AYINDE J. STEVENS
Student Voice Editor
This Friday will mark the 50th anniversary of the John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s assassination. The assassination, which took place in Dallas, was one of the most damaging events of 20th century.
A whole generation that looked up to Kennedy and, by extension, his family, when he was sworn in in January of 1961, had their heads bowed in grief two years later.
While Kennedy served only 1,036 days as president, the assassination has been the defining aspect of his presidency, with only the Cuban Missile Crisis and the famous phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” coming in a close second and third.
So as the 50th anniversary draws upon us, we are once again bombarded with the books, the TV specials and other ways to make us relive the day when America entered the mid-life crisis that we are stuck in today.
I say mid-life crisis because since that day much of America’s innocence was lost. Sure, Lincoln’s assassination was equally painful, but there is a big difference between the two: Lincoln was aware of his mortality. He got a lot of things accomplished or tried to get the ball rolling on other things so that, in the event of his death, historians could marvel at his accomplishments.
To be fair, Kennedy’s ball of policies had to go up hills that Lincoln never really had to deal with since half the country was fighting the other half. It also helps when half of your government isn’t there to oppose you. However, many of his key goals would be realized with his successors, such as the moon landing of Apollo 11. And while Kennedy didn’t necessary “fail” with Congress, which enacted legislation that helped many people move out of poverty, he had to be nudged when it came to the Civil Rights Movement and then there is the Bay of Pigs, which did not go well at all.
But the death symbolizes not just the loss of innocence and the herald of tumult of the ’60s, but how it has been interpreted has been at the very least annoying.
However, there is one exception. Whenever someone hums “Sweet Caroline,” it’s little Caroline Kennedy that Neil Diamond is referring to and that final summer she spent with her father. To me it’s the only heartbreaking yet touching aspect that came out of all of that, and for 38 years we had no clue.
Today, few leaders could capture Kennedy’s ability to unify the nation. The two, in my opinion, who have gotten the closest are Obama and Reagan. However, in today’s world, Kennedy would have never really fit into either party since both have moved away from the center.
He might be considered conservative by today’s Democratic standards.
Then there is that question of legacy. Like all presidents, Kennedy’s reputation will ebb and flow depending on how history treats him. Right now it looks as if Kennedy got the buy now-pay later historical package where his death bought him more time to escape the rumors, the indecisions and innuendo that would later surface and dull the sheen of his presidency. That has made me question why this one above all the others is the one we cling to, scrutinize, analyze, poke at and speculate over.
Looking at our previous presidents, their legacies seem to be holding on for now but I sense that Reagan’s and Clinton’s economic legacies will be criticized in regard to our current recession’s ills.
As for Bush I & II, the jury is still out since it really wasn’t Dubya’s fault that he got stuck with Cheney. As for his father, H.W., he’s made his peace with his stint and both have stayed out of the public eye.
So if you are wondering why I went down this rabbit hole it’s because of this, ever since that day in November, we as Americans have gone over this event again and again and again, looking for that Kennedy magic, in the hope that we could have a second chance with it. Some
have even attempted to recreate, with varied success.
But, we are left with the unfortunate reality in which that kind of magic only comes only once in a century. So instead of letting it go we come back every 10 years trying to tell the same story: How a man came to Dallas and never came back.
Just a few weeks ago, I emerged from a subway station and there was a man dressed up in ’60s attire, hawking the infamous New York Times extra edition announcing Kennedy’s death and, of course, a Kennedy half-dollar.
I suppose it is fitting that they chose 50 cents to put his face on since it represents everything about his life, which is that it was and still is unfinished.
Of course what is stranger is that I’m keeping the halfdollar.
Maybe perhaps despite all I’ve written about this mess, about how the nostalgia of Camelot really has dulled us from the reality of it all, I too still want some part of that magic as well.
If the dream endures so shall the ghost.