I was about 5 years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. I remember sitting beside my grandmother in her room when we were still living in Manila. When the news flashed, my grandmother let out a religious expletive and made the sign of the cross. Then she started to cry. We both sat riveted to the television screen. Even at that age, I felt that something terrible had happened. The world lost a significant individual.
There is no doubt that the assassination of any president impacts greatly on a country. But the emotional cataclysm brought about by Kennedy’s assassination was felt all over the world, not just in the United States. He was admired for his eloquent speeches, his good looks and charm, his picture-perfect family and heritage. All this contributed to a fairy tale-like White House, critics have sniffed.
Over the years some historians have been very critical of his presidency and all the adulation Kennedy has garnered, even after his death. Some have criticized his foreign policy. His image as a devoted family man was mired with scandals like the Marilyn Monroe fiasco. Then there were the health issues and the drugs to keep him alert and with it for all the various challenges on his plate. Even the Civil Rights activists were annoyed with the delays in his signing an executive order to end segregation. And so on and so forth.
Naysayers have attributed the perseverance of the Kennedy mystique to baby boomers who have held him on a pedestal and his continued presence in everyone’s memories, no matter how some may be hyperbolic, is validation to baby boomers’ perceived grandiose self-image.
Naysayers aside, this president continues to be well-loved. Just listen to the stories of how Dallas suffered after his death, as the city where it happened. Dallas had to work its way to credibility and favor several years after the fateful day!
My memories of Kennedy growing up were his famous speeches. The “ask not…” line is most prominent in my mind. Also, one his favorite poets was Robert Frost. One favorite Frost work was:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.
You know what? They can say all they want. But a president is someone we all turn to for inspiration. Kennedy was a charismatic leader. He knew what it was to be an inspirational figure in those tumultuous times. He called on everyone to set aside their own ambitions and join forces for equality and peace. He gave people hope that the future will be better. That’s why his legacy lives on.
- Baby boomers in media make the Kennedy assassination all about them (salon.com)
- Guest Post: Congressman Marc Veasey Reflects on the 50th Anniversary of the JFK Assassination (burntorangereport.com)
- The Kennedy Assassination: More Important Than 9/11? (huffingtonpost.com)
- JFK Mythology and Reality: Baby Boomers Remember Kennedy and Inflate his Legacy (ivoter.com)
- 50 Years Later, the Kennedy Assassination Still Haunts a Generation (news.health.com)
- Assassination of John F. Kennedy (fonsofafool.wordpress.com)
- John F. Kennedy was Assassinated 50 Years Ago (barefootwinefounders.com)