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Hundreds Attend Friends’ Luncheon

The recent Friends of the Port Washington Library’s 44th Annual Book and Author Luncheon at North Hills Country Club showcased two impressive author speakers who are also captivating speakers.

They are Will Schwalbe, author of the best-selling End of Life Book Club and Pulitzer Prize nominated Dr. David Nasaw, author of The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy.

Amy Bass, president of Friends of the Library (FOL) welcomed 300 guests to the event thanking them for their continued support of FOL, which is the longest serving library volunteer group.   

“The organization is dedicated to strengthening our library’s ties with the community and to expanding its resources,” said Bass.

Best-selling author and Sands Point resident Susan Isaacs served as master of ceremonies, introducing each speaker.

David Schwalbe recounted the central role of books in creating a special bond between him and his mother, Mary Anne, during her battle with pancreatic cancer. By asking her a simple question, “What are you reading now?” they began to read a variety of books together and discuss matters both large and small relating to the books they were reading and life in general, just as most book clubs do. In essence, they created a micro book club consisting of two people. Schwalbe said that his mother believed the act of reading to be life affirming. “Through reading we learn and grow, and growing is the opposite of dying.”

Schwalbe’s mother was an activist all her life and her deep belief in the power of the written word led her to organize an effort to establish a library and research center devoted to women and children refugees in Kabul. The library opened just a few weeks after she died.

Nasaw’s subject was far less sympathetic but no less intriguing, Joseph P. Kennedy the patriarch of the Kennedy clan. Nasaw set out the facts of Kennedy’s life within the context of the times in which he lived and the flow of history, characterizing him as the product of an age in which America was fragmented into ethnic tribes.

Kennedy grew up amongst Irish Catholics like himself and then found that despite a degree from Harvard, his path into the prestigious Boston banking community was blocked because he was an outsider in the Boston hierarchy. Kennedy retrenched and became a very successful businessman, and eventually ambassador to England who later fell from grace because of his support for the Nazis and his virulent anti-Semitic views.

Nasaw said he found Kennedy’s anti-Semitism to be his most distasteful act, particularly because he knew what it was to be an outsider.

Nasaw also pointed out how far this country has come in surmounting the ethnic tribal culture of Kennedy’s time. We now have national elected officials of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, which started with Kennedy’s son and brought us most recently toPresident Barack Obama.

Nasaw says this constant change in culture represents “the flow of history and that all events unfold within the context of their times.”