I was kind of in love with Kennedy back then and was an ardent follower of him and his brother Bobby. We believed in them, pure and simple, and the fire they provoked in my generation. His legacy today, however, is laced with a kind of blandness as though aside from his youth, his wit and charisma, his attractive young family, he really accomplished very little. This is blatantly wrong.
Kennedy's legacy grows with each passing year even though the tributes wane, (Chris Matthews’ new book, “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero” notwithstanding which documents true heroism during WWII in the Pacific Theatre). True, he allowed Khrushchev to get the upper hand (at first). Also true, that the Berlin Wall went up during his tenure. Indeed, he resided over the Bay of Pigs fiasco and we're all aware of his "indiscretions." But I believe today, that had that young president lived, he might have been one of our greatest leaders. Remember, he had only a thousand days in which to accomplish his agenda.
The thing I remember about the Kennedy administration was the sense of idealism and public service it inspired in us, more than I have seen since, even though President Obama came close in 2008. We wanted to serve back then; patriotism was not just a word being thrown back in our faces when we disagreed with government policies, it was a conviction. We believed passionately and reacted fervently.
As for his accomplishments, take note: the Peace Corps, the Alliance for Progress, Civil Rights legislation, the Space Program and the introduction of the Green Berets. His major accomplishment, however, was a tight and tense little psychological drama between the USA and the USSR known as The Cuban Missile Crisis, which, without the successful maneuvering of the Kennedys, might have left the world in a state of nuclear disaster.
I guess his potential greatness will never be known which is what happens when someone takes you out before your time. But I think when all is said and done, his star will ultimately shine as one of the brightest. And though there seem to be few tributes today, JFK, this fifty second anniversary of your assassination, I remember. And I am grateful to have learned my political abc's under your leadership. You never blamed others for your mistakes -- you took your lumps with calm and grace. How refreshing it would be if our leaders today would learn to do the same. You spoke decisively, with care for the feelings of your listeners, with admiration for those who covered you, with respect for those who opposed you and with dignity that matched the office you once held.
Today we see a travesty of those qualities we once held sacred -- integrity, decorum and grace.