John F Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy shortly before the assassination
President Kennedy died 50 years ago today in Dallas, Texas. He was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald at 12:00 CST and died shortly after, the official time was 1:00 CST. Oswald was a communist who had defected to Russia for a time and returned. Kennedy was in Dallas to campaign for the 1964 election.
President John F. Kennedy had an easy wit and great charm, good lucks, and a beautiful wife and two young children. He was conservative fiscally and in foreign affairs. He fought for civil rights when a champion for the movement was needed. He wouldn’t have fit neatly into either party today. He was a man of his times.
If he is remembered for anything, it is his ability to inspire in a way we are not inspired by today’s politicians.
He was the first Catholic president. At the time, it was no small matter that an Irish Catholic was running for the presidency and it was not an easy election, partly for that reason. He defeated Richard Milhous Nixon by a slim margin.
His inaugural speech, memorable and inspiring, is not a speech we would hear today unfortunately.
‘Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’
‘This much we pledge—and more.’
What politician would say this today?
Somewhat prescient of his later call to explore space, he said this:
‘Let both sides seek to invoke the wonder of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.’
‘Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah-to ‘undo the heavy burdens…and to let the oppressed go free.’
He asked people to give back to this great nation:
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
President Obama was often compared to JFK in the beginning of his presidency. It seems likely that President Obama attempted to replicate the JFK speech with his own first inaugural speech.
There were tremendous differences between the two men, however.
President Kennedy expressed pride and love of country, President Obama, on the other hand, spoke of how we needed to change and insinuated we did not care:
‘…I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.’ ~ Barack Obama
JFK’s three-year long presidency reached mythological proportions after he died thanks to his wife.
His wife, Jacqueline Kennedy, modeled the details of the funeral after Abraham Lincoln’s, calling for a riderless horse and the eternal flame in Arlington National Cemetery.
A week after JFK’s death, she called a Life magazine writer – Theodore White – to Hyannisport. On that day, she created the ‘Camelot’ myth comparing Kennedy’s presidency to the mythical reign of King Arthur. The Broadway show, Camelot, was very popular at the time. She said to Mr. White, ‘There’ll be great presidents again, but there’ll never be another Camelot.’
The video of the assassination is still tragic fifty years later:
When JFK won his election in 1960, he won 80% of the Latino vote. That was before illegal immigration problems were much of an issue. JFK’s last night on earth, November 21, 1963, was a memorable one for Latinos. JFK and his wife Jacqueline were supposed to stop by and say a quick hello to a room packed with Mexican-American civil rights activists.
JFK was buried November 25th in Arlington cemetery. It was his son John John’s third birthday