Today is not a day to celebrate but to remember.
I was very young and very idealistic. But I have never been more in tune with or involved in government and what it was doing than those days of the Kennedy administration. My generation believed that government could work back then; we believed in the Constitution, in equal rights, in the freedom of the press.
We were warriors, we were involved; we were activists, we lived fervently, rebelled ostentatiously and loved freely; we fought back; we became consequential. We did not "go along."
We had a leader who inspired.
Kennedy's legacy through the years has been 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 was blatantly wrong.
Now, however, appreciation of Kennedy's accomplishments grows with each passing year. And it should. 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.
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.
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. You spoke decisively but with care for the feelings of your listeners, with admiration for those in the Press who covered you, with respect for those who opposed you and with dignity that matched the office you once held.
You made us dream.
I miss you, JFK.