Backstage at the Egyptian: Interview with Jim Gibbons

Jim Gibbons is a historian who has made a name for himself teaching the importance of history. Using his passion for and strong knowledge of history, Jim offers riveting presentations on historical events and figures. Jim will be giving a presentation at the Egyptian Theatre on October 25th about the Life of John F. Kennedy in honor of the speech Kennedy gave at the Theatre 57 years ago in 1959. We recently sat down with Jim to discuss both his presentation he will be giving about Kennedy as well as his other presentations.

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Interview conducted by: Jessica Hicks – Egyptian Theatre Intern

Jessica: Tell me a little bit about the presentation you will be giving on the Life of John F. Kennedy?

Jim: I shall be telling the story of John F. Kennedy’s life. He was nicknamed “Jack” as a child and grew up in a very prominent family. I will start by describing his father, Joe Kennedy’s dealings in the political field and his influence on his son’s career in politics. I’ll also discuss John Kennedy’s struggles in life, the time spent in the Navy aboard PT 109, the destruction of his ship, and the struggle to survive and save his crew as well. I’ll talk about his loss due to war of not only his brother Joe, but also of his sister Kathleen and her husband. I’ll discuss his eventual courtship and marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier nicknamed “Jackie” and shall go over his political career from Congressman, to a Senator from Massachusetts, to a Vice Presidential candidate, and eventually our 35th President of the United Sates. The Bay of Pigs, Civil Rights, The Cuban Missal Crisis, the loss of two of his children, and the lives of his surviving children while he was in office shall be discussed as well. Finally, I’ll describe the assassination and John F. Kennedy’s legacy and place in history.

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Jessica: What made you want to become a historian?

Jim: I love to read about where we have been and where we are going. I have studied history most of my life. I have a saying: “Life is no mystery when you know your history!” If you look at things very closely, history repeats itself. Being able to almost predict the outcome of what is about to happen by looking back at what we have done in the past is an extremely rewarding feeling for me. History is fun and I love it!

Jessica: Why do you think it is important for people to be aware of U.S history?

Jim: If you don’t know what you have done in the past you are bound to make the same mistakes in the future. For example, over 37 million people lost their lives in WWI. The United States refused to join the League of Nations after WWI. Because we were not in the league, WWII came about with the loss of over 70 million people. In 1942, F.D.R. came up with the idea of The United Nations. Due to our involvement with other counties, we have not had a World War III. History has many warnings due to past mistakes/history. To ignore them is a major mistake. To accept them and try to correct them–mankind then has a chance for a brighter future.

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Jessica: What are some other presentations you give?

Jim: The Our Lady of the Angels School Fire, The Eerie Similarities Between John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln, The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln, World War I and World War II, Pearl Harbor, The Decades Series: The 1920’s through the 1990’s, Presidential Trivia, The Johnstown Flood, The Cherry Mine Disaster, The Sinking of the SS Andrea Doria, The Mighty Mississippi River, The Hindenburg Disaster.

As well as the lives of:

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Anne Frank, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Amelia Earhart, Richard J. Daley, Charles Lindberg, Walter Cronkite, Abraham Lincoln, Lady Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales, Alexander Hamilton, Margaret Thatcher.

Jessica: What is your favorite historical presentation to give?

Jim: The Our Lady of the Angels School Fire is my absolute favorite program to present. I am the most passionate about this topic. This is a famous fire that was here in Chicago back in Dec. 1, 1958. Ninety-two children and three nuns lost their lives in the third worst fire in Chicago’s history. My inspiration is a little 10 year-old girl who died in the fire by the name of Margaret Anne “Peggy” Sansonetti. I have become very close friends with her sister, Kathy who the fire affected very strongly and have met many other survivors of the fire who attend my presentations. My very first presentations I gave were about the fire. After that program did so well and still is extremely popular, I have added several new programs that have been very popular with audiences as well.

Jessica: Why is presenting at the Egyptian Theatre so special to you?

Jim: For me being a history buff knowing that I am standing on the very stage where John F. Kennedy spoke back in 1959 gives me the goosebumps! The honor, and great privilege to speak on his life where he had once spoken is an historians dream come true!

For more information on Jim Gibbons go to his website

To buy tickets to The Life of John F. Kennedy on Tuesday, October 25 at 7 PM click here

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