I will be a guest on the Authors Read show, hosted by Lillian Brummet, Monday, May 18, at 11:30 am CDT. It's a live web broadcast where authors read excerpts from their novels. The link is:
I am posting the actual excerpt I will be reading below. It is from pages 102-105 of Murder Of An American Nazi:
Marie sailed through high school. She got straight A’s and was voted class valedictorian. She was supposed to deliver the commencement address, but, when school administrators scanned an advance copy of it, Marie was told to either switch topics, or the honor of speaking at the graduation would go to another student. The principal had only to read the title of the address, “The Importance of Fighting Nazi Infiltration of the American Government,” to know that Marie’s speech had to be censored.
Marie was not surprised by the furor. Neither did she protest. She demurely turned over the valedictorian duties to a fellow student. She cared little about the provincial, narrow-minded obsessions of high school administrators. She was moving on to bigger and better things. She was going to change the world.
Because of her grades and Hannah’s lack of financial wherewithal, Marie won a full scholarship to American University in Washington, DC. She intended to study journalism and history. Her goal was to become an investigative reporter for a major U.S. paper, preferably the Washington Post or the New York Times, whose editorial
positions most reflected her own. She wanted to uncover the truth about her family’s
torturer and murderer, Walter Dornberger, and find out if there had indeed been a systematic recruitment and integration of Nazis into American government, military or intelligence positions and how it was done. Were these Nazis influencing our policy towards the Soviets? Were they exacerbating the Cold War?
She was eager to visit the university and chose to route her summer 1963 trip to St. Louis through Washington, DC. The campus was everything she had hoped it would be, a green oasis amid the monuments and momentousness of the nation’s capital.
She checked out her dormitory and discovered that her roommate was someone named
Julia Munshall. Without knowing it, she had arrived during commencement. JFK was to deliver the commencement address. Marie walked right into the ceremony as if she were with a graduate’s family. She took a seat in the bleachers, and what she heard there inspired her and, at the same time, confused her.
Kennedy’s words seemed to flow from a compartment of the government with which Marie was unfamiliar. She had developed a rather jaded, cynical view of America’s intentions. The government and the military publicly decried fascism, yet they secretly
harbored the worst of the Nazi criminals. What else was going on in secret? What other terrible truths were they hiding? Why did they seem so intent on letting hatred of the Soviet Union bring them to the brink of nuclear annihilation? Did Kennedy even know what was going on in his own government?
Listening to the speech that day, Marie became convinced that Kennedy was going to turn American militarism and secrecy on its head. What he said made her proud, for the first time, to be an American. He spoke of disarmament and world peace. He spoke of commonalities Americans shared with the communists. He spoke of the beginning of the end of the days of conflict. He mentioned the word “peace” over and over. It flew in the face of everything Marie had come to know about America. Kennedy was really sticking his neck out, she thought. Someone would soon chop it off.
Kennedy said, “What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do I seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living.” An end to American military arrogance and domination? Marie was transfixed.
“Total war makes no sense in an age…when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe…we must reexamine our own attitude…every graduate of this school, every thoughtful citizen who despairs of war and wishes to bring peace, should begin by looking inward—by examining his own attitude toward the possibilities of peace, toward the Soviet Union, toward the course of the Cold War, and toward freedom and peace here at home.”
“He wants Americans to question themselves; he wants us to make nice with the Russians?” Marie thought. “The military will hate this. And how about defense contractors and the war weapons industry, she thought. This is going to be bad for business.”
What Kennedy said next stunned Marie. No American president had ever uttered such a revolutionary idea, such a radical or far-sighted entreaty, such an enlightened way to view an avowed enemy. “No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue…we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage. Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in
common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war…no nation in the history of battle suffered more than the Soviet Union suffered in the course of the Second World War. At least twenty million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes were burned or sacked.”
The Russians had been our allies in World War II; Marie recalled Hannah telling her how the Russians had liberated some of the concentration camps. How had they become our bitter enemies in such a short period?
“…we are both devoting to weapons massive sums of money that could be better devoted to combating ignorance, poverty and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle in which suspicion on one side breeds suspicion on the other, and new weapons beget counterweapons. In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race…if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”
The eloquence, lyricism and profundity of what she’d just heard left Marie limp. The man could deliver a speech like no other. And he could make the listener believe in the country’s future and his ability to get us there. Marie viewed it as a sign that she was in
the right place at the right time. Like Kennedy, she was determined to make the world a better place. Hope abounded.
More than three decades after JFK spoke those words, Don Hayes had a completely different interpretation of what they meant. “He signed his death warrant with that speech,” he told me. “You have no idea how that one shook the halls of the Pentagon and the CIA. And the defense contractors? Are you kidding me? No more billion dollar awards to build fighter jets and weapons and helicopters. No more war profiteering for Brown and Root, Halliburton, Boeing and Bell Textron? An end to the system that had made them all so rich and powerful? No more Red-baiting? World peace? He wasn’t going to let them have Vietnam as their own playground, and they were never going to let Kennedy get away with that. Lemay and Lemnitzer already thought he was a traitor. So did Dulles and half the CIA, including Pfisterr and Dornberger,” spurted a red-faced Don.
“What does this have to do with…” I started.
Don interrupted, “Let me explain it as simply as I can. The same people who killed Kennedy, and then covered it up, were the same people who smuggled Dornberger and hundreds of other Nazis into this country. The same people who overthrew democratic governments. The same people who arranged for war profiteers to get rich. The same people who dosed their own citizens with LSD. The same people who blocked the free press. The same people who conspired with the Mafia to kill Castro, even after Kennedy promised to leave him alone. The same people who contrived to get us into Vietnam. The same people Ike warned us about when he left office. The same people who really ran this country until Kennedy stood up to them. The same people who killed my friend, James Carney.” His anger was so overt, Hayes nearly shouted the last name.