JFK Assassination: 50 Years Later

Posted on April 27, 2013 by

Google 1963 50th Anniversary and you might be surprised.  Near the top of the list is Birmingham, Alabama with its civic and business leaders inviting visitors to commemorate “the movement that changed the world.”  We’re told that travelers can take in the historic attractions of the civil rights era while enjoying the fine hotels, restaurants and night life in this charming and modern southeastern city.

What I expected to find in my search was the singular pivotal event among Americans of my generation.  But I suppose the Dallas Chamber of Commerce will have to be more subtle and discreet in rolling out the campaign to observe the 50th anniversary of  President Kennedy’s assassination.

November 22nd is imprinted in my memory, even more than my kids’ birthdays, the dates my parents’ died or – for that matter – September 11th.  I was 12 and like everyone else watched on TV as Ruby killed Oswald and John Jr. saluted his father’s coffin.

I’ll agree that the assassination shattered the prevailing American mythology, fractured our collective psyche and initiated what we generally construe to be “the 60s.”

I get hung up on the “what ifs”:

Would an eight-year Kennedy era have spared us the trauma of  Vietnam and the accomplishments and excesses of the anti-war movement?  Would the counter-culture have emerged in the same form?  Would we have expunged Nixon, deleted Watergate from history and avoided the public disgust over government institutions that led to the “Reagan Years?”

Sure it’s ridiculous speculation.

But if your political values were incubating in the early 60s, the Kennedy assassination is more than just transformational.  It can be an historical fixation, irreconcilable and –  for many of us – still unbelievable.

Comments (6)


  1. Judith Samuel says:

    I was in a state of shock when I heard the news. I was a student in New York, having lunch in a little restaurant. All of a sudden, the announcement came on over the radio.
    The assassination marked a time in the history of this country that was so sad…followed by MLK and Robert Kennedy. These events transformed the way we felt about this country and made us lose hope for a long time.

  2. nodrama says:

    I was in high school. It was announced over the PA. I went to see the guidance counselor. She had called me in. In retrospect, I realize she needed someone to talk to. But the really striking and disgusting thing was going to my after school job as a bag boy for a local grocery story, the bosses wife who was always pinched and angry was actually dancing, singing and otherwise celebrating the death of our President. I was stunned.

  3. Rey says:

    I was not even born yet when this happened. Yet being a history fan I still really can’t wrap my ahead around the fact that this not only happened but the story around what actually happened remains so murky. Has anyone ever done a documentary involving all the people around the president that day or with his wife. I ‘ve seen docs about what people outside that circle felt and writers and such…but nothing from those that were physically close to the President that day. From us in the younger generation it smells of corruption…i gather from the older generation that was not how they processed it…just curious as to why?

  4. rick chertoff says:

    I read an interesting book that sheds some light, albeit indirectly, on the presidential resistance to escalating the U.S. military involvement in war making in Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos), and specifically that of JFK. The book covers the evolution of U.S. policy from Eisenhower through JFK and into the Johnson administration.
    The book is called “Perils of Dominance” by Gareth Porter and is replete with documentation and footnotes on a scholarly level but very readable to the average person.
    The key item for me was that each president fought the escalation. In the summary it cites how in October, 1963, JFK had finally succeeded in overcoming the hawks in his administration and was on a course of creating a diplomatic ‘modus vivendi’/ peaceful resolution. He does not imply that as a cause of the assassination but one cannot help but wonder given the strength of his documentation and the date. He is accessible on facebook.

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