Sunday, October 27, 2013


Today's Washington Post op-ed page featured a string of commentaries about President Kennedy. My favorite of them, by the way, was a fascinating piece on the death of the president's son in 1963. My first reaction was to roll my eyes and wonder if I could endure a month of hagiographic what if. But then I gained some perspective:

  • We're coming upon the fiftieth anniversary of a president's killing. 
  • His death coincides with a remarkable number of turning points in America's story at home and abroad.
Though JFK wasn't innocent of vices, he was the last president to serve in an age when we tended to revere and look up to our presidents. In the fifty years since his passing we have been led by Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. 

In the fifty years preceding Kennedy's death we were led by Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, FDR, Herbert Hoover, Calvin Coolidge, Warren Harding, and Woodrow Wilson. 

Both those lists are filled with presidents of varying abilities, but it's a little shocking to think of the difference in how those two sets of presidents conducted themselves, reacted to adversity, and commanded the respect of the people they served. Perhaps we're also mourning the loss of respect for an institution as we're mourning the loss of a compelling young American 50 years ago November. 

1 comment:

Nancy, Near Philadelphia said...

We've just watched a tv miniseries, "The Kennedy's" which presented the shadow side of this family. It was hard to watch, to learn about the womanizing, the drugs, etc. Over the years the legend of FDR has been destroyed and now JFK. When I worked at the Obama campaign in '08 primary, I was struck by the excitement and idealism of the young people I was working with. Took me back to how we felt when Kennedy was running. I hope I never have to know the darker side of Barack Obama's life . . . .