Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy New Delhi's Flickr page - President John F. Kennedy: https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassynewdelhi/5386861182/in/photolist-9d259W-tmwAo-cWtMa-7a4Byr-f2QNxR-6T4jUP-9D8P7N-fNDPna-owAEr7-cMia3q-byZ3sQ-5nUjps-3BNPpE-dejPUc-dejPeY-6BmWcm-6599wx-xvZgh6-3BXC4T-7a7U2J-fsx31D-fswNCz-dejP8o-nKsnKa-9d2AYA-nsYcM8-bLpmLn-e6FRc4-5X3TCf-hTFK4N-5FTTUx-Abf3GV-a1ExFz-621Udq-7UJoDn-6zdUWD-dS84z5-6zhYzo-mszAN8-msyXcP-msyWZe-mszAtk-msyWLZ-msATFA-msyWzg-mszxVV-dEmU38-fstNe2-bLoGDz-8VE5tv
Watching programs and clips dating back to the days of the presidential administration of John F. Kennedy, you really get a feel for how the country must have felt good and confident about a bright present and a brilliant future.
Simply put, the early 1960's were John F. Kennedy's moment in the sun to shine, and the entire country not only watched, but felt a part of it. Kennedy represented the very best of the youthful energy, idealism, and enthusiasm that the United States felt at the time about itself. In that sense, they shared in his glory, in the dream of Camelot. He was a fitting representative of the nation as it saw itself then. He seemed youthful, good-looking, highly intelligent, idealistic, witty, and strong, and that was probably the way that many Americans would have described their country at the time.
Something that really stood out and resonated with me was just how universally this man, and really surely any man who held the office of the presidency back in those days, was the level of universal respect and admiration that he received. Compare that with today, when the men who have held that office in recent years have seemed only too human, and not up to the challenge of meeting our too often admittedly excessive expectations of what a president should be, and should represent. Kennedy seems even today to be respected and even beloved by American people of almost all political stripes. He is quotes still so often, and his words continue to inspire, even many decades after his death. We can see why he was so popular at the time, and what he meant to a country that was enjoying a golden age, and perhaps had reached a peak during those days of Camelot. I remember being quite surprised when my mom told me once that the Kennedy Assassination felt more shocking than the September 11th attacks did, and I can imagine that it is because, in that world, it was unimaginable that anyone could even get close enough to the glory of that president - again, a glory that most Americans basked in and shared on some level - to be literally gunned down in the streets before throngs of admirers.
That makes the shock value of his being struck down in Dallas on that November day all the more understandable and tragic. It is often said that the nation lost it's innocence on that day and, indeed, there is more than a grain of truth to that. In the aftermath of the assassination, the country grew undeniably more cynical. A majority of Americans believed that there was more than one shooter, and that there was more, even far more, behind the assassination that the official reports suggested. When the Warren Commission came out, a majority of Americans disagreed with the conclusions drawn there, and they have remained skeptical ever since. And this really was just the first of a series of events that saw Americans turn from idealism and enthusiasm in the way in which they viewed themselves and their country, and grow gradually more cynical and divided. Next came the racism on display as the civil rights movement came to a head, then the Vietnam War, then Watergate. Suddenly, the nation was entirely different, and the images of the days of Kennedy and Camelot truly did seem to belong to another, far more innocent and naive era, and the nation had grown out of it.
There you have it. The reason, I suspect, that the death of just one man has left such a lasting impression on the American psyche. That and, of course, the fact that this singular event has become legendary for the conspiracy theories linked to it. So many people have radically different theories on who did it, why they did it, and how they did it.
One way or the other, however, the Kennedy Assassination has continued to linger with us for quite some time afterwards, which itself figures in it having attained near mythical status. It is hard to know the truth of so much of what happened in the past, but this one event in particular seems to both attract so many who have remained curious, as well as to elude any real attempts at definitive proof or settling the question once and for all, thus assuring that this legacy will continue on through the decades and, perhaps, centuries to come.
To honor the memory of the 35th President of the United States on this anniversary of his death, I have posted some videos documenting his life, and those four dark days in November that shook the nation, and indeed the world, so terribly.
Hope you enjoy!
Four Days in November (1964)
JFK The Final Hours A National Geographic Documentary (2013)
JFK with Peter Jennings (1983)
JFK: In His Own Words (1988)