President Kennedy – June 2, 1961, Paris

A one minute video clip of President John F. Kennedy was finally made public after 54 years.  The video clip of JFK was filmed on an 8 mm camera owned by a U.S. Army employee who was on hand in Paris on June 2, 1961 as the president visited the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).

Stashed in a Closet for a Lifetime:  The forgotten footage was preceded and followed by ordinary family family festivities filmed by Edwin Lee Smirco over the years.  As often occurs with family movies and photos, they ended up being stashed in a closet where they sat for decades.  About ten years ago, Smirco, aware of how quickly technology changes and films fade, transferred the family films to VHS and gave a copy to each of his four children.  Shortly after receiving his copy, the oldest child, Steven Smirco, decided to see what he and his parents and siblings looked like years ago.  He was surprised when he popped the video into the player and stumbled across the JFK footage. But it wasn’t until recently that he digitized the clips and made them public.

JFK Works the Crowd:  We don’t see any event of huge historical significance in the clip, but we do see the freshly minted president making a brief speech and Kennedy working the crowd and shaking hands.  One of the hands he shook was that of the senior Smirco, who had to “release one of my hands from the camera to shake his hand.” Click here for a story with more details. Click here to read the White House press release of the President’s comments on June 2, 1961 in Paris.

Discovering Our Hidden History:  It’s a good reminder that history often lies hidden away, buried in basements, closets and attics, waiting to be rediscovered.  Or it is silently living in the hearts and minds of those who lived in both great and ordinary times.  Each additional tidbit of information or image we recover helps us in understanding our past more clearly.  To the extent we understand out past, we know how we are connected to it today.  Hopefully, we learn from our history and avoid the mistakes of the past.  The history we come to know was, of course, simply the present moment being lived out by those we call historical figures.  And even though most of us will never end up in history textbooks or be the subject of a biography, we all make history every day by our actions, attitudes, and words.