The day was an ordinary sunny day in Tampa. I was riding with my cousin back home from the university. As we approached my parents’ home, our friend rushed out explaining President Kennedy had been shot and killed.
After my cousin dropped me off, I rushed in and turned on the TV. Like millions of others, I was glued to my seat in front of our TV from that moment on, until Monday morning. I don’t remember eating. I don’t remember sleeping. I don’t remember anything other than watching TV—and that I had to study for a French exam scheduled for the following Wednesday. But how could anybody study when the president of the United States was assassinated and the only thing on TV was the death of Kennedy.
That’s right. A precursor to the 24/7 cable news which would come years later, we had around the clock news coverage for the first time in the history of television. For four straight days, the three, and only, network stations, ABC, NBC, and CBS broadcasted the news of Kennedy’s assassination. No soap operas. No game shows. No Route 66 or Bob Hope Show. No Lawrence Welk or Joey Bishop. No Walt Disney or Bonanza. No other news. No Twilight Zone—except for the real life Twilight Zone, as the world seemingly stood still for four whole days.
For those who grew up in the ‘50s, November 22, 1963 was our day of infamy; a day etched into the minds of every person who was alive at the time; a day that broke the serenity of the last half of the 1950s. a day that literally changed history, even more so than December 7, 1941.
We began a new decade with youthfulness, vigor, and purpose. America was energized and ready to stretch beyond our imagination. In spite of a multitude of so many setbacks in the space race, President Kennedy vowed to dream the impossible dream and set in action a program to reach the moon by the end of the decade.
We had our Camelot; however, on November 22, 1963, our Camelot was shattered. That began the destabilization of civility and morals in our country. Yes, we achieved Kennedy’s dream of placing a man on the moon before the end of the decade, yet this achievement was heavily overshadowed by two more assassinations and the troubling war in Vietnam. Distrust grew; riots took place; four innocent students were shot to death at Kent State; and veterans were spat on and rejected. We had flower power, weed, LSD and other drugs, open sex, and more. We had little civility or morals. Yes, November 22, 1963 and the aftermath certainly changed the course of history.
What if? What if President Kennedy had lived? Was Kennedy a popular president? Absolutely. Was Kennedy a great president? Not at the time of his assassination. In fact, an article, by the Republican Senators, printed the same day as the assassination, chastised him for the lack of action and leadership.
Would John Kennedy have been a great president? Perhaps; perhaps not; we will never know. Certainly, based on his cautiousness of going to war, our involvement in Vietnam would have been much different.
President Kennedy had many flaws as president; yet, he communicated life and prosperity, and he was revered by most everyone. He inspired us to work for our country by recommending to us not to ask what the country could do for us, but what we could do for our country. He gave us hope, encouragement, and inspiration by dreaming the impossible dreams.
Would John Kennedy have been a great president? Perhaps not, yet he was and would have been a great person. Regardless of one's polical views, Camelot still lives in our hearts.