Monday, November 25, 2013

To Write About John F. Kennedy

   Below is essay I posted Friday November 22 on my blog 2 lane highway (  in memory of President John F. Kennedy. I share it again, on Writing North Idaho not only because  his meaningless death occurred a week prior to Thanksgiving, and for many of us of a certain age, Thanksgiving and the death of the  President of the United States  seem to intertwine in some surreal way, but  because as writers there is a mountain  of material left to write about    President Kennedy, his family, his politics, the assassination, the 1960's, his legacy and the impact  he had on the folks of  that era, and the continuing  influence he may  have  on future generations.

   Fifty years have passed since President John F. Kennedy was killed. It hardly seems possible so many of us, who were so young when the President was shot on November 22, 1963 , are now older than he was when he died, and yet we remember that horrific day and where we were like it was yesterday.  Several 'friends' on Facebook  posted memories :

*    I remember the day like it was yesterday! I was in choir and Mr. Salter talked to us after the PA announcement. Then we gathered in the cafeteria. No one was eating, and you could hear a pin drop.

* I was standing in the East Quad when I heard the news on the PA system. No one spoke, many shed tears, and most of us held our breath hoping it wasn't true.

* I was in P.E. and walked into the gym and saw Mr. Taschner sitting in the bleachers with his head in his hands, crying. I don't think I had ever seen a grown man cry before.

* I remember being in science class. It was such a sad day. I remember going home watching TV, and crying for days. I still have the newspapers from that horrible time. No matter the politics, everybody loved Kennedy.

   Yes ! I remember too, I  was in 8th grade  at St. Rose of Lima school in Maywood, California,  and  can see in memories eye,  an obviously sad, teary eyed  Sister Mary Agnesine tell the class the President had been shot, and feel  the solemn silence that followed like a darkened room after the lights are turned off. Then we prayed.

    That following Monday school was closed so students could be at home to watch the coverage of the Presidents funeral procession.  Perhaps the image of Mrs. Kennedy and her two children standing in front of the White House, and little John-John's sweet salute as his fathers caisson passed by has left the most lasting impression on us. So tragic, yet so tender.  If the bombing of Pearl Harbor joined our  parents generation together , the assassination of President Kennedy, the first Catholic elected president ,  certainly bound ours. And television played a big part. For the first time as a nation we not only grieved singularly , or within our own community , but collectively as a nation, witnessing together on live TV the killing of a president, his funeral and burial, then the murder of his assassin.


     In a recent New York Times Book Review article titled Kennedy, the Elusive President,  Jill Abramson, executive editor of the Times wrote , An estimated 40,000 books about him (JFK) have been published since his death, and this anniversary year has loosed another vast outpouring. Yet to explore the enormous literature is to be struck not by what's there but by what's missing. Readers can choose from many books but surprisingly few good ones, and not one really outstanding one.

  Whoa! That 40,000 books have been written about President Kennedy is amazing to think about, but what strikes me more is Abramson's contention that none are worthy, that not one is really outstanding. She sites biographer Robert Dallek as saying historians are not really impressed with him , they see him more as a celebrity who didn't accomplish very much.

    In  the scheme of things , I suppose  a thousand days isn't all that long to accomplish goals set out in campaign promises.  But I would submit Kennedy's mark isn't necessarily his political imprint, but the imprint he left on the American psyche, and how his glow, and positive outlook  attracted young and old alike. And today, let  his  words sound loud and true,  Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country.


Elizabeth S. Brinton said...

We have all spent the past week being struck by the power of J.F.K.'s words. For an historian to say he did not accomplish much, he should look up to the moon. Also without a cool head at the helm of the Cuban Missile Crisis, we would not even be having this conversation. There are lessons to be learned from those bright, brief days. It behooves us all to study them.

Jennifer Rova said...

Excellent post, Kathy. Regardless of one's political leanings, JFK has left many lessons---some about what not to do and some about how a humorous phrase and a positive attitude can accomplish goals. We, as a country, are wiser for knowing him.

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Thanks for the good remembrance, Kathy. Having no personal memories of that tragic day, I value the stories of those who do.

Kathy Cooney Dobbs said...

Thank you Jennifrer Rova & Jennifer Lamont Leo for your affirming comments. As you said Jennifer Rova, & as it should be , 'Regardless of political leanings, JFK has left many lessons" . Presidert Kennedy was never so partisan to make citizens think he was president of only one political party, one group of folks - but of all Americans. Elizabeth S. Brinton, what strikes me is with the amazing number of books written about JFK, the editor of the New York Times thinks none truly worthy, & seems to chide their work for the lack of balance and truth. She goes on to suggest the definitive bio of President Kennedy still waits us. Thanks again, girls for your comments!