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Post22 November 1963: JFK Remembered (Paul Levine, Denmark, 11/22/13 6:19 am)
Ask Americans of a certain age where they were on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was shot, and they will tell you. I was a lowly graduate student having lunch with a colleague in Harvard Square when we heard the news. I rushed home to tell my Danish wife and her mother, who had just arrived from Copenhagen. My mother.in-law, who spoke little English, was plunged into weeks of confusion and gloom as we watched the terrible aftermath of the president's assassination. As the novelist Don DeLillo later wrote. "I think Americans lost their sense of coherent reality as a result of the assassination. It was as if we'd suddenly entered the world of randomness and ambiguity--something outside traditional American experience. Something which I think we associated with the darker age of Europe; with the literature of Kafka and similar writers."
Fifty years have passed, and there are still questions about the assassination and its improbable aftermath. But one thing is certain: Kennedy's reputation remains at its zenith as the liberal icon among postwar American presidents. Bill Clinton aspired to become the new JFK during his presidency, and Barack Obama invoked his name more than any other president during his political campaigns. But is Kennedy's iconic liberal status, especially in Europe, a misunderstanding of his real role in postwar US politics?
The 1960 election was, in many ways, a watershed in American history. In America's Uncivil Wars (2006), Mark Hamilton Lytle notes, "What made the choice in 1960 so epic had as much to do with generational politics as with issues. Kennedy and Nixon were the first two major party candidates born in the twentieth century." Together with Lyndon Johnson, they represented a radical transformation in presidential politics in the 1960s. Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic president, Johnson was the first Texan to be elected president, and Nixon became the first postwar president born in California. Finally, the three presidents elected in the 1960s left office under unimaginable circumstances: assassination, withdrawal and resignation.
But in significant ways, the election represented less change than continuity. "The cold war consensus was at the heart of the election of 1960," says Lytle. "That did not mean the candidates debated the assumptions of the consensus in any significant way. Quite the opposite was true. Both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon portrayed themselves as ardent cold warriors. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev likened them to ‘a pair of boots-which is better, the right boot or the left boot?'" Both candidates reflected the new Cold War sensibility from the beginning. They were elected to Congress in 1946 and moved into the national spotlight in 1952 when Kennedy was elected senator and Nixon became vice-president under Dwight Eisenhower. Lytle notes that both candidates shared more than career histories. "For all their efforts to construct opposing images, Kennedy and Nixon were not so very different. Both were political pragmatists, calculating and self-promotional, secretive, often remote, and frequently devious."
But the 1960 election inaugurated a profoundly political decade that challenged Cold War assumptions. This was already reflected in the struggle over civil rights, the decline of old-fashioned liberalism, the end of Democratic Party hegemony, and the rise of Republican neoconservatism. So 1960 was a transformational year in several ways. In that year, three important student groups were formed that changed American politics during the decade: the radical SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), the conservative YAF (Young Americans for Freedom), and the black power SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee). In the same year, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved the sale of the first birth control pill, which radically transformed sexual behavior. All of these preceded Kennedy's election as president. He did not so much change the culture as he was changed by it.
In the popular imagination, Kennedy is viewed today as the paragon of American liberalism. But that is not what he looked like in 1960, when I was a first-time voter. Then Kennedy ran in the Democratic primaries as a centrist candidate well to the right of his liberal opponent, Hubert Humphrey, and slightly to the left of his other rival, Lyndon Johnson. But Kennedy was not trusted by the New Deal traditionalists, who were the backbone of the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Even at the last moment, the party faithful around Eleanor Roosevelt tried to stop Kennedy's nomination by promoting Adlai Stevenson, who had been the unsuccessful Democratic candidate twice before. They persuaded a young senator named Eugene McCarthy to make an eloquent speech nominating Stevenson. Gene McCarthy went on to become the standard bearer of the anti-war movement in 1968. (Was this the beginning of the enmity between Gene McCarthy and the Kennedys which culminated in Bobby Kennedy's fateful challenge to McCarthy's anti-war leadership and his assassination in 1968?)
Indeed, Kennedy's credentials as a conventional Cold Warrior were impressive. Consider his family's close relations with Joseph McCarthy, the demagogic senator who almost single-handedly poisoned the domestic political climate in the early Cold War years. His father, Joe Kennedy, was a major contributor to McCarthy's anti-communist campaign. His brother, Bobby, worked for McCarthy's committee investigating subversive activities, and named him godfather of his first child. McCarthy even dated two of the Kennedy sisters. When McCarthy was finally censured by the Senate in 1956, 72 senators, including 44 Democrats, voted to censure. But Kennedy avoided the vote; perhaps he was unwilling to upset his father or his own constituency of conservative Irish Catholic voters. In 1957 McCarthy died of liver failure brought on by alcoholism. John Kennedy attended McCarthy's funeral in Washington, and Bobby Kennedy followed McCarthy's casket back to Appleton, Wisconsin, where he was buried. The tie between the Kennedys and Joe McCarthy was never broken.
The 1960 election was one of the closest in American history. Kennedy received 34,227,096 votes, or 49.7 percent, Nixon received 34,107,646 votes, or 49.6 percent. Voter interest in the election was great; turnout was the highest since the election of 1908. Although Kennedy carried fewer states than Nixon, he won a decisive victory in the Electoral College, 303-219. But this margin is deceptive, because Kennedy's victory in two large states, Illinois and Texas, was paper-thin. The only closer modern election was George W. Bush's contested victory in 2000. Both elections were highly controversial, partly because of persistent rumors of voting fraud.
Though Kennedy's margin of victory, like Bush's, was slight, he plunged ahead bravely in his inaugural address in January 1961: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." Kennedy was intent on making a more aggressive foreign policy than cautious Eisenhower had followed. Thus he concluded, "And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Compare this to Eisenhower's warning a few days earlier in his Farewell Address of the growing power of the military-industrial complex. "This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new to American experience," he said. "The total influence--economic, political, and even spiritual--is felt in every city, every state house, and every office of the federal government." Then he warned, "In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
Paradoxically, Kennedy's proclamation and Eisenhower's warning came to represent two aspects of the conflicts of the 1960s: growing military power and reduced civilian control. These conflicts persisted over the next four decades under different presidents, both Democrat and Republican, in different places like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. But the disastrous policies that ultimately undermined American power began during the Kennedy administration when he dispatched the first military "advisors" to Saigon. Kennedy's acolytes have insisted that the president experienced a change of heart in the months before his assassination, but the fact that he signed off on the military coup in South Vietnam that led to the murder of President Ngo Dinh Diem just weeks before his own assassination in November set the disastrous course of US policy in Vietnam for a decade.
Kennedy did not live long enough to create a political legacy. His short presidential term was marked by promise but little achievement. But under his successor, Lyndon Johnson, Congress began the most sweeping economic and social reform since the New Deal. Johnson inaugurated the War on Poverty, Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act and the Economic Opportunity Act. This was not coincidental. When Johnson assumed the presidency after Kennedy's death, he told his associates on his first day in office: "Now, I want to say something about all this talk that I'm a conservative who is likely to go back to the Eisenhower ways or give in to the economy bloc in Congress." He insisted, "It's not so, and I want you to tell your [liberal] friends . . . that it is not so. . . If you looked at my record, you would know that I am a Roosevelt New Dealer." "As a matter of fact," Johnson concluded, "John F. Kennedy was a little too conservative to suit my taste."
Johnson had a full agenda of social legislation that continued FDR's liberal legacy; he wanted to begin a new social revolution which he called "The Great Society." In 1964 Johnson won a landslide presidential victory over arch-conservative Barry Goldwater. But in the same year, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution gave Johnson authority to expand the Vietnam War; as American military involvement increased so did domestic opposition to the war. Johnson's presidency was derailed by growing anti-war support and he was forced to withdraw from the 1968 presidential election when he was challenged by Gene McCarthy. Johnson's grand liberal vision foundered on the tragedy of the Vietnam War.
The historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. gave a name to the persistent drive to expand American presidential power: "the imperial presidency." In his matchless style and grace, John F. Kennedy gave shape to this tendency. His aide Richard Goodwin recalled, "He took a country that was on its back, fat and purposeless, lifted it up, gave it momentum, direction, purpose and a sense of its own strength and possibility." But President Kennedy never had the chance to materialize his ambitious vision of America's possibilities, a vision that appeared to be changing in the last year of his life. "What was killed was not only the president but the promise," said James Reston in 1963. "He never reached his meridian: we saw him only as a rising sun."
JE comments: I've immensely enjoyed this essay from Paul Levine. It's thoughtful and respectful of JFK's legacy, but it also dispells a lot of popular misconceptions about the martyred President. For example, Paul's list of JFK-Nixon parallels really makes you think.
I must append a JE-related fun fact: SDS founder Tom Hayden is a graduate of Royal Oak (Dondero) High School, where our Basque son Aritz is now enrolled. (It's a different building, though.)
22 November 1963
(John Heelan, UK
11/22/13 7:56 AM)
Paul Levine wrote on 22 November: "Ask Americans of a certain age where they were on November 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was shot, and they will tell you."
Not just Americans! I had just disembarked from an evening commuter train from London to my rural home in Kent when I saw the headlines on the station's newspaper billboards. I clearly recall rushing home to tell my wife "Kennedy's dead!" We both felt sad and shocked that the promise of a new world epitomised by JFK's youth and charisma had suddenly been dashed. The only other time I had such a personal empathy with US sorrow was on 9/11.
JE comments: Definitely these shots were heard around the world. I was in utero on 22 Nov 1963, so my memory is nil. Still, I wonder if the trauma somehow shaped my worldview.
- Memories of 22 November 1963 (Randy Black, USA 11/23/13 3:53 AM)
Before I launch into my memories of November 22, 1963, one tiny nit with Paul Levine's memories (22 November 2013). Paul stated that Johnson was the first Texan to be elected president. Actually, Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison, Texas in 1890. While he may have been raised in Kansas from age two, he was Texas-born.
Now, about my memories:
Thursday, November 21, 1963 was a jackpot day, or so I thought. Virginia Walker, my journalism teacher at Highland Park High School, offered me a plum assignment. She told me to cover the arrival of John F. Kennedy at nearby Love Field the following morning. As a writer for the HPHS Bagpipe, I produced a monthly column.
This would be a great chance to write something with significance for a change, she said.
Little did we know...
Mrs. Walker said I'd get to skip the first couple of classes the following day, but I had better be back as soon as the president's entourage left the airport.
"Cool," I thought. "No French class tomorrow."
November 22 started off overcast but soon turned bright and sunny. I got my '49 Ford sedan gassed up at the Enco station by Snyder Plaza and headed over to the airport. I had plenty of time to get parked on Lemmon Avenue and walk about a mile to the waist-high chain link fence that would keep the crowds back from the president's plane when it landed on runway 31 Right at the airport.
As the crowd gathered, I spotted my pals from Thomas Jefferson High School nearby. They were waiving a Confederate Flag, their school flag at TJ in 1963 Dallas.
Soon, a Pan American jet carrying the press landed. It was quickly followed by Air Force Two carrying the vice president. Finally, Air Force One, a Boeing 707, landed and taxied up near the other two aircraft, the door on the forward section opened as a stairway was wheeled up. The crowds pushed forward. I was about the six or eight feet from the fence but the crowd was shoving me closer.
The press got off their plane and positioned themselves between the planes and the crowd. There was no sight of Vice President Lyndon Johnson or President Kennedy.
Before I knew it, President Kennedy and his wife Jackie appeared in the doorway of their aircraft. The crowds went wild at the sight of Jackie in her bright pink outfit and matching pillbox hat.
JFK made his way down the stairway and to the fence. Jackie was about 20 feet behind. They began touching the hands of the crowd that was growing more and more frantic. The Secret Service was everywhere. His charismatic personality seemed to overcome the politics of the day. Everyone was eager to see and touch the 35th president on that bright, sunny morning.
Suddenly, President Kennedy was immediately in front of me a few feet away. I reached out to him. I believe that I touched his hand briefly.
All too soon, he was in his open top Lincoln limo. Off he went down Lemmon Avenue and into immortality.
Unaware of the impending tragedy, I walked casually back to my old Ford and drove home where my mom had a sandwich and a glass of milk waiting.
In our breakfast room, as I munched, mom casually watched a soap opera on our tiny black and white TV that was perched on a shelf near the round marble breakfast table. Suddenly, the soap opera switched to a Dallas newsroom. An announcer stated, "Reports indicate that shots were fired at President Kennedy's limo today in Dallas."
Mom and I froze as the news started to flow. I grabbed my 6-transistor radio, my tuna fish sandwich and my car keys and headed up to school. Seven or eight minutes later, I was in the attendance office. Only the secretary and the principal knew of the attack since they kept a radio on in the office.
Armed with a hall pass, I quickly headed to Mrs. Walker's journalism class. With my radio blaring, I passed the French classroom. Mrs. Stensen gave me a puzzled look from her doorway. I hurried on.
Finally, I opened the door to the classroom. It was a few minutes past noon. Mrs. Walker looked up and said, "Randy, why do you have your radio on?
"The president's been shot," I uttered breathlessly.
Before anyone could react, a girl who I secretly had a crush on looked up from her book and said, "Oh good, is he dead?"
Lucky for that girl or I'd have slapped her to Monday, the bell rang and we all went to our next class. Later, in economics class, we learned that John Fitzgerald Kennedy had died at Parkland Hospital.
That night, I saw my father do something I'd never seen him do.
He cried in front of our family.
Randy Black, HPHS '65 and Texas Tech '71, is the author of Tales from Siberia, the 2007 non-fiction narrative of his life in Russia immediately after the collapse of the USSR. Tales from Siberia competed in the 2008 Pulitzer Prize competition. Semi-retired, Black's career includes five years at the Dallas Times Herald in the 1970s as a staff photographer and feature writer. His journalism skills earned awards from the Dallas Press Club, the Austin Headliner's Club, the AP, UPI, the Public Relations Society of American and the Society of Professional Journalists. Black lives in Allen.
JE comments: Mrs. Walker was correct; Randy Black truly had the chance that day to write something historic. Randy: do you still have the clipping of your article in the Bagpipe? If so, I'd love to post it. What a fascinating piece of vintage journalism.
We've run the photo of the young RB at Love Field before, but it's a great time to see it again:
- 22 November 1963 (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/23/13 4:33 AM)
With reference to the posts of Paul Levine and John Heelan (both 22 November), I too remember well where I was fifty years ago.
I was Chief Mate on the tanker Tidewater en route to Delaware City in the North Atlantic. It was afternoon and I was asleep when the Second Mate on watch on the bridge heard the horrible news on the radio. He sent a seaman to inform me. We immediately sent a cable of condolence. I wonder if it was ever noticed among all hundreds of thousands of others.
However, a strange thought is passing through my mind. Suppose that JFK was not killed and had finished his term. Would he still be remembered as such a great beloved president?
By the way, in Italy the fiftieth anniversary of the terrible tragedy is dominating the day on TV, newspapers and recently printed books.
JE comments: To speculate on Eugenio Battaglia's question, there's nothing like martyrdom to gild your reputation. JFK never grew old; nor did he have the chance to be mired further in Vietnam and the general malaise of the 1960s. Is it any coincidence that the most beloved president of all, Lincoln, was also the victim of an assassin's bullet?
- Memories of 22 November 1963 (Nigel Jones, UK 11/23/13 8:01 AM)
By spooky coincidence I was at Bembridge, the village on the Isle of Wight where my fellow Brit WAISer John Heelan now lives, on the fatal 22 November 1963. I was attending Bembridge School, then a single-sex boy's boarding school. (I was 12 and had boarded there since the age of 7.)
It was evening in GB when the news from Dallas came through, and I had been attending a First Aid Class. When that ended I went up to the dormitories and spoke to the duty teacher, Mr Roger Sawyer, who was looking at a magazine article about President Kennedy. He said to me, "The boys say that something has happened to the President."
We all had tiny transistor radios which we listed to in our beds and news that the President was dead arrived as our lights were turned out. As Mr Sawyer went off duty I heard his voice in the darkness speculating on what Richard Nixon--beaten by JFK in the 1960 Presidential race--must be feeling. (I believe that Nixon was also in Dallas that day.)
Mr Sawyer was the teacher who first awakened my interest in history and literature (he's a biographer of the Irish WWI patriot/traitor/martyr Roger Casement)--and we have kept in touch down the years. He still lives in Bembridge and I called him last night to remind him of that night half a century before.
JE comments: A touching memory of a day when the whole world mourned. And perhaps it was the closing of an era: can we imagine the world grieving in unison for a similar tragedy today? I cannot.
Nixon in Dallas, 22 November 1963
(David Duggan, USA
11/26/13 8:18 AM)
A propos Nixon in Dallas on 22 November 1963 (Nigel Jones, 23 November), this is an interesting article:
JE comments: Yes. On the morning of 22 November, three US presidents awoke in Dallas (Kennedy, LBJ, and Nixon--some say four, with George H. W. Bush's whereabouts that day in question). Oliver Stone made some hay about Nixon's presence in Dallas, but the non conspiracy-minded will point out that RN was on business as a corporate lawyer for Pepsi-Cola.
Speaking of Nixon in Dallas, there is a great deal of talk about a possible "Nixon in China" moment with the slight thaw in US-Iranian relations. I hope we can get a robust discussion going on this. Are we on the eve of Iran's re-entering the international community? Even more so--might Iran eventually become a constructive partner in the Middle East?
US Presidents in Dallas, 22 November 1963
(Randy Black, USA
11/27/13 5:31 AM)
When John Eipper commented on 26 November that "three US Presidents woke in Dallas (on 22 November 1963)," I sort of chuckled. You see, JFK woke not in Dallas but 45 miles away at the Texas hotel in Fort Worth. Richard Nixon did sleep in a suite at the Baker Hotel in downtown Dallas the night before the assassination, but was already on an American Airlines flight from Love Field to Idlewild in NY by the time that Air Force One landed at Love. Nixon's room at the Baker was not guarded.
However, a Dallas Police officer guarded the room of actress Joan Crawford's suite just down the hall. She was nervous about thieves and autograph hounds.
As far as Bush 41, he says that was in Houston on the day of the assassination.
I cannot find a record of where LBJ slept the night before JFK was killed in Dallas.
Finally, for those who may have overlooked JFK's very successful, yet forgotten motorcade in Dallas in 1960, the story is at the link below along with many very interesting, yet forgotten photos:
JE comments: Oops, but I would like to pass the blame along to Alan Peppard, the author of the Dallas News article forwarded by David Duggan. The lesson I take away from Randy Black's response is that for us Yankee "furriners," Ft Worth is Dallas, although for Texans they are as distinct as, say, Brooklyn is from Manhattan for a New Yorker.
- 22 November 1963 (David Fleischer, Brazil 11/23/13 11:29 AM)
Regarding November 22, 1963, I was age 22 at the time (a bit older than WAISers Randy Black or Nigel Jones). I had joined the Peace Corps--inspired by JFK's call, "Don't ask what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." My then girlfriend and I were working in Washington, DC in January 1961, and so we attended JFK's inauguration--after a snow storm left Washington covered with some 20 inches. In the North, this would be no big deal, but in DC the whole city stops--no adequate snow removal equipment. Anyway, we made it down to the White House and found the reviewing stand in front of the White House nearly empty. We asked the police officer if we could sit there and he replied--"Sure, no problem; those are $300.00 seats but no one has claimed them. Wipe off the snow and sit down." So we did.
Later that year, I took the Peace Corps exam and in December 1961 dropped out of Antioch College and in January 1962 began training at the National 4-H Foundation in Washington, DC (actually on Connecticut Ave., in Chevy Chase, Maryland). Our group worked with the Brazilian extension service and their 4-S clubs in 13 states.
So, on November 22, 1963, my Peace Corps partner and I had visited a rural areas in Lavras, Minas Gerais that morning with our extension service colleagues. During our mid-day break, the two women went to lunch at the house where they boarded, my colleague went home and I went to lunch at my student residence co-op. Neither he or I had radio or TV during lunch. When we returned to the extension office, the two women arrived in tears--"JFK had been shot dead in Dallas." They had seen the news on TV and via radio. Shocking news. During our training in Washington we did not meet JFK, but his brother-in-law--Sargent Shriver--addressed our group. Nearly all of our group were "JFK fans." In 1960, I cast my first vote for him at age 19. I would not vote for "Tricky Dick"--no way.
My wife and I were married in Lavras, MG on 1st August 1964, and returned to my family's home later that month. The morning after we arrived, my Mom was dressed up and ready to leave. We asked her "Where are you going?" She replied, "I am going down to Kinderhook [NY, our local town] because the Robert Kennedy campaign motorcade will come through on Route 9--want to go along?" We said--Yes, of course. So on the second day my wife was in the US, she got to shake RFK's hand as the motorcade came (slowly) through Kinderhook. He was campaigning to become US Senator from NY.
That's my recollections of fifty years ago--November 22, 1963.
JE comments: The RFK assassination is the first news tragedy of which I have personal memory. I cannot remember MLK's assassination just two months earlier.
I just checked, and Sirhan Sirhan is still alive (and still incarcerated) at 69. He was a very youthful 24 when he carried out the assassination.
- Memories of 22 November 1963 (Mike Bonnie, USA 11/24/13 6:18 AM)
My memories of John F. Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963 are pretty thin. I was an 8th grader at Longfellow Junior High School in LaCrosse, Wisconsin at the time. My class had finished lunch and was on the playground running around, being kids, when the teacher called us to return to the school. As I crossed the ball field, word filtered back through the students that the president had been killed. I felt confused.
I attended one of the lucky schools of those days. My classroom had a television. We got to watch parts of the World Series of baseball live. That day in 1963, when I entered the classroom, several teachers were gathered around the TV. As they dispersed, I could see that something serious was taking place, by their facial expressions and those of newscasters staring out from the screen. Our teacher talked to us a while; then we were dismissed to go home for the day. The immense gravity of what was happening had a superficial effect on how I felt at the time.
Reflecting on the tragedy of 1963, I've found deeper personal meaning. Several years earlier, when I was around 11 years old, my parents took me to the LaCrosse County Airport to greet and listen to then-Senator John F. Kennedy as he swept the state stumping for the role of president, as well as state and regional candidates. The crowd that had gathered seemed to be of moderate size for LaCrosse. We were able to press to the chain-link fence separating the Senator and his entourage from the greeters. As Kennedy walked down the fence line shaking hands, I reached up and touched the sleeve of his brown tweed jacket. Through his demeanor, he seemed to be a warm and pleasant man, definitely popular with the people who greeted him. I was squashed against the fence. I was more absorbed in thinking about the airplane he rode, a tri-wheel or tail-dragger. I wonder now if it was his father' plane named "Caroline."
My most recent thoughts of JFK take me back to a pre-college venture into teaching Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics. In my training, the story was told of JFK jogging along a New England beach and coming upon a woman reading a book. As he passed, with her sitting in a beach chair, he noticed she was flipping through the pages in rapid succession. He stopped to talk and was impressed by her ability to absorb and retain what she read. JFK's encounter made a lasting impression, as Mrs. Wood's obituary in the New York Times (August 30, 1995) points out: "In time, President John F. Kennedy sent a dozen members of the White House staff to the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics Institute in Washington. President Richard M. Nixon sent 35 high-ranking members of his Administration, and President Jimmy Carter followed suit."
Researching to better understand JFK and myself, I've found Kennedy made numerous campaign speeches across the Midwest, including LaCrosse. I found two in the Kennedy Library that I'd like to think sum up his views and character. His words won over LaCrosse voters. In his speeches he crafts connections of 1958 global recession concerns of local people, farmers and factory workers (roll-up-your-sleeves, down-to-earth people) with concerns of others. "The farmers of this country are the best market for Detroit, and the automobile industry. The automobile industry is the best market for steel in Pittsburgh. And when farm income goes down, so does Detroit, and so does Pittsburgh, and so does La Crosse. Seven out of eight of the International Harvester Machine Company plants in Illinois, right across your state border, have been shut down this fall for varying periods, throwing nearly 12,000 men out of work because farm income has dropped." He touched people where things mattered--in the wallet. People must have felt everyone had an important individual role to play. By my mid-20s I owned an International Scout, the make and model affectionately nicknamed a "bean-picker."
JFK must have made LaCrosse people feel that everyone had a role to play, not only locally and nationally, but globally. The advent and availability of television opened people eyes to the world. Of the Eisenhower-Nixon administration, Kennedy said, "Let me just say why I believe we can do a better job. One example of this administration's failure to take action: In 1954 millions of children in Africa, Asia and South America were suffering from a common deficiency disease called 'kwashiorkor,' caused by a lack of protein in the diet. It stunts the victims' minds and bodies. The UN World Health Organization reported that fully one half of these hospitalized children died." From, "Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at La Crosse, Wisconsin, October 23, 1960." http://www.jfklibrary.org/Research/Research-Aids/JFK-Speeches/La-Crosse-WI_19601023.aspx
His appeal to voters was not in "trickle-down" economics, as he quoted Franklin Roosevelt. "[The] test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." From, "Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at La Crosse, Wisconsin, March 9, 1960."
Senator and later President Kennedy had prolific speech writers. He gave numerous speeches in Wisconsin and across the country on nearly every topic of significance (I can think of) at the time. I've found a few. The titles of speeches and news headlines tell their own story.
Austin C. Wehrwein, "Kennedy Regards Religion as Issue; He Calls It Proper Political Topic--Opens 6-Speech Swing in Wisconsin," New York Times, April 10, 1959.
Austin C. Wehrwein, "Kennedy Favors a New Approach; Touring Wisconsin, He Asks Democrats for Policies to Meet Current Challenges," New York Times, April 11, 1959.
Austin C. Wehrwein, "Kennedy Appeals for Farmer Vote; Calls for More Cooperatives in Wisconsin Talk--Denies Softness on McCarthyism," New York Times, April 12, 1959.
University of Wisconsin-River Falls, "The Task of Our Teacher College Graduates," Senator Kennedy spoke on the crisis in American education to an overflow crowd in North Hall Auditorium (sponsored by the Young Democratic Club), November 12, 1959.
Address of Senator Kennedy, Manitowoc. Wisconsin. "Penalty Tax on Farm Cooperatives." March 30. 1960. 2pp.
Address of Senator Kennedy, Dodgeville. Wisconsin. "The Fight against Crime." April 1, 1960. 3pp.
Address of Senator Kennedy, Beloit, Wisconsin. "Unemployment Compensation; Social Security." April 1.1960. 6pp.
Address of Senator Kennedy. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "Our Goals in This Campaign." April 2. 1960. 12pp.
Address of Senator Kennedy. Wisconsin Association Student Councils, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "Should Nuclear Tests Be Resumed?" April 2. 1960. 12pp.
Address of Senator Kennedy, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "Labor --The Source of American Strength; Eastern Europe". April 3. 1960. 27pp,
More: The John F. Kennedy 1960 Campaign Part II: Speeches, Press Conferences and Debates.
JE comments: Touching. Besides Mike Bonnie, Randy Black, and David Fleischer, what other WAISers actually saw JFK in person?
I conclude from the above that in those days, the public was treated to more than the canned stump speech when a presidential candidate came to town. Now, a candidates' handlers are terrified if s/he strays from the carefully crafted script. (Note, for example, Romney's "47 percent" ad-lib, which cemented his defeat in the election.)
- Memories of 22 November 1963 (Francisco Ramirez, USA 11/24/13 7:02 AM)
I was asleep underneath a mosquito net when I heard my father say, "Han matado a Kennedy." I still recall my response, "Which Kennedy?" I thought it could have been Bobby. I was an 18 year-old college junior in Manila when Kennedy was killed in Dallas. Three years earlier I came of age politically, following the Kennedy pursuit of the Presidency and watching the debates with Nixon. My father, a conservative, favored Nixon despite Kennedy's Catholic background. I, a budding liberal, knew who the better man was. After the Bay of Pigs fiasco my father turned to me and said "La guerra fría no se gana con palabras bonitas." I did not have a good comeback. I was not that young.
In 1968 as I was finishing my first year of doctoral studies in sociology at Stanford, I got a phone call from Manila. It was my girlfriend. She called to say that Bobby had been shot. I found out he died shortly thereafter. I found out in a dorm with other stunned students. Only a few months earlier we had been stunned at the killing of Martin Luther King.
To this day I have a hard time watching TV coverage of the killing in Dallas. I watch and I cringe.
In the past I have entertained conspiracy theories, but not any more. Randy Black has twice dealt with the evidence conspiracy theories bring up regarding the JFK assassination. I thought he did a very good job.
JE comments: We've heard November 22nd memories from four different continents: Europe, North and South America, and now Asia. Was the news of one individual's death ever so quickly disseminated throughout the world?
Randy Black's friend Hugh Aynesworth, a Dallas journalist who witnessed the assassination, was interviewed on a number of prominent news programs last week. Of course my thoughts turned to Randy!
- 22 November 1963 (David Fleischer, Brazil 11/23/13 11:29 AM)
- US Presidents in Dallas, 22 November 1963 (Randy Black, USA 11/27/13 5:31 AM)
- Memories of 22 November 1963 (Randy Black, USA 11/23/13 3:53 AM)