Memories of JFK live forever

Posted by John Kanelis on

One year ago, the United States took some time to look back on an event that some have said changed the country forever. We "lost our innocence," or so the saying goes.

President John F. Kennedy was waving to an adoring crowd in Dallas on his way to deliver a speech on economic policy at the Dallas Trade Mart. Three shots were fired at the president's car. Two of them hit the 46-year-old president; one of them blew his head apart, killing him.

The acclaimed PBS documentary series "American Experience" has told the story of the president's life.

JFK's presidency was brief, lasting only about 1,000 days. He didn't have the chance to build a huge legislative legacy. He did face two intense international crises, both of which involved Cuba. The Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 by a force of anti-communist fighters -- sponsored by the CIA -- went terribly wrong; the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year signaled arguably the president's greatest foreign policy triumph, as he negotiated successfully with the Soviet Union to remove the missile installations from the island nation.

His shocking death in Dallas, though, denied Americans the chance to see what kind of president he well could have become. Would he have achieved greatness? Would history today judge him differently.

The Vietnam War was ramping up on his watch. As a veteran of that war, I've occasionally wondered whether my own life would have been different had JFK lived long enough to perhaps take the nation down a different path. None of us can know. We can speculate, we can offer conjecture, we even can try to read the president's mind through transcripts of memos and recorded conversations he had with top national security advisers.

Actual knowledge? Well, that died right along with the president.

"American Experience" has laid out a fascinating portrait of someone whose legacy has contained the word "potential" at almost every level. His life was brief, but oh it was full.


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