I am proud to have shared life on this earth with Jack Kennedy: sad to accept that it was but for a much briefer overlap than should have been; yet happy I grew up in a country that was influenced by his wisdom, reflective of his spirit of determination and embedded with his sense of compassion.
I chose this picture because it is the same one I used to have framed and hanging in my room when I was in high school and had with me through college. It was a gift from my parents that – regrettably as with too many other things from my young life – somehow got lost between my ideological youth and responsible adulthood.
Just last month I was in Dallas, and for the first time I looked down upon Dealey Plaza from the Hyatt Regency’s Reunion Tower. Whether because of timing – being as it was so close to today’s 50th anniversary of the assassination – or not, there is no way of knowing, but that image was beyond compelling. I have had the misfortune of having experienced my fair share of blow-to-the-stomach moments of emotional pain, so I am not so easily moved. Yet in that moment I felt a deep sadness that was hard to shake – as if I were witnessing at the same time the tragedy of what was along with the pain of knowing what might have been.
I have written before and hold fast to my belief today that it is never wise to set a human being upon a pedestal. If not their flaws then certainly their death ultimately proves their humanity. Jack Kennedy was human on both scores. But unlike many political heroes before, he carried above him an ideological beacon that alighted upon a generation with renewed hope and energy for what a country might accomplish through collective effort – rather than individual pursuits.
Sadly, that message from his 1961 inaugural address has been lost. Perhaps it went the way of adult responsibilities too. Or perhaps it has gone the way of greed and avarice – envy, jealousy and spite. Whatever the causes, we only have ourselves to blame for its absence: we have killed that spirit of Jack Kennedy as surely as Oswald killed the man himself.