Forty-Seven Years Later
There are some days which will forever live on in history, for the events which occurred on them. November 11, 1918, December 7, 1941, August 6, 1945, August 9, 1945, November 9, 1989, September 11, 2001 are just some of the examples. November 22, 1963 is also one of those days. Forty-seven years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while in Dallas, Texas. The story and images have been repeated throughout the years, so that even those not alive at the time know the events which took place. The images of the president slumped over, as the convertible speeds away. Seeing Lee Harvey Oswald being escorted in handcuffs, then shot. Seeing Mrs. Kennedy’s blood stained outfit while Lyndon Johnson takes the oath of office, and of course John Jr. saluting his father’s casket on the day of the funeral. So what place does this event have in history today and how should JFK be remembered? It is a difficult question to answer.
One positive of this story is the fact that since Kennedy was killed, no other president has been assassinated. While attempts have been made, none have been successful and it is a credit to those who keep the president safe. We can only hope that going forward no other president dies in office.
It is often difficult to remove the image of Kennedy as the famed Prince of Camelot, from the image of Kennedy as President. There is no question he became a symbol of the unfulfilled dreams of millions of Americans. The situation was only compounded by the loss of Bobby Kennedy in 1968. Thus JFK’s reputation as president was hijacked by the gunman whose bullet took his life. We forget the negative details of his brief time in office, holding him up to a high standard few receive.
Should we let the images of Kennedy’s widow and children on at his funeral shape our historical interpretation of him as president? Should he be a symbol of the hopes and dreams of so many that were killed along with him on that November day? The answer to both is yes. We are human, and more often than not we are guided by emotion.
In death, Kennedy has become remembered and honoured around the world for paying the ultimate sacrifice while serving his country. The problem is, there are millions of men and women who have done the same, yet receive none of the praise that Kennedy does. The people who serve everyday and give up their lives to protect and serve their country do not become symbols of the hopes and dreams of a generation. They often receive less than a passing glance.
So while Kennedy deserves nothing but praise and honour for the service to his country, and the risk he took when deciding to run for office, a risk every president who has sought the job understands, there are millions of individuals just like him, who accepted the same risk, just in a different position. Therefore, forty-seven years later it is still important, just as every other life lost in the service to one’s country.