Providence woman still inspired by JFK

John F. Kennedy delivers a speech outside Providence City Hall in 1960.

The glamour President John F. Kennedy brought to the political scene was unequalled then in American politics, and maybe not since. And for an Irish-Catholic girl from Providence, Kennedy was a figure that has never been surpassed.

Kathy Hinckley is devoted to the Kennedys.

She spent 16 years as a staffer with President John Kennedy's nephew, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, and she caught the bug on the steps of Providence City Hall in 1960 when the candidate addressed a throng the day before the election.

Hinckley got to shake the future president's hand, and for her it was better than meeting a rock star.

"Better than Elvis or anybody," Hinckley said Friday, the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination in Dallas.

Hinckley grew up in politics in Providence's South End. She was working for then-Sen. Kennedy's election as president, and oh so hopeful.

"I can't believe that we're going to have an Irish-Catholic president. He's going to serve all the people. Didn't matter what religion or nationality. He was there for everyone, and that's what resonated with everyone. He's going to be everybody's president, not just Irish people," Hinckley said.

Hinckley said she believes Kennedy's approach to politics was different than any that preceded him.

"He brought togetherness. He united the young and the old. He just crossed all lines. He just was there for all of us," Hinckley said.

And while she admits there has been plenty of progress since his candidacy, and shortened career, there has not been a candidate with the same charisma and ability to touch people.

"I don't think I'll ever, ever feel that way about anyone like I did about him," Hinckley said.

She's not the only one who found the young, charming politician a stark change from the laced-up politicians of the preceding generation. And she said she believes the infectious call for service has dwindled since.

"He changed politics, but as the years went on people lost that fire that we had in those days, as far as I'm concerned," Hinckley said.

Hinckley is a straight-ticket Democrat. In her mind, the Kennedy message of common goals and concern for the less fortunate are what the party stood for then and should stand for today.

In his death, JFK remains, for her, the ideal.