Preserving President Kennedy's Spirit
Congratulations to Tom McNaught, who was recently appointed as the new Executive Director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.
He’s been with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum since 1996, and is a long-time veteran of local politics and activism.
We sat down with Tom to learn more about his career and some of the plans for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
How did you get started at the JFK Library?
Chuck Daly, who worked for President Kennedy in the White House and was recruited by the Kennedy family to build the Kennedy Library Foundation into the organization it is today, hired me in 1996 as Director of Communications for the Foundation. It has been the most exciting and fulfilling 15 years I could have ever hoped for.
What are some of your duties?
For the last ten years I have been the Deputy Director of the Kennedy Library Foundation responsible for managing the Foundation’s external affairs, and for overseeing the Library’s communications, the Profile in Courage and New Frontier Award Programs, advertising, tourism and marketing programs, and developing our new web site.
Explain how the Kennedy Library Foundation and JFK Presidential Library interact.
Caroline Kennedy is the President of the Foundation.
The Library itself is a federal institution overseen by the National Archives. We work very closely with Library staff to ensure that they have the support and resources needed to not only preserve President Kennedy’s papers, but to make his legacy meaningful to new generations of Americans.
Last year the Library launched a campaign to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the JFK administration – can you give us an update?
We are using the anniversary of the Kennedy presidency to encourage and inform a global discussion about how President Kennedy’s ideals and actions relate to the challenges of today. He spoke of the responsibilities of citizenship and the importance of participating in something bigger than oneself. These are ideals that resonate with people.
The anniversary presents us with a unique opportunity to project President Kennedy’s far-reaching legacy to new generations throughout the United States and around the world. It is less about President Kennedy than about the ideals he espoused.
How do you reach new generations about these ideals?
By finding new ways to communicate with younger Americans and to impress upon them that the torch has been passed to their generation. That is one reason we have made such great effort and gone to such great expense to bring history alive on the internet, because for most of today’s youth, if you can’t find it on the web, it didn’t happen.
New media and social marketing are enabling us to reach populations never before possible. We have gone from being a local institution to a global one.
What do you like most about working at the JFK Foundation?
What I love most is seeing how moved and inspired visitors are by what they experience here.
I cannot think of a greater privilege than working with the talented staff at the Kennedy Library and Foundation. Nor can I think of anything more fulfilling than participating in such a noble and inspiring mission.
President Kennedy’s vision of public participation in government and community service is more relevant than ever and I am excited by the opportunity to promote such an enduring legacy.
About Tom McNaught
Tom McNaught has had an illustrious career in public service and activism.
Prior to the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, Tom was Communications Director for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, one of the nation’s foremost HIV/AIDS advocacy and service organizations. Earlier, he worked for Mass Attorney General James Shannon, US Congressman Gerry E. Studds, and Boston Mayor Kevin H. White.
Before moving to Boston in 1977, Tom worked at Gillette Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, a specialized orthopedic children’s hospital for indigent, disabled children.
He received his Master’s Degree in international relations and American government from Marquette University in 1975 and BA in History and Political Science from Marquette University in 1972.
He is married to Matthew Gilbert, television critic for The Boston Globe, and lives in Brookline, just around the corner from John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s birthplace.
by Michael P. Quinlin