Richmond Remembers President Kennedy

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RICHMOND (WRIC) – 50 years
after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, that city, and
the nation, paused today to remember the day that shocked the nation.

Why, is he remembered so
fondly by so many half a century later?

Examining the man, his
myth, and how Kennedy has come to symbolize the promise and potential of America
itself.

In 1960, at 43 years old,
John Fitzgerald Kennedy becomes the youngest President in American history.

People like Pierre
“Pete” Eicher, who remember Kennedy when he was alive, recall great
promise.

“Why does America
remember him so fondly? Why does America remember Lincoln? It was joy. It was
happiness. It was getting people to smile, instead of wondering what was going
to happen next.”

Carolyn Murray remembers
charisma.

“He was handsome as
all get out. I think he was very sophisticated.”

Kennedy beat Richard Nixon
in 1960 on the strength of his performance in America's first televised
debates.

Polly Bowring watched
them.

“He used television
better than Nixon. Poor Nixon needed to shave and didn't know it.”

But the promise of
Kennedy's “Camelot” didn't sway everyone. Enid Gray, who grew up in
Dallas, wasn't fond of him at all and didn't agree with him politically?

“Nope. There was a
group in Texas who were kinda to the other direction.”

Others were wary of
Kennedy's Catholic religion.

“In the 1960's,
particularly among southern evangelical whites, being catholic was just as bad
as being Jewish or Muslim,” says Richard Meagher. “It was so alien. They were
very suspicious of his motives.”

Many mistrusted Kennedy's
background: wealthy and privileged and northeastern.

In office, his record was
mixed. Kennedy's attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs was a
complete disaster, but even apparent success in the Cuban Missile Crisis wounded
the young president.

“It damaged him in
his relationships with the military and his relationships within the
administration and damaged his relationships with older establishment
types.”

The things Kennedy does
get credit for includes the Peace Corps, putting a man on the moon and civil
rights legislation, only fully realized after his death.

Kennedy's enduring appeal
isn't based on what he actually accomplished.

“Some argue that
Kennedy was one of the first modern presidents, truly modern presidents.”

He's a modern image in
which we see can recognize and reinvent ourselves.

 

Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of
Richmond

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