Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago in Dallas...

Minutes before he was shot, John F. Kennedy beams his trademark
smile at supporters and onlookers.
Fifty years ago in Dallas, shots rang out that changed the course of history.

On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he rode through the streets of Dallas in an open-top limousine.

I wasn't even alive then, but I know it was a shock to everyone.  I have talked to my older family members about that terrible day.  They tell me what they were doing when they found out.  They still can recall details and feelings from that day that might shock you.  One family member can tell you exactly what they were eating when they found out.

Other folks I know remember hearing about Kennedy's death at school.  As they were young, they talk about not knowing fully what everything meant.  They just knew something terrible had happened.

Something terrible did happen.

John F. Kennedy was not your normal President, and none before or since really can compare.  Elected at 43, Kennedy was not only the youngest man to be elected to the office, but he was the President who died at the youngest age (46).  His beautiful wife, Jacqueline, was beloved at just 34 years old.  They had two young children and had lost a child as well.  Unlike many Presidents and despite their enormous wealth, the Kennedys were people that folks could relate to.

We now know about President Kennedy's various dalliances and escapades.  We know that he wasn't perfect, but he was a fine President who was just starting to see his popularity numbers tick upward.  With the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs behind him, Kennedy was finally starting to get some things done and was hoping to get his stalled civil rights bill through Congress.  His reelection campaign was just starting.

Unfortunately, so many of my generation know of President Kennedy only in what we've read in the history books and seen in clips and videos.  For many of my age, we know him more for his death than his life.  That's a shame.  I would have loved to know what would have been different in this country had, for the sake of argument, Kennedy had survived the assassination attempt.

Kennedy's death was one of the first in a number of high-profile and violent deaths of the 60's in the United States.  Medgar Evers had been shot dead in Mississippi a few months prior to Kennedy's assassination in Dallas.  Malcolm X would be gunned down in 1965 and within a month of each other, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy both were murdered by assassins in 1968.  It was a loss of innocence.

The 1960's came in with the hope of Camelot, and they ended with the despair of Vietnam. Would John F. Kennedy, had he survived, changed things?  Only the alternate historians can debate.

What we do know is that John F. Kennedy was taken from us on November 22, 1963.  That was 50 years ago, today.

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