This post commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It also represents what I think is the first of my historic graveside visits I can remember. I’ll weave that part of the story in below. Trying to write about John Kennedy in a condensed way is a challenge given the volumes of material written and broadcast about the 35th president. His story is mythic without the need of exaggeration, his death tragic in a way that has shaped the national psyche and his legacy one of the great debates of the modern era.
You might find this short C-Span bio a helpful primer on our subject.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born in the Boston suburb of Brookline, MA on May 29, 1917. He was the second of what would eventually become a family of nine children born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. At the time of JFK’s birth the Kennedy family was already something of a dynasty in New England – he was named for his maternal grandfather John Francis “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald – the legendary mayor of Boston in the early 1900’s. John’s father, Joseph Kennedy, was the son of the other great politician of the era and when he married Rose Fitzgerald the two great Boston Brahmin families were joined. Joseph Kennedy went on to a long career in politics, most significantly serving as US Ambassador to England during World War II.
|The Kennedy Clan|
When asked later in life to explain his heroism Kennedy would just say, "It was easy. They cut my PT boat in half”.
Kennedy's heroism was portrayed in full Hollywood style in the 1963 film PT 109 starring Cliff Robertson as JFK. The movie was released just five months before the assassination. Here's the trailer for the film.
|Jack and 'John John' and the |
|Jack and Bill|
- The Launching of the American space program. The Apollo project, designed to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, was bold, visionary, and politically advantageous in pushing the United States ahead in technological research and development during the Cold War years.
- The Cuban Missile Crisis. In perhaps the closest point in history to armed US/Soviet conflict, Kennedy’s brinksmanship and use of intelligence and emerging technology to push the Russian missile launchers out of Cuba show the presidency in one of its great moments.
- The Bay of Pigs fiasco. The disastrous attempt to invade Cuba with an army of anti-Castro Cubans failed miserably, not only embarrassing the US government, but establishing Fidel Castro as a communist icon within 90 miles of the US coast.
- JFK’s incessant womanizing. In Kennedy’s day, rampant unfaithfulness to a marriage by a politician was rarely reported on by the press. However, the recklessness with which we now know he engaged in this behavior would certainly be impeachable in our day.
John Kennedy was not just a telegenic leader, he was a capable of soaring oratory. Here are key moments from three memorable speeches in JFK's brief presidency.
|The Inaugural 1/20/61 - "Ask not what your country..."|
| Rice University 9/12/62 -|
"We choose to go to the moon...."
|Berlin 6/23/63 - "Ich bin ein Berliner...."|
November 22, 1963
|With my friend Steve Gonzales at|
Dealy Plaza with the Texas
School Book Depository in
|Funeral procession into Arlington Cemetery|
|A picture I took with my Instamatic camera on the |
seventh grade patrol trip - April 1972.
|Your blogger and son just about 40 years |
later - November 2012.