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Those of us who remember November 22, 1963, must be a mystery to those of you who don’t. Why do we watch the same clips over and over? Why does it still affect us 50 years later?
To start with, it was our first shared televised grief. TV was still new in 1963. It was black and white, and there were only three channels. (You had to walk across the room to change channels, kids!)
The assassination happened on a Friday. Everything was cancelled that weekend – every football game, every event, everything. (No college basketball in November then.) So we sat and watched TV for four days. All you could do was sit and watch, over and over, hour after hour, all weekend. Then watch the funeral Monday.
The scenes seared into our brains.
Then, too, Kennedy was the first television President. He was different from other politicians. They were all old, bald men. Kennedy was young, good-looking and seemingly athletic. He had hair and didn’t wear a hat. He was a war hero. He talked about patriotism, the Peace Corps and serving your country. He did press conferences on live TV, he could be funny and he poked fun at himself.
Then there are the lasting questions about the assassination. Could one misfit acting alone really do so much psychic damage to an entire nation?
And there are the mysteries of Kennedy’s unfinished presidency: What if he had lived? What would he have done in Vietnam? How would America be different?
That Friday afternoon, I was 14, a ninth-grader at Martin Junior High School in Raleigh. I was a Kennedy fan. I got to shake his hand when he made a campaign stop in Raleigh in 1960. For me, he was what politics and public service should be.
No matter what we learned later, all his faults and failings, his sins and shortcomings, Kennedy’s death left him frozen in time and memory. He never got old, never got gray, never become a cranky old ex-President.
We remember the image and the ideal. We remember the shock and sense of loss. And it has a way of staying with us.
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# Choo
Thursday, November 21, 2013 3:37 PM
A very accurate portrayal of JFK. Thanks for not trying to rewrite history as many today are doing. JFK was a uniter and found what we all love about this great country and brought people together. I think because television was so new then, we were still a nation of similar beliefs. Media then didn't control our lives the way it does today. That day will never again return. The toothpaste can never be put back in the tube. We are now what we are. I do think we were a more respectful people in those days. By the way I too was in the 9th grade when Lee Harvey Oswald killed our president.

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