Hey everyone 50 Years ago today I was almost two and a half and the United States Of America was in a nation in mourning as its 35th President John F Kennedy had been shot and killed the previous day on a visit to Dallas Texas. The sense of shock was so great that many people who are old enough to remember the assassination recall vividly where they were on the day that Kennedy died.
What I was doing on the day that Kennedy died? Well it’s a reasonably safe bet to say since it was a Friday I was probably at nursery falling down a lot and picking myself up again. I was good at that and come to think of I still am. I was told my dad and my gran that JFK as the President was often was also good at that and his spirit was one of the things that made him popular.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born the eldest son of a wealthy Irish-American family His father Joe Kennedy was a former American Ambassador to Britain at the outbreak of World War 2 and he always said he would make sure one of one his sons would be the first Irish-American catholic ever to enter the Whitehouse and sure his prophetic words came true as his second son John won the 1960 presidential election. However though we know how the President died and the fact that initially the wrong man was charged with his murder one question remains unanswered namely why five decades after his death is John F Kennedy still so popular and the object such fascination?
I think there a few reasons for this. The first and perhaps most important of these is the fact is that this was a President cut down in his prime. America’s first ever Irish Catholic President he was also his nation’s youngest ever leader and by all accounts a bit of a lad. There were rumours of an affair with the darling of Holywood Marilyn Monroe, and it was during his three year reign that the world was taken to the brink to the third and had it gone ahead potentially fatal Third World War over the Cuban missile crisis. However despite his failings America it seemed was ready to re-elect the name many called Jack for a second term by a landslide majority had he lived to get the chance of it. Unfortunately that dream was killed on the streets of Dallas 50 years ago.
There was also the fact that this was a good looking man. A family man, a man with a vision of a better more optimistic America which could be prosperous for it’s citizens, could build it’s influence and power abroad, and through it’s allies in Western Europe defeat the communist leadership of the Soviet Union. This optimism appealed to a nation still reeling after the horrors of World War 2. Indeed Kennedy adopted the Frank Sinatra song high hopes as his campaign song to convey his belief in his country and the dream for which it stood. Indeed he is often said to be the man who changed politics because he had high hopes which were built on a very clear vision of how society should be and the kind of America he wanted to create. This was a man with a dream of a better nation and the sense of purpose required to make it happen. Indeed such was the popularity of the man and his vision for his people that neither he nor his dream could be underestimated.
Something else which cannot be underestimated is that the 1960 campaign was the first in which the two rival candidates went head to head in televised debates. This was to be a great advantage to the charismatic young charmer that was Kennedy against more experienced but weather beaten Republican opponent Richard Nixon who just didn’t look trustworthy. American politics had now entered the television age and Kennedy was to be the first beneficiary of it. Some would say in later years it would benefit other presidents such as fellow democrats Bill Clinton, and Barak Obama who at least to some political commentators inherited at least some of Kennedy charm. I have to say though having lived through their reigns I very much doubt this.
What I don’t doubt however is the fact that such is the power of television it even allowed former Holywood movie star and Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan to present himself as the nation’s friendly uncle on the road to winning the presidency and even more effectively on the road to retaining it. This despite the well known comedian Billy Connolly saying he wouldn’t trust Reagan with the remote control for his television let alone the button which could start a nuclear war and potentially blow us all to bits.
So it is I think fair to say that politics has changed significantly since that day in Dallas in 1963 and not always in ways in which John Fitzgerald Kennedy would have approved of. It seems at least to me that the world for which my mum and dad had such high hopes and as I due to my balance condition was still struggling to walk in has become a lot more greedy and a lot more self centred no one epitomises this more than Tory oops I meant Tony Blair the champagne socialist who swapped principals for personal glory.
I remember when Blair or as I prefer to call him B-Liar got elected the British press and media trying and failing to market him as a cross between Kennedy and King Arthur. God knows they even attempted to present Britain as a late 20th century camelot to the theme tune of things can only get better as sort of people’s anthem. On Blair’s election my mum always politically naïve said to my dad. Do you not think he’s got a touch of JFK about him my dad said that if JFK had a pair of boots Blair wouldn’t be allowed to lace them. I remember on the invasion of Iraq in 2003 just weeks before my dad was taken from us reminding him of his comment. Being unlike Blair a man principal my dad said I was right wasn’t I? It was just the way he was and I couldn’t argue with the fact nor would I. However it was his final comment that day that summed the difference between the visionary that was Kennedy and the vacuous toady that was Blair. The comment my dad made was Kennedy died serving his people but Blair survived by serving only himself. Perhaps Blair would have done better if he had learned the meaning of these words rather than just the text.
‘Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy 17th January 1935 22nd November 1963
Love And Best Wishes