Remembering John Kennedy

Fifty years ago today, John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.

For those of us who lived through that tragic time, images of the days that followed the killing flicker through our minds, much like the famous Zapruder film of the actual shooting.

There was the still photo of a shocked Jackie Kennedy watching her husband’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, sworn in on Air Force One. She still wore the outfit bearing the bloodstains from her husband’s wounds.

Television documented the shooting of alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by a small-time nightclub operator named Jack Ruby.

It then turned its all-seeing eye on dignitaries from Charles de Gaulle to Dwight Eisenhower arriving at the White House to pay their respects to Mrs. Kennedy.

Then, of course, it traced the steps of the funeral with the horse-drawn caisson bearing Kennedy’s body leaving the White House with his family walking sadly behind it. The funeral mass and the interment at Arlington were all captured on camera.

Kennedy was smart and eloquent, with a keen sense of humor. He was the first president who knew how to use television, and his press conferences were often as entertaining as informative. He was young with a young wife and young children. They seemed a postcard for a “New Generation of Americans” destined to explore “New Frontiers.”

That he only served as president for a thousand days before being gunned down is a tragedy that no one will ever know the full consequences of. His presidency had failures (the Bay of Pigs) and triumphs (the Cuban Missile Crisis). His death probably ensured passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Kennedy’s greatest contribution was a spirit of optimism. Whether it was fighting for civil rights or vowing to put a man on the moon, he challenged America to aim high and believe in itself.

That is enough of a legacy for any man.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.