Monday, November 25, 2013
The world has changed a lot in the half century since I was sitting with my mother watching the funeral of JFK. I have said pretty much everything I remember of those days. But one more thing to mention. The world changed on those cold, frightening days of November of 1963.
I had lost my hero, everything in the world seemed a little less secure. For the boy who I was, it would never be quite the same.
I was interested in the press conferences. My grandfather would watch them and make comments to me. I watched several of the press conferences with him. It was such a rare thing to hear people laughing at a press conference.
The death of the President was one that shook much of the world to its foundation. I cannot to this day think of another President who had such a connection to the people. It was the last time that a President would talk about the ancient Romans and Greeks. It was the last President who used history as a backdrop.
I am not sure if many of our later Presidents know much of anything about ancient Rome or Greece. JFK wanted to be a history teacher, or college professor. He loved and lived history. I am convinced to this day that he influenced me as a boy to follow history.
I was able to teach for a few years and it was a warm full circle to have one of JFK's great nephews in my class. He and I talked of his great uncle. Neither of us had ever met him, but we and mainly he was engulfed in his legacy.
I got to meet many who were around him, Senator Edward Kennedy, Caroline, his daughter, President Gerald R. Ford and several others. Ford told me that he and Kennedy shared an office in their early days in the congress. Sometimes they would take late night walks together. Little did either know that they would both be President and that both of them would be very much involved in terrible points in the countries history.
I sat for those dark days in November at home. I watched the first all day news programs that started at the time of this all. I can still hear in my mind the sounds of the muffled drums as it radiated from the speaker of the black and white TV we watched on. I was already starting my interest in history. I even had a book on JFK made while alive. But I started to study more after that. I am glad we had a historian and not an academic as President. Academics never make for good leaders, and end up leaving disasters in their wake.
But as I write this 50 years to the day I heard those muffled drums, and came to realize that my hero was no more. I closed up my little office in my room in which I used to pretend I was President Kennedy and write bills and sign papers. Bought all the newspapers I could. Then I followed a path to studying history.
I was at Arlington Cemetery in mid 2010. I stopped several places as I walked that rather rainy day. There were few people there and I was surrounded by those who had influenced history. I finally worked my way to JFK's and Jackie's graves. I stood before his grave and said audibly, "Thank you". Little did you know how much you influenced the mind and career of a young boy.
Fifty years ago, the world and my life changed forever.