For those folks younger than 60, you may wonder why all the fuss about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
For those of us who were there and recall, we remember just where we were when we received word that the President had been shot in Dallas.
On November 22, 1963, I was sitting in Jerry Bridges’ 6th grade class in the old and now razed 2-story school at the east end of Howard Street in Crothersville. I was sitting the second seat from the front along the windows when principal Larry Dugle came to the door and quietly spoke to our teacher.
Mr. Bridges, a man of considerable girth and a flat top haircut, was quite somber as he made his way to the front of the classroom to announce, “There’s some bad news. President Kennedy has been shot.”
There was silence and then hands began rising in the air for permission to speak. Where? Why? How is he? Who did it?
Questions adults would be asking for quite some time.
A brief time later, Mr. Dugle knocked on the classroom door and opened it to announce “The President is dead.”
And there again was silence as 6th grade minds tried to grasp the magnitude of what just occurred in Dallas. This was the time of the Cold War ideology and we thought the Russians had killed our president and we would soon be going to war.
That day was a day we all remembered; much like Dec. 7, 1941 was for a previous generation. Or the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding shortly after being launched on a mission in 1983 or that Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001 was for us all in more recent times.
JFK was the youngest president elected and his youth inspired a generation. Previous to Kennedy, presidents were all old men. He inspired, challenged and gave Americans a quest for doing what was considered the impossible.
He challenged us to go to the moon before the decade of the 1960’s was out. And in July 1969 between my junior and senior year of high school, we did.
The years have jaundiced us all…perhaps those of us in the news business more. But we were inspired and enthralled by Kennedy, his young family, his confidence and charisma. It was a time when political leaders were statesmen and not idealogues who considered that since they are in the majority compromise is a dirty word.
The brief Kennedy administration was likened at the time…and still is… to Camelot, a musical of the rise and fall of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It was a popular Broadway production of the time and later an equally popular film. It was another youthful, can-do moment that ended badly.
There is a portion of the lyrics from “Camelot” appropriate for both of these stories:
“Ask ev’ry person if he’s heard the story, and tell it strong and clear if he has not, that once there was a fleeting wisp of glory, called Camelot.”