Thoughts About JFK

I have spent time on YouTube over the past several days looking at videos of JFK. From seeing one of his State of the Union addresses in its entirety, to home movies, to the extensive news coverage of his tragic assassination, it is all there, and continues to fascinate many, including me.

I was introduced to the legacy of John F. Kennedy early in life. My family adored him. My grandmother had a framed, color portrait of him in the livingroom. My Mom and others shared with me their memories of his presidency. His standing up to Alabama governor George Wallace, how effectively he handled the frightening Cuban Missile Crisis, the excitement of his being elected, the pleasure of watching his adorable children.. and where they were when it all abruptly came to an end. By the time I was in fourth grade, I was captivated by the Kennedy family. My teacher, Mrs. Wilson, asked my Mom one day how it all started. Over 30 years later, it continues.

There was something about JFK which hasn’t been seen since his time in the White House.  His press conferences, which were often filled with his witty sense of humor, are an educational delight to watch. We cannot forget Jackie, his stylish wife, who spoke French and Spanish. People still remember Caroline’s pony, Macaroni. They continue to refer to JFK Jr as “John-John”. Numerous books have been written, movies and documentaries made, including the recent one called “The Kennedys”, which debuted this past spring on the Reelz channel. In the black and white and color footage which still exists, filmed so long ago, his charisma and intelligence remain fresh, continuing to shine through. His flaws seem to pale in comparison. There was even a Grammy award-winning album, The First Family, which was extremely popular. Comedian Vaughn Meader became a household name with his distinct imitation of JFK. The Kennedys were the the first family in the White House to be seen on TV on a regular basis. This only added to their appeal. Jackie Kennedy’s televised White House tour on CBS won big ratings, and an Emmy. There were Caroline dolls. The country couldn’t seem to be able to get enough of them.

Many of those who remember Kennedy are proud of it. No putting your age back here. Those of us who were not alive at the time are curious. In elementary school one year, we had to select a name for our class, the name of someone famous. When one of the girls suggested “John F. Kennedy”, the entire class became respectfully quiet, and agreed unanimously. In high school, we spent an entire month in American History covering his presidency and assassination. The interest we had was genuine. This year, on the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, Google had his picture on display on its homepage. When there are new audio tapes revealed, we want to take a listen.

Why are we still so interested in this president after all of this time? Here is my theory. To begin with, he and his family looked like something out of a story book, or fairy tale. He was handsome, young, and vibrant. His wife a beautiful, cultured fashion icon.The two kids, a boy and a girl, cute as buttons. It’s interesting how much Jack and Jackie resemble Rob and Laura Petrie on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”. He talked of hope with his New Frontier, and the space program. He was the youngest man elected to the presidency. He and his family sailed. They were charming and elegant. It was truly the time of Camelot, a brief, shining moment in our history. Suddenly, in one day, it was over. There was no closure. It was an unfinished era. To this day, people and historians alike wonder “what might have been?” Many, myself included, do not believe the Warren Commission. I am sure we will never know the full story behind the Kennedy assassination. Lastly, it was the way his life ended. He was killed, in the street of a city within the nation he presided over. His life was snatched away by a brutal assassin. It had all happened so fast. There was no time to process the tragedy. That in itself is very difficult to get past.

The country remains haunted by his death. It has gone on, but not fully recovered. I have heard the name John F. Kennedy, and his assassination mentioned in some unique places, including in church and in an episode of “Sex and the City”. His name has never rested, or been out of the spotlight. Nor has his family. Notice the continuous comparisons between Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Obama. We as a nation mourned when John Jr perished in a 1999 plane crash. Caroline has been called the sole survivor of Camelot.

We still hear about and discuss Abraham Lincoln, a president none of us shared the same lifetime with. I am sure people will still discuss John F. Kennedy decades from now as well. He, and the legacy he left behind, are not easily forgotten.

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~ by kmnnz on June 22, 2011.

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