Man witnesses American history

It’s the 26th September 1960 and hundreds of Americans are surrounding their television sets to watch the first ever aired presidential debate: the Nixon- Kennedy face off.

Among the hoards of Americans, was a young Swiss man in a little town in New Jersey oozing over the television set.  

This young ambitious man grew up to be the first-ever Swiss Honorary Consul in Samoa, Marco Kappenberger.  

Samoa Observer caught up with Mr. Kappenberger on Wednesday at the American Embassy election party.  Even in his old age, he vividly remembers watching the first –ever aired presidential debate and meeting the legendary, John F. Kennedy at the White House.  

He fondly recounted his story. 

“I had a scholarship in an American High School and it just happened to be the year John F. Kennedy was running.”

As Swiss and now Samoan citizen, Mr. Kappenberger is unable to participate in the American election.

Still, “somehow, I felt that J.F.K. would make a good president but all my town, 90% was voting for Nixon.  I naturally could not vote, but then Kennedy won and that was the greatest thing,” he said.

“We had a very small black and white television at that time.  No color-high definition televisions.  

“But it was the first time, between Nixon and Kennedy, there were debates that never happened before.  That was the year, the debates between the candidates took place.”

The debate between Nixon and Kennedy forever changed the way presidential elections were ran. 

This was the first time in history voters could actually see their candidates face to face. 

The debate ultimately didn’t work in Nixon’s favor as he appeared sweaty and drained versus the cool, calm and collected Kennedy.  

The Nixon-Kennedy face –off- is a historical turning point for American politics.  

Thanks to Mr. Kappenberger’s study abroad program, he was then able to travel to the White House and personally meet John and Jackie Kennedy. 

“At the end of our trip, we were invited to the White House.  I was a part of the other students and we met John F. Kennedy and Jaquline.  I felt that I was right to be in his favor, even though I couldn’t vote in America,” he said.

Fast forward to today, Mr. Kappenberger, is a self proclaimed independent.

He did not endorse Trump or Clinton and would still chose John F. Kennedy if given the chance.  

“I’m afraid with the quality between these two and JFK, I would still vote for JFK. So I’m disappointed about Trump’s environmental views but most of them have qualities I like very much,” he stated.  

“Every time I go to any election, I don’t think about the about the party’s promise but I look at the person and elect the best individual for whatever job.” 

Now, the retired Swiss Honorary Consul resides in Fasitoo-Uta with his wife.  

He is still an active member of the Rotary Club in Samoa and is a fierce environmental activist.  

He also promotes study abroad programmes “because studying overseas opens your horizon and allows people to become better world citizens.”   

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