What we lost with JFK's assassination
It seems impossible that it was 50 years ago this Friday that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Anyone who was at least a teenager then remembers the shock in the air, the feeling that things had changed forever.
If you were a ninth-grader at Serra Catholic High School that day, you will never forget the young Franciscan friar writing on the blackboard when the announcement came over the loudspeaker that the president had been shot. Legs buckling, he collapsed against the wall, as if he, too, had been struck.
There was the urgent call to the gymnasium for Mass and prayers for the president's survival, only to have it changed halfway through to prayers for the repose of his soul. After, the always rowdy boys quietly boarded the buses and returned to their blue-collar neighborhoods, changed now.
When the dads' shifts ended and they walked that last stretch home, you could see from the porches that they were silent, too, and as they peeled off at the houses along the street, no one spoke; each man cried. It was as though there had been the same death in every family.
For the parents, Kennedy was one of theirs, even though he was anything but working class. He was young, still having babies, returned from a war in which he and his family had sacrificed, like their families. Like them, he embraced his ethnic heritage and was a Roman Catholic.
So they were ready when Kennedy challenged them, saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” Together, they would take America to the next level. But in an instant it was over.
When that spirit was lost, life changed on a practical level. Looking back, skepticism replaced trust, and the arts of compromise and fence-mending, curious artifacts to today's politicians, faded as the political parties began fraying from within.
When Kennedy won the nomination for president, his first act was to choose Sen. Lyndon Baines Johnson of Texas, his archrival, as his vice-presidential nominee. Kennedy would have lost Texas and the presidency had he not reached out.
As it was, he beat Richard Nixon in a squeaker but he formed a government that acknowledged that, building bridges. He named Republicans to head Defense, Treasury and the CIA.
Kennedy, resisting pressure from his own military advisers, spent three years trying to get Nikita Khrushchev to limit nuclear weapons. At the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, he had finally begun to see some movement.
And that trip to Dallas, to his death, was fence-mending in a Southern state still rattled by his recent public foray into the civil rights struggle. He was looking for common ground, for consensus.
We lost a lot that day — more than just dreams.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers stalled by Seahawks, on outside of AFC wild-card picture
- Rossi: It’s past time for NFL to protect players
- Steelers’ Roethlisberger reported symptoms that led to his exit vs. Seahawks
- Steelers players say they support Tomlin’s attempts at deception
- Steelers notebook: Seahawks’ Sherman gets better of WR Brown
- Week 12 — Steelers-Seahawks gameday grades
- Fox Chapel grad VIllani performing magic for Wizards
- Pennsylvania Game Commission reaps revenue from shale gas under game lands
- University of Pittsburgh researchers revisit war of electric currents
- Sports Deli is latest tenant to say goodbye to Parkway Center Mall
- Family of man accused of shooting St. Clair officer say allegations don’t fit his character