With Friday being the fiftieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, I thought that it would be a good idea to step back. Let’s just step back for a moment and take a deep breath. Friday is the anniversary of one of America’s darkest moments. There will be the specials. There will be the ‘official’ explanation and the conspiracy theories to what really happened revisited. There will be the countless packages news stations throw together to try and localize the story to their demographics. People will ask the big ‘What if Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated?”
But I’m not going to talk too much about those. Right now, I think that there is nothing new I can add to that conversation. I can’t tell you my personal memories of what happened when JFK died, because I wasn’t born yet. There are people who have studied the assassination and the conspiracy theories who could explain their beliefs better than I can. Personal memories should be told by the person who held them, not by a third party. But I still want to honor Kennedy and I think it would be a good idea to look back at his accomplishments. If we should respect the man who was ‘Camelot,’ and meant so many things to so many people, we need not only to respect the man, but respect his dreams and his ideals. This will be a brief overview, since I’m no biographer of Kennedy. Just a fan.
I think one of Kennedy’s greatest accomplishments that people seem to forget about was the Peace Corps. Kennedy created the Peace Corps with an Executive Power which Congress later passed several months later in 1961; this coming almost a full decade after he suggested it while a representative in Congress in 1951. The Peace Corps have since had thousands and thousands of members and has served in dozens of countries all across the world. This is one of Kennedy’s greatest accomplishments because an organization devoted to helping people who are not as fortunate as us is everything a good charity does.
The Cuban Missile Crisis. We can’t ignore this one. When our country and the Soviet Union were closer than I think any of us actually know to nuclear war, Kennedy and the Soviets were at each other’s throats. There were nuclear missiles less than 100 miles from the coastline of America. Kennedy led the country bravely and eventually, after 12 days of the world holding their breaths, came to an agreement that resulted in the missiles pointed towards America being removed.
The Civil Rights Movement was one of the most important domestic accomplishments of Kennedy’s brief tenure in office. While he was not able to see it completed, Kennedy started leading groundwork that led to all men and women, regardless of their race being treated equally. While some may say that we are still fighting this battle, it was still an enormous accomplishment. Kennedy didn’t get to see the Civil Rights Act enacted, but the groundwork started with him.
The Space Race-one of the greatest technological achievements in human history. For the first time ever, actual human beings were launched into space. A whole new world that was begging to be explored. Kennedy started the Apollo project, which six years after his presidency ended resulted in America landing on the moon.
Kennedy’s presidency could have gone until 1969. But it didn’t…we lost one of the most influential men ever to live. It’s been fifty years and to many, it feels like yesterday. We should remember Kennedy’s death…but not at the cost of forgetting to celebrate his life. To close, I’d like to say this. Some of Kennedy’s most iconic words, even fifty-two years later. Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.