On this day, 50 years ago, one of America’s dearest treasures, Walter Cronkite, performed his solemn duty of reporting to the country that the 35th President of the United States of America, John F. Kennedy, had been assassinated in Dallas, TX. The above clip (found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2K8Q3cqGs7) is a very powerful moment in the history of America.
President Kennedy’s assassination had been the first attempt on the life of the President since William McKinley was fatally shot in a train station by an aspiring anarchist. This was the first successful assassination attempt since President Lincoln’s death in 1865. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a modern day “Shot Heard Round the World” as it was the first Presidential assassination since the advent of the television, which enabled the news media to enter the living rooms and offices of every American at the time of the attack to inform everyone that the President had been killed.
A little tidbit of coincidence in the wake of this somber event is that he refers to an reporter at the affiliate in Dallas who confirmed that the President had died named Dan Rather. Dan Rather would later go on to leave Dallas and take the seat Cronkite had during this very moment at the CBS Evening News New York news desk. I find that fascinating. Almost as fascinating as watching such a surreal moment unfolding as the pages of history turn while they are being written. Walter Cronkite was (from what I’ve seen) one of the very best in the business of broadcasting. People in his position begin to become role models or resemble superheroes, yet in this moment (November 22, 1963 at roughly 2:38 pm) Superman is made mortal. Walter Cronkite lowers his head, reads from the news flash, and reports to the nation:
“From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1:00 pm Central Standard Time – two o’clock Eastern Standard Time…”
The newsman tries his bravest attempt to continue as the reality of this tragedy sets in by mentioning Lyndon B. Johnson’s next step as Vice President to take up the office in the absence of President Kennedy, but he chokes up for a moment and has to cough down his tears and sorrow while Americans everywhere do the same thing.
John F. Kennedy had aspirations of leaving the natural world and going where no man had gone before. He brought together the Peace Corp, the moon landing (though it came 6 years after his death), and many other projects that instilled political awareness into the youth of America. “Jack” Kennedy inspired a nation, and brought Camelot to life. He was only in office for just shy of 4 years, but he inspired a nation, led somewhat of a revolution, and was taken away from us all entirely too soon. I often find myself wondering what today would be like if John F.Kennedy hadn’t been shot or even if he had just survived the attack. What would America look like? Where would we be? It’s all speculation, but I’m not even sure that it would really be for the best. All things happen for a reason, and though we may not be able to see it, there was a reason that John F. Kennedy beat all of us out of the natural world, beyond the moon and the stars.
It is on this day, in 1963, that the nation was brought together to mourn the loss of President John F. Kennedy as the world over was shown for what wasn’t the first time and certainly not the last just how strong the American spirit could be when it was humbled and unified in tragedy. I only hope that, in the past 50 years, that this country today is at least close to the country JFK envisioned when he took office as the 35th President of the United States of America
“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”
“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”
“Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”