choate

“When you’re President of the United States, you don’t make many new friends, and I’m not giving up the old.”

This week, we’re sharing stories of ‪#‎LGBTQ‬ history in our holdings. On Saturday, join us online for our second National Conversation, held in Chicago, on LGBTQ human and civil rights: http://bit.ly/1UB5sCs

John F. Kennedy met Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings at Choate prep school in 1933. They started the ‘Muckers Club’ to organize Choate’s pranksters, and were almost expelled when the headmaster heard about the Muckers’ plans to treat the school gym to a pile of horse manure. JFK also learned that Lem was gay shortly after they met.

In 1937, JFK and Lem travelled to Europe together. Possibly most adorable part of their European adventure was their adoption of Dunker, a dachshund puppy they met near Nuremburg.

In the 1940s, JFK enlisted in the Navy and Lem joined the Naval Reserve; they kept up their friendship through letters.

The two stayed friends throughout JFK’s rise to the Presidency, a risky decision. In the 1960s, gay Americans faced institutionalized discrimination, especially in government and politics, and this could spell the end of civil service for gay individuals and people associated with them.

As his political career progressed, JFK continued to rely on Lem’s help and friendship. As JFK put it: “When you’re President of the United States, you don’t make many new friends, and I’m not giving up the old.”

Text and image via John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

#BestFriendsDay

On Best Friends Day, we hope you’ll have as much fun as JFK and his best friend, Kirk LeMoyne “Lem” Billings!

Lem and JFK met at Choate prep school in 1933. In his book Jack and Lem, journalist David Pitts explains that they bonded through their shared intellectual curiosity and sense of fun – and a mutual love of practical jokes. They started the ‘Muckers Club’ to organize Choate’s pranksters, and were almost expelled when the headmaster heard about the Muckers’ plans to treat the school gym to a pile of horse manure.

FY-31. Members of the Muckers Club at Choate, c. 1934. Left to right: Ralph Horton, Lem Billings, Butch Schriber, and John F. Kennedy

In summer 1937, on break from college and interested in the growing political unrest in Italy, Germany, and Spain, JFK and Lem decided to travel to Europe together. They toured Paris, fed pigeons in Venice, and talked to locals about the political tension in Germany.

JFKPP-001-012 [Pages from JFK’s 1937 European trip diary. Read his whole diary.

But the most adorable part of their European adventure was their adoption of Dunker, a dachshund puppy they met near Nuremburg. Dunker traveled with them until JFK’s allergies forced them to find a new home for the puppy in the Netherlands.

PC29. JFK, Dunker, and Lem, The Hague, 1937.

In the 1940s, as the US turned its attention on World War II, JFK enlisted in the Navy and Lem joined the Naval Reserve; unable to see each other often, they kept up their friendship through letters.

JFKPP-004-057-p0060crop. Lem jokes to JFK: “Why don’t you write me one of those funny letters you’re always talking about. I’d like to get one – I never have as yet.” See more from Lem.

PC150. JFK and Lem on leave from the war, Palm Beach, 1944.

The two stayed friends throughout JFK’s rise to the Presidency, which, according to David Pitts, carried some risk. In the 1960s, gay Americans faced institutionalized discrimination, especially in government and politics, and this discrimination could spell the end of civil service for gay individuals and people associated with them. Pitts wrote that JFK “learned Lem was gay not long after they met,” and journalist Ben Bradlee told Pitts: “I suppose it’s known that Lem was gay. It impressed me that Jack had gay friends.”

KN-20770. President John F. Kennedy with Lem Billings in the office of the President’s Secretary, Evelyn Lincoln , April 2 1962.

As his political career progressed, JFK continued to rely on Lem’s help and friendship, eventually inviting him to drop by the White House so often that he had his own room there. As JFK put it: “When you’re President of the United States, you don’t make many new friends, and I’m not giving up the old.”

JFKWHP-1963-10-27-D. JFK Jr., Jacqueline Kennedy, JFK, and Lem Billings ride on a golf cart in Virginia.

We hope everyone has a Happy Best Friends Day, and a friend like Lem to share it with!

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Yesterday I took our GSA up to Choate for a conference by their SMASS (Sexual Minotrity and Straight Supporters) group. A number of groups from regional boarding schools attended. It was a great day and the kids felt so relieved to know that they have counterparts in other schools and that when they come together they can have honest and comfortable conversations with each other about themselves and the state of things at their respective schools. 

At the opening of the conference, one of the leaders of SMASS presented this video, which the group made and showed to the full Choate community at the beginning of the year to good reception. 

Today I was inspired to take 20 minutes out of my class and talk to my students about LGBTQIA issues. We went over what all those letters mean and I answered questions. We talked about people they knew (including me) who are gay or identify as LGBTQIA in some way. I told them the story of why it’s so important to me to teach them about these issues: I told them how high school (this same high school I teach at) was a very difficult time for me, and how I felt pressure to fit in and convince people I was someone I was not. In the end I priveleged them with the knowledge and responsibility to be allies to me and to other people on campus who only want to live in a world where they don’t have to ever be scared to express who they are. 

Stuff My AP Lit Teacher Said...

1.) “’That sad bastard is drinking from me again’ -The Jug”

2.) “I just have a lot of anger built up toward Beyoncé right now.”

3.) “You do NOT want to have your essay graded by the Princeton guy!”

4.) “No Alanis Morissette, it isn’t ‘ironic.’”

5.) “I’ll use it to run over Gary’s bones!”

6.) “Let me just pull out the cocktail dress!”

7.) “Go home, show this to your parents, and say ‘why don’t you love me!’”

8.) “The porcupine? I ATE IT! The mouse? DEAD!”

9.) “Eventually you become numb to the pain.” *high pitched giggle*

10.) “Everyone else? Floorlickers.”

11.) “Fun fact for ya! While your sitting around the dinner table tonight eating [oddly specific description of leftover food from most recent holiday], you can tell your parents…”

12.) ”…and if an intruder gets in I will protect you with my kung fu skills.“

13.) “And if you feel like being sexy, use sexy verbs. David Bowie would have used sexy verbs. Honor him people he’s dead! HONOR HIM!”

14.) “Circle it. Underline it. Draw a picture of [student name] naked next to it if it helps.”

15.) “And here’s your prompt.” *Changes slide to essay prompt* “Not that one.” *Changes slide to another prompt* “SON OF A –” *Angrily changes slide to a third prompt* “thERE IT IS!”

16.) “Sky-Candle.”

17.) “HAPPY IS NOT A TONE!”

18.) “Dinosaurs are not animals!”

19.) “You did not eat that sandwich, it’s gone.” 

20.) “Without words you would be staring at a blank page going ‘the story of my life!’”

21.) “Ladies, if a boy hands you lilies, throw them and scream: ‘NO YOU DIE!’” 

22.) “Only one man can defeat nature, and that’s ‘The Rock’ people!”

23.) “The next person to write ‘morose’ or ‘jovial’ as the tone in their essay is getting thrown out of my class.”

24.) *Steps on a packet filled with poems* “Stepping on poetry! I should be burned at the stake.”

25.) *Talking about being a grader for AP Lit essays* “And then I get a kid from California and I say, ‘thank you for restoring my faith in education!’”

26.) “I got it from my poetry guy on the black market.”

27.) Student: “Are there any poems that you don’t like?”

       Teacher: “Yeah: mine.”

28.) “I’m like the Mississippi river…gross.”

29.) “Here’s a poem for ya: no no, no no no, no no no, no, no.”

30.) “Is she a Capricorn? Oh that explains so much!”

@meconomancer @mooses-gabriel

Choate-Broke

true story (essentially)…

INT. VON - LATE AFTERNOON

Sitting at a table in the back of the downtown NYC bar is then managing editor of Gawker Media, now internet entrepreneur extraordinaire Lockhart Steele. That is his real name. He stands upon noticing the arrival of the only black guy in the bar, PATRICE EVANS aka TAN aka THE ASSIMILATED NEGRO:

LS: Hi there, are you Patrice The Assimilated Negro?

TAN: My nigga

LS: well, uh, you’ve been very impressive, shooting up the charts and what not

TAN: yo, your name is Lockhart Steele for real?

LS: yes. wouldyabelieveit?

TAN: nah, son. you playin… your name ain’t Lockhart Steele

LS: it is.

TAN: word. can i use that shit too, then?

LS: uhhh

TAN: ….

LS: so i don’t know, what can i do for you? you reached out to me right, said you had an unbelievable offer to make me?

TAN: word. sorry about all those exclamation points, but i was high and shit and i was just sort of amped to be like getting some shine, knahmean

LS: heh, i think so.

TAN: but yo,

LS: yes?

TAN: yo

LS: yes?

TAN: yo, here’s the deal. I need some paper. I’m broke, y'know. I’m a give it to you straight. Yo. I’m f'ing broke, son. And I ain’t talking Choate-Broke. I’m talking broke-broke.

…annnd scene

So, number one: yes, this is mostly a true story. Now, yes, I am playing up my hood side a little. But I don’t think the truth is that far off. pretty sure i was wearing a big billowing polo shirt and it’s possible when elizabeth spiers showed up after that i was like, “waddup shortie, how YOU doin? can i holla after?”. ok, not really on that. but i def did say the “choate-broke” part, and i think that’s pretty raw for a first time meeting. some jungle animal instincts firing there. 

and as for the term itself, “Choate-broke” is a reference to the name-droppable private boarding school I attended, Choate Rosemary Hall. a school that currently costs over to $47,000 dollar per year to attend. mind you that’s high school cooch, high school D, i.e. a lot of room for improvement, you will experience better. now any kid of high school age will probably talk about being broke countless times, but needless to say if you’re broke and attending a school that will cost minimum $200K to attend/finish, as we used to like to say while throwing in a 50-cent bag of chips on someone’s order at the corner bodega: son, you ain’t really broke. I’m broke-broke. hook me up.

and so there you go. choate-broke. use it in your next interview!