One More Remembrance: JFK
I was going to pass on talking anymore about the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
As things have progressed over the last week, I felt it was necessary to give my views on this occasion.
My post was spurred by a quote from the host of Face The Nation. He was a reporter in Dallas in 1963. His quote that tries to sum up the event is, “We (the nation) lost our innocence that day.”
All week long, that quote has stuck in the back of my mind.
He was certainly old enough to remember WWII, concentration camps, Stalin’s reign of terror both before and after WWII, the 100 year struggle of blacks to get basic rights. the list goes on and on.
How can you use that word given all that had went on before?
Now, if you were a 7 year old in second grade at Sacred Heart Catholic School, you could be considered an innocent.
That day, after lunch, the teacher answered a knock on the classroom door. After a brief exchange, she returned to her seat behind the desk. Then, over the intercom, we heard a radio broadcast which was saying the President had been shot. As the reports trickled in, there was some hope. That seems absurd now but after a few more updates, the unthinkable had come true.
The President was dead.
I really don’t remember much else from that weekend. I know the television was on all weekend.
The alleged assassin was caught and then killed.
Watching the documentary Four Days In November last night was a sobering reminder of how the entire nation gathered to grieve. It wouldn’t be the last time. Yet there was something different about this.
Just the list of world leaders that showed up let you know how much impact this killing had on the world. 220 foreign dignitaries from 92 nations attended.
In 1974, as a high school senior, I wrote a paper for a government class. I lost it somewhere years ago. (I got an A on it. I know you were curious.) The theme was about whether or not Pres. Kennedy was a great president. I used a quote from Emerson (I am sure it was him but I can’t find it online.) to conclude my essay.
“The measure of a great man is if he can bring others around to his way of thinking twenty years hence.”
This is a way of thinking favored by historians. I am not sure if things are as settled with the memories of the Kennedy administration even 50 years later.
Harry Truman wasn’t held in high regard for a number of years after his time in office ended. Now it’s different.
You could argue that most of the achievements the Johnson administration called the Great Society were started by Pres, Kennedy.
Medicare, Voting Rights,Civil Rights, just to name three, were passed into law by Congress thanks to the arm-twisting of the Johnson administration.
There was one very bold promise made at the start about sending a man to the moon and bringing him safely back within a decade.
May 25, 1961 that challenge was laid down by the President.
With all the turmoil of the Sixties, through other killings, including his own brother four and a half years later,as Vietnam escalated and revolt on the streets of our country became a way of life, every so often we would all stop and look into space to see the progress that was made on his promise.
July 21, 1969, it came true.
This is where the people who loved President Kennedy can be found. That sort of hope, confidence, can-do spirit. Young people coming of age during those early days of the Kennedy years knew from their own parents experience that anything was possible. Their parents had survived the Great Depression and WWII. Amid all the chaos, there was still a fountain of optimism.
In a cold November 1963, happiness on a national level seemed to be an emotion that would be difficult to achieve for many.
As we all know, life goes on. And it did.
We will talk about that on the next 50th anniversary remembrance in February. Here is a five word hint.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, The Beatles.”
Great post, as always.
I wasn’t born when your president was shot, but I was when you landed on the moon. Don’t remember much of it since it was during my first spin around the old sun, but it sort of defined my childhood’s view of what was to come. We’ve been to the moon. For real. And nothing could stop us now. (Ok, so the brave new world promised by the space explorations in the 60s and 70s didn’t come through but that’s another story.)
What I do remember is waking up early one Saturday morning in February 1986, hearing my clock radio (do you remember those?) announce that the Prime Minister of Sweden Olof Palme had been gunned down and killed in a street in Stockholm the night before. Here too, people were soon talking about how Sweden had lost its innocence that night. But with a less than clear conscience and a very dark history, I fail to see how that could have been the case. Ethic cleansing by means of involuntarily sterilisation of women, far-right secret police forces, the extradiction of countless Baltic refugees to the Soviet Union, secret pacts with Nazi Germany… The list goes on and on. And that’s just the last 60-70 years.
So I fail to see what kind of innocence Sweden lost 28 February 1986. Sure, the violent assassination of the Prime Minister was a big shock. And people couldn’t understand how something like this could happen in little Sweden, being nothing more than a backwater state in Northern Europe. But no, our innocence was already long gone.
I do remember clock radios. I use the cheapest alarm clock available these days.
I imagine what we are talking about could apply to dozens of countries who have a high opinion of themselves.