Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago Today

It is not as though anyone needs reminding what happened fifty years ago today in Dallas, the media is doing that for us. I just want to take a few minutes of your time and share some information you may not know, and for that matter, ever new about the events around the assassination of President Kennedy.

One fact I found interesting, especially in the world we have today with cable news channels giving us instant news 24/7, and all the other technologies that allow us to get access to information instantly, the Kennedy assassination news coverage would be the longest uninterrupted news event in American history until the events of September 11, 2001.

I find that amazing because in 1963 black-and-white television was still in its infancy, and the news was not a very big deal.

Another fact I learned was November 22, 1963 was Walter Cronkite's first day on network television. We have all seen the iconic footage of him taking off his black, horn-rimmed glasses, pausing for a few seconds, fighting back the tears and announcing President Kennedy was dead!

Television newscasts played a central role in the coming three days which was unprecedented and very challenging for the new medium. Remember, in 1963, television had not been around very long. Upon confirmation of the assassination, the three broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, cut out of their regularly scheduled programs and ran without commercials for three days.

One of the more striking facts that hit me was an interview with Secret Service Agent #9, Clint Hill. In a 1975 interview on 60 Minutes, he told Mike Wallace he blamed himself for the president's death because he could not get to shield the president quickly enough to take the third bullet, which was the fatal one. He would rather have taken the bullet himself then to have it kill the president.

Another interesting fact is only thirty-three percent of the American population alive today were alive on November 22, 1963. That moment ended the short-lived one thousand day life of hope affectionately known as Camelot. It ended an age of innocence for us, and brought the beginning of the turbulent and very violent 1960's. 

After the Summer of Love in 1967 when the counterculture Hippie Movement was gaining strength in its movement for peace, violence seemed to be everywhere in 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, and two months later, on June 6th, Robert Kennedy was gunned down after winning the California primary in Los Angeles.

In between those two assassinations was the Kent State riot when four students were killed and brought about massive demonstrations on college campuses all across the country. Tensions were mounting and the anti-Vietnam movement was gaining strength as Richard Nixon had announced the invasion of Cambodia just a few days before that.

From August 26th through the 29th the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was marred by violence when the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the Youth International Party (Yippies) joined other groups to form a massive protest during the convention. They were joined by other groups like Students for a Democratic Society, and I huge population of about ten thousand protesters converged on Chicago.

Mayor Richard Daley would have none of it and amassed twenty-three thousand police officers and National Guardsmen to quell the demonstration. In the middle of the afternoon on August 28th, the so-called "police riot" broke out and was witnessed live on national television as the rioters were trying to get away from being maced and beaten by the police and guardsmen. 

Those are just the highlights of what the turbulent decade was. I remember all of those events. The one I will never forget where I was when I heard the news was the assassination of President Kennedy. In 1963, we lived in tiny Edgerton, Minnesota. My third grade classmates and I were in music class in the old part of the school when someone came to the door and had our teacher come with their out in the hall. Our music teacher came back and told us President Kennedy have been killed.

My classmates and I did not know what to do, or exactly what it meant. We just knew something bad had happened. I remember watching the news on up to the funeral at a family friend's house because they had a color TV. It was a horrible time and changed our nation dramatically.

If you were alive and remember where you were that day, and how you heard about the assassination, please make a comment and tell my subscribers your recognition of that day when a dream died in America lost so much potential. John Fitzgerald Kennedy had many plans and goals to make a better America. He never saw us get to the moon, which was one of his goals. I wonder what he would think of our space station and cooperation with the Russians in operating that. For that matter, I wonder what he would think of all the changes that have happened in the United States in the last fifty years.

He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Act of 1965, which were the groundwork for Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. President Johnson started Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. He also escalated the Vietnam War and more than fifty-eight thousand names now adorn that black granite wall in Washington, DC's Mall. 

Personally, I do not believe we would of stayed in Vietnam had President Kennedy not been assassinated. What sort of contributions would those men and women who fought and died in Vietnam and whose names appear on the Vietnam Memorial have made in the United States and globally had we not been there?

It seems every generation has an event that changes their life. The so-called Greatest Generation had December 7, 1941. Baby Boomers had November 22, 1963. The Millennials or Generation Y had September 11, 2001. That names only a few events. Throughout history there have been many more events that change lives.

What will be the next life-changing event that will affect your life and you will remember where you were for the rest of your life when you learned of it? As history has proven, it will happen. It is just a matter of when and where.

I wholeheartedly look forward to your comments.



1 comment:

Grimby said...

Hey were fortunate that your teacher chose to inform you kids and use it as a teaching moment. As a third grader down the road in Slayton, I clearly remember our teacher, Mrs. Olson, answering a knock on the classroom door that day. After a short conversation in which she was surely notified of the assassination, she returned to the classroom and went on as if nothing had happened. I didn't hear about it until I was getting on the bus after school. I still resent Mrs. Olson's decision to this day.