Fifty years is a relative blip on the grand timeline, barely a rounding error between your genesis point and the end of life as we know it. Yet in human terms, 50 years is longer than many life spans, past and present.
In Dallas terms, 50 years is five decades of exploration, examination and grinding introspection about what happened, and why, on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza.
John F. Kennedy’s slaying was a seminal event in our city’s history, encapsulating too much that came before and influencing much that would follow, and here we are. We have considered it, studied it, reflected and grieved.
It’s tempting to acquiesce after all these years, to step away from the pain and sadness and horror of a president’s murder on our streets, and say, finally: “Enough. We are past that now.”
That many of us have obsessed about this single moment for so long says something. Dallas today bears little resemblance to 1963 Dallas. Divisions and demarcations, fading away by the decade, were stark. Today’s politics may have troubling elements, but they are a shallow dive compared with the dangerous extremism then.
“City of Hate” was not meant as an irony. It wasn’t an entire city, far from it, but certainly a part. With 50 years of hindsight, calling Dallas the city that killed Kennedy was neither fair nor accurate, given the lack of evidence that anyone other than a troubled loner was involved. Yet the allegation wasn’t that Dallas pulled the trigger, necessarily, but whether such a heinous crime could have happened anywhere else.
In truth, few 1963 U.S. cities would bear up well under scrutiny from 2013 eyes. America changed, and Dallas changed with it — more than many cities, perhaps, because it had a longer way to go. On balance, this has been a positive drawn from our introspection.
Another is the openness of our rumination. The events today in Dealey Plaza, remembering the 50th anniversary of a president’s death, are years in the making. City leaders, elected and unelected, have weighed competing priorities to find an appropriate ceremony that, importantly, strikes the right tone.
Despite what some outsiders might argue, Dallas has not shied away from hard questions. This, too, says something important about our city, even if fewer than 10 percent of its residents today were here on Nov. 22, 1963. This story, this event, belongs to all of us.
Which is why Dallas will resist the temptation to simply move beyond this moment, if that means shoving it onto some forgotten bookshelf.
A president was killed here for reasons that died with his killer. It does us no good to pretend this didn’t happen 50 years ago. From this terrible day and all the ones that follow, we will keep learning about ourselves and our city.”
– Editorial in the Dallas Morning News, "November 22, 1963 — A Date Dallas Will Never Truly Get Beyond"
America reacts to the death of a President. (Photos from top: Carl Mydans / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images; Woman in New York City by Stan Wayman / Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images; Passers-by watch TV reports in Tucson via the Arizona Daily Star; students listening to the news over a loudspeaker at a school in Virginia Beach via the Virginian-Pilot; watching TV coverage of the funeral in Grand Central Terminal by Frank Castoral / New York Daily News)
“We just have a report from our correspondent Dan Rather in Dallas that he has confirmed that President Kennedy is dead. …From Dallas, Texas, the flash — apparently official — President Kennedy died at one P.M. Central Standard Time, two o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”
- Although this film was driven more by director Oliver Stone’s obsession with the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy — and focused more on the trials and travails of Jim Garrison, the New Orleans-based district attorney who found that everyone but Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK — Stone’s apparent admiration of the President shines through in the leitmotifs composed for this three-plus-hour epic by John Williams. The score is carefully crafted as to evoke the mythic imagery of Camelot crashing into the upheaval that would be the 1960’s, when three leaders — JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy — would ultimately be felled by assassin’s bullets, shattering any sense that was left of a Pax Americana.
May 29, 1917 - Nov. 22, 1963
November 22, 1963. President John F Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy are seen riding in an open-top limousine toward Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas in this previously unseen photo by H. Warner King. He would be assassinated just minutes later. (via Time Magazine)
On June 26, 1963, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech that electrified a crowd gathered in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. As he paid tribute to the spirit of Berliners and to their quest for freedom, the crowd roared with approval upon hearing the the President’s dramatic pronouncement, “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner).
President Kennedy used this handwritten note card while delivering his speech. On it, he phonetically spelled German phrases from his speech, including “Ish bin ein Bearleener.” Read More
Garry Winogrand took this iconic photograph of John F. Kennedy during his acceptance speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. Until recently, it was the only Winogrand photograph from the convention that had previously been published. The New York Times brings us a selection of newly-released photos by Winogrand from that historic event and is asking its readers to help identify the people in them.
“What is it we have to sell them? We hope we have to sell them prosperity, but for the average guy the prosperity is nil. He’s not unprosperous but he’s not very prosperous; he’s not going to make out well off. And the people who really are well off hate our guts.”
– That’s JFK in November 1963 talking about how to appeal to young people from newly released tapes. Doesn’t sound too far off from conversations that could be happening in the White House these days. (via cheatsheet)
Things I used to be: a John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory buff. (Pause for facepalms.) I guess it helped that I once interned at a publishing house that released book after book about what “experts” really thought happened on November 22, 1963.
The grassy knoll. Cubans. Communists. The Zapruder Film. The book depository. Dealey Plaza. The Mannlicher-Carcano rifle.
Nancy Pelosi and President Kennedy at his inauguration ball 50 years ago today. Adorable.
In which we learn that Katie Bakes spells “whoa” the traditional way and Vanity Fair writes it like a Millennial.
And holy fuck, Nancy Pelosi with JFK!
Woah, like whoa.
Jack Kennedy attended Choate School in Wallingford, Connecticut. It’s now Choate-Rosemary Hall. The headmaster in Kennedy’s time was George St. John. The first page of his notebook contains a portion of an essay by Dean Lebaron Briggs who was St. John’s dean at Harvard. Let me read the last lines of that essay which St. John used for his chapel sermons:
As has often been said, the youth who loves his Alma Mater will always ask not ‘What can she do for me?’ but ‘What can I do for her.’
I also have a letter to the school written twenty five years ago complaining to the school that Kennedy had ‘plagiarized’ the headmaster’s ‘Ask Not’ phrase — an absurd complaint I think. Students are supposed to remember what their teachers tell them.”
– NBC’s CHRIS MATTHEWS, on the origin of John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you…” from his 1961 inauguration.
Today, Google commemorates the first — and only — inaugural address delivered by John F. Kennedy, exactly 50 years ago, on January 20, 1961.
He would be felled by an assassin’s bullets less than three years later.
A new book compiles letters of condolence written to Jackie Kennedy after her husband, John, was assassinated. The letters come from priests and prisoners, widows and schoolchildren. Above, a missive, replete with typos, from Lisa Blumberg of
Montvale Montclair, New Jersey.
(Thanks to thecakeisaliar for the correction. -ed.)