Commemorating the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

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Astonishment, distress and grief were felt throughout the nation on Nov. 22, 1963. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Kennedy’s assassination was a dark turning point in our nation’s history. It shocked almost everyone since he was an extremely popular president. He was killed in an instant; one moment everything was calm and the next total chaos set in. As one of the most powerful and respected individuals on Earth at the time, his death was horrific news to his people. In his Inaugural Address he called upon his nation: “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

Elected in 1960 as the 35th president of the United States, Kennedy was the youngest man to ever hold office. During his presidency he handled the growing Cold War tensions in Cuba and Vietnam. He also provided federal support for civil rights movements. He made all the right decisions and was everything a president should be: trustworthy, open-minded and devoted to his country. To this day he is considered an American icon and one of the most-loved presidents in the history of the United States.

So why would someone murder him? Although no one knows for sure exactly who assassinated Kennedy, people began searching for a source of blame. Half a century’s worth of conspiracy theories have been suggested yet none are definite. It is most commonly believed that the sniper was Lee Harvey Oswald, a failed Marine in the Cold War who defected from Russia to return to the U.S. However some refuse to believe that a single man was responsible for such a monumental assassination. Some pronounce it to be the work of the Mafia. Others theorize that it was all just a tragic accident and the intended target was Governor John Connally, who was sitting near the president at the time. The number of speculations surrounding the murder is dizzying. There’s no telling if there will ever be a definite answer of who killed John F. Kennedy. The case remains open and may never be closed.

Nobody expected such a drastic event to happen when Kennedy and his political advisors arrived in Dallas, Texas for Kennedy’s next presidential campaign. The president was greeted with a sea of smiling faces as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas. Seated in the open convertible was Governor John Connally, his wife Nellie Connally, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and the president himself. At around 12:30 p.m., shots were fired. One bullet hit the president’s neck and the other, his head. The president’s head exploded as the First Lady was left splattered in her husband’s blood, helplessly groping for the pieces. The whole scene all occurred in a gruesome 26.6 seconds and was recorded on camera. You can view the video clip here.

This week the entire nation held various events to commemorate the presidency of John F. Kennedy. Cities nationwide held observances of President Kennedy’s death. President Barack Obama paid his respects at the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony, where he hailed Kennedy’s legacy and said, “Fifty years later, John F. Kennedy stands for posterity as he did in life–young, bold and daring.” With Bill Clinton on his side, Obama also paid silent homage at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery.

A moment of silence filled Dealey Plaza today at 12:30 p.m. before the celebration of Kennedy’s legacy began. The city celebrated with orchestra music and speeches in his memory. “A new era dawned and another waned a half century ago when hope and hatred collided right here in Dallas… Our collective hearts were broken…[Kennedy was an] idealist without illusions who helped build a more just and equal world,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said in his speech to a crowd of 5,000 people in Dealey Plaza.

TV specials on the assassination of Kennedy ran to commemorate the 34th president’s life. Broadcast networks like ABC, CBS, and NBC featured special programs to honor Kennedy’s life. The Discovery Channel and the History Channel provided specials that delved into the conspiracy theories of Kennedy’s killer. TV movie Killing Kennedy was also aired on the National Geographic channel.

Today we are reminded of the great things President Kennedy did for our nation. The events of commemoration that took place certainly united the nation with feelings of nationalism. Kennedy’s assassination was a historical moment that echoed throughout the entire country and left a lasting impact on its people.

Instead of focusing on who killed Kennedy or how he died, we should take this moment to remember the legacy he left behind. Today is a day that Americans should stop and remember not the day of his death, but the things he accomplished when he was alive.

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