Monday, June 04, 2018

On The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of Robert F. Kennedy-November 22, 1963-Where Were You?

This is another one of those questions that I have been periodically answering from my Class of 1964 high school class committee.

Today's Question: How did you react to the John F. Kennedy assassination?

Well you knew this question was coming at some point. Some events form the signpost for every generation. For our parents it was the Great Depression and World War II. For today’s kids it is 9/11 and the ‘war against terrorism’. For us it was Sputnik and the Kennedy assassination.

Usually, when discussing these milestone events the question asked centers on where you were or what you were doing on that fateful day. I do not need to ask that question here. I know where you were, at least most of you. Unless you were sick, playing hooky or on a field trip you were sitting in some dank classroom as the Principal, Mr. Walsh, came over the P.A. system to announce the news of the shooting of President Kennedy. What I am interested in, if you want to answer this question, is not what your current take is on that event, whether you were a Kennedy partisan or not, but how you reacted at the time. Here is the story of my reaction.

In the fall of 1960, for most of us our first year at North, a new wind was blowing over the political landscape with the Kennedy nomination and later his election victory over Richard Nixon. If you want the feel of that same wind pay attention to the breezes that I sense coming from today’s youth. Maybe that wind grabbed you in 1960. It did me. Although some people that I have met and worked with over the years swear that I was born a ‘political junkie’ the truth is that 1960 marked my political coming of age.

One of my forms of ‘fun’ as a kid was to write little ‘essays’ on political questions. You know, like-Should Red China (remember that term) be admitted into the United Nations? Or, are computers going to replace workers and create high unemployment? (I swear that I wrote stuff like that. I do not have that good an imagination to make this up. It also might explain one part of a very troubled childhood)

In any case, I kept these little ‘pearls of wisdom’ in a little chapbook. Within a couple of days after the Kennedy assassination I threw them all away, swearing off politics forever. Well, I did not hold to that promise. I have also moved away from that youthful admiration for JFK (although I will always hold a little spot open for brother Robert-oh, what might have been?) but I can still hear the clang as I threw those papers in the trash barrel.

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