of Information Act, the updated FBI files do show the extent the agency was monitoring Monroe for ties to communism in the years before her death in August 1962.

The records reveal that some in Monroe’s inner circle were concerned about her association with Frederick Vanderbilt Field, who was disinherited from his wealthy family over his leftist views.

A trip to Mexico earlier that year to shop for furniture brought Monroe in contact with Field, who was living in the country with his wife in self-imposed exile. Informants reported to the FBI that a “mutual infatuation” had developed between Field and Monroe, which caused concern among some in her inner circle, including her therapist, the files state.

“This situation caused considerable dismay among Miss Monroe’s entourage and also among the (American Communist Group in Mexico),” the file states. It includes references to an interior decorator who worked with Monroe’s analyst reporting her connection to Field to the doctor.

Field’s autobiography devotes an entire chapter to Monroe’s Mexico trip, “An Indian Summer Interlude.” He mentions that he and his wife accompanied Monroe on shopping trips and meals and he only mentions politics once in a passage on their dinnertime conversations.

“She talked mostly about herself and some of the people who had been or still were important to her,” Field wrote in “From Right to Left.” “She told us about her strong feelings for civil rights, for black equality, as well as her admiration for what was being done in China, her anger at red-baiting and McCarthyism and her hatred of (FBI director) J. Edgar Hoover.”

Under Hoover’s watch, the FBI kept tabs on the political and social lives of many celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin and Monroe’s ex-husband Arthur Miller. The bureau has also been involved in numerous investigations about crimes against celebrities, including threats against Elizabeth Taylor, an extortion case involving Clark Gable and more recently, trying to solve who killed rapper Notorious B.I.G.

The AP had sought the removal of redactions from Monroe’s FBI files earlier this year as part of a series of stories on the 50th anniversary of Monroe’s death. The FBI had reported that it had transferred the files to a National Archives facility in Maryland, but archivists said the documents had not been received. A few months after requesting details on the transfer, the FBI released an updated version of the files that eliminate dozens of redactions.

For years, the files have intrigued investigators, biographers and those who don’t believe Monroe’s death at her Los Angeles area home was a suicide.

A 1982 investigation by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office found no evidence of foul play after reviewing all available investigative records, but noted that the FBI files were “heavily censored.”

That characterization intrigued the man who performed Monroe’s autopsy, Dr. Thomas Noguchi. While the DA investigation concluded he conducted a thorough autopsy, Noguchi has conceded that no one will likely ever know all the details of Monroe’s death. The FBI files and confidential interviews conducted with the actress’ friends that have never been made public might help, he wrote in his 1983 memoir “Coroner.”

“On the basis of my own involvement in the case, beginning with the autopsy, I would call Monroe’s suicide ‘very probable,”” Noguchi wrote. “But I also believe that until the complete FBI files are made public and the notes and interviews of the suicide panel released, controversy will continue to swirl around her death.”

Monroe’s file begins in 1955 and mostly focuses on her travels and associations, searching for signs of leftist views and possible ties to communism. One entry, which previously had been almost completely redacted, concerned intelligence that Monroe and other entertainers sought visas to visit Russia that year.

The file continues up until the months before her death, and also includes several news stories and references to Norman Mailer’s biography of the actress, which focused on questions about whether Monroe was killed by the government.

For all the focus on Monroe’s closeness to suspected communists, the bureau never found any proof she was a member of the party.

“Subject’s views are very positively and concisely leftist; however, if she is being actively used by the Communist Party, it is not general knowledge among those working with the movement in Los Angeles,” a July 1962 entry in Monroe’s file states.

Former Iowa justices win JFK Profile in Courage Award

Three former Iowa Supreme Court justices involved in the unanimous decision legalizing same-sex marriage in the state are the recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

Former Iowa Chief Justice Marsha Ternus and former justices David Baker and Michael Streit were chosen, according to a news release, “in recognition of the political courage and judicial independence each demonstrated in setting aside popular opinion to uphold the basic freedoms and security guaranteed to all citizens under the Iowa constitution.”

A 2012 Profile in Courage Award also goes to Robert Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria, for “bold and courageous diplomacy” that has “provided crucial support to Syrians struggling under the brutal regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.”

Caroline Kennedy will present the awards, announced this week, during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on May 7.

“This year’s Profile in Courage Award honorees have shown uncommon valor as public servants,” said Kennedy, president of the library foundation. “When Justices Baker, Streit, and Ternus joined a unanimous decision to overturn a law denying same-sex couples the privileges of marriage, they sacrificed their own futures on the Court to honor Iowa’s constitution and the rights of all its citizens.

“In Syria, as a member of the United States Foreign Service, Ambassador Ford has boldly carved a new path of diplomacy, risking his own safety in the face of political turmoil and violence to show support for the Syrian people.” 

The award is presented annually to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences.

The award is named for President John F. Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage,” which recounts the stories of eight U.S. senators who risked their careers by taking principled stands for unpopular positions.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation created the Profile in Courage Award in 1989 and presents the honor on the president’s birthday.

The award is a sterling-silver lantern designed by Edwin Schlossberg and crafted by Tiffany & Co.

A closer look at this year’s winners:

In 2009, Ternus, Baker and Streit joined a unanimous opinion which struck down Iowa’s ban on same-sex marriage. The decision was the first unanimous high court opinion on marriage for same-sex couples, and it made Iowa the third state to legalize same-sex marriage.

The justices were aware that their opinion might not enjoy support from a majority of the public, but the court stressed in its opinion that its responsibility was “to protect constitutional rights of individuals from legislative enactments that have denied those rights, even when the rights have not yet been broadly accepted, were at one time unimagined, or challenge a deeply ingrained practice or law viewed to be impervious to the passage of time.”

Although the court’s decision was unanimous, it provoked a political backlash. In November 2010, voters removed Ternus, Baker and Streit from office following an unprecedented campaign financed in part by national interest groups opposed to same-sex marriage.

The justices’ ouster marked the first time since Iowa adopted its current judicial system that any sitting Supreme Court judge had lost an uncontested retention election. 

The Kennedy Foundation said they will be honored for “the courage they and their colleagues demonstrated in upholding and defending the constitutional role of an independent judiciary, which has been vital to American democracy and historically responsible for the greatest advances in civil rights for all Americans.”

As U.S. Ambassador to Syria, Ford has taken risks to bear witness to the violence and repression perpetrated by the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and to advocate for the human rights of the Syrian people.

Ford has used social media to establish channels of communication directly with the Syrian people, providing moral support and encouraging them to embrace non-violent protest in the face of government-backed brutality.

He has continued to engage directly with opposition leaders, traveling around Syria despite repeated threats on his life. Ford, the foundation said, will be honored for the courageous example he has set and the light he has shone on the power of creative and robust diplomacy to serve as a vital tool for advancing human rights.”

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Lady Gaga channels Marilyn Monroe at birthday bash for Bill Clinton

Lady Gaga enjoyed her “first real Marilyn moment” with former President Bill Clinton.

The envelope-pushing pop superstar was one of several musicians who performed Saturday night at the Hollywood Bowl during a concert celebrating the 10th anniversary of Clinton’s foundation, which has sought to improve global health, strengthen economies worldwide, promote healthier childhoods and protect the environment for the past decade.

“I always wanted to have one, and I was hoping that it didn’t involve pills and a strand of pearls,” she joked.

Emerging from atop an all-white treehouse, Lady Gaga sported a wavy blonde ’do and red lips like Marilyn Monroe, who famously crooned “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Lady Gaga similarly serenaded Clinton and changed several of her lyrics to reference him, including swapping the title of “Bad Romance” for “Bill Romance.”

“I thought, ‘My God. I get Lady Gaga, and I will have a heart attack celebrating my 65th birthday,’” Clinton later said.

Clinton, who turned 65 on Aug. 19 but celebrated his birthday at a posh Hollywood party Friday night, sat between wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea in the front row throughout Saturday’s event at the outdoor venue set against the Hollywood Hills. Other famous attendees included Maria Bello, Ashton Kutcher, Jason Segel, Ellen DeGeneres, Colin Farrell and Chevy Chase.

“I am the only person in history who got to be President and then had a post-presidential birthday party attended by both Lady Gaga and the Secretary of State,” Clinton joked on stage. “I want to thank Hillary because we met 40 years ago this year. When I met her, she was already doing the kind of work you see here long before it was cool.”

Ticket prices for “A Decade of Difference: A Concert Celebrating 10 Years of the William J. Clinton Foundation,” which was streamed live on Yahoo.com, ranged from $50 to $550. Other performers included Motown legend Stevie Wonder, country star Kenny Chesney, Somali rapper K’Naan, Colombian crooner Juanes and R&B singer Usher.

Usher kicked off his performance with a take on Joe Cocker’s rendition of the Beatles classic “With a Little Help From My Friends” before launching into his hits “Yeah” and “OMG.” The R&B singer accidently split his pant legs while dancing to reveal his bare left leg. The wardrobe malfunction didn’t stop Usher, who continued with his routine, telling the crowd: “I work hard.”

Bono and The Edge of U2 closed the concert with a mostly acoustic set that included such tunes as “Desire,” “One” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” which Bono sang directly to Clinton. The duo – who were accompanied by a string quartet and Edge’s laptop – closed “Miss Sarajevo.” Bono tackled the operatic part of the tune originally sung by the late Luciano Pavarotti.

Clinton himself is no stranger to performing. The saxophone-playing politician memorably belted out “Heartbreak Hotel” when he visited Arsenio Hall’s show during his 1992 presidential campaign. Clinton didn’t pick up the instrument Saturday night, despite a plea from Lady Gaga, who informed him: “I wish you were playing sax with me tonight, baby.”

Profiles in subversion

Decades ago now, my history-teaching dad gave me a yellowed copy of John F. Kennedy’s “Profiles in Courage” with the instruction, “Read.”

Robert Kennedy, in the forward, said his brother’s book contained “not just stories of the past but a hook of hope and confidence for the future. What happens to the country, to the world, depends on what we do with what others have left us.”

But I couldn’t “read.” Those “Profiles in Courage” stories were boring then, and they still were boring when I picked up a new edition of the book a couple of years ago.

So now I’m wondering, what does it mean that I wouldn’t finish “Profiles in Courage,” but I couldn’t put down “Role Models,” John Waters’ profiles of a very different sort?

Yes, I wanted to read about Waters’ original “Bad Seed” Patty McCormack. No, I didn’t want to read about Kennedy’s Daniel Webster. Yes, I wanted to read about Manson girl Leslie Van Houten. No, I didn’t want to read about Robert A. Taft. Yes, I wanted to read about pornographer Bobby Garcia. No, I didn’t want to read about John Quincy Adams. Yes, I wanted to read about Little Richard’s “a-wop-bop-a-loo-mop” rise to fame. No, I didn’t want to read about Sam Houston opposing Texas’ secession from the Union.

This is a confessional review because “Role Models,” while a collection of portraits about famous and infamous others, is really a confessional for Waters. “I wish I were Johnny Mathis,” he writes in the opening sentence. “Tennessee Williams saved my life,” he confesses in chapter two. “Fashion is very important to me,” he asserts. “Every Friday night of my life I drink,” he says, beginning to explain his one-night-a-week alcoholism. “Little Richard scared my grandmother in 1957,” he offers with humor. And, defiantly, he says, “I have a really good friend who was convicted of killing two innocent people when she was nineteen years old on a horrible night of 1969 cult madness.”

The writing in “Role Models” is as pencil-sharp as Waters’ trademark moustache is depicted in the cover sketch, and the content will amuse, engage, inform, horrify and baffle – but never bore.

Four times I read the “Little Richard, Happy at Last” chapter, in which Waters recounts his interview with the architect of rock ’n’ roll. A passage from that chapter: “‘I wish you had been Pope,’ I blurt out, all whipped up in a religious frenzy, throwing caution to the wind. Richard doesn’t miss a beat, and I wonder if he has already considered the possibility. ‘I idolized the Pope when I was a little boy,’ he says reverently. ‘I liked the pumps he wore. I think the Pope really dresses.’”

I know, you already are setting aside WiG to go online shopping for “Role Models.” I’d lend you my copy, but I think I’m going to give it to my dad with the instruction, “Read.