Friday, March 11, 2011

Memories of November 22

Monday, November 22, 2010 at 10:27pm
I was not yet in school on this day in 1963, but I can surely remember it. That sunny afternoon (for some reason I can distinctly recall the sun shining on the living room paneling), our normal television programming was taken over by news of the shooting of President Kennedy. Although I may not have understood all the implications, I remember being scared by the apparent gravity of the situation. I also recall a series of phone calls as people reached out to each other about this stunning event.

Part of me wants to say we were watching Walter Cronkite on CBS, but that fleeting memory may be influenced more by my later admiration of him as well as the fact that the videotape of him pulling off his glasses (which he rarely wore) has been frequently shown on subsequent historical documentaries of that day (

I regret that the feeling I most remember from those dark days in November was resentment. As a preschooler, I didn't like it that my cartoons were being pre-empted for this wall-to-wall news coverage on all three (yes, only three) channels. All news, all-the-time formats may seem normal to today's cable news channel generation, but it hardly ever happened in the old days. The coverage seemed to last all the way until his funeral days later.

As I grew older, I became somewhat embarrassed by this main memory of being more upset over missing my cartoons than by the assassination of a good president. It made me more interested in JFK as a way to make up to him for the disrespect I displayed. One item I treasured in the Student Government office at UC was the framed JFK picture (originally hung by Tom Deth). During my first stint in Washington, I purchased a similar JFK poster from the gift shop at the Kennedy Center, which followed me through grad school, law school, and beyond (I'm guessing my ex-wife finally talked me into getting rid of it).

I have a recording of his inauguration speech that I have played for many of my classes, so that they can hear his immortal words--"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country"--in their original context.

Finally, I want to mention that the National School Board Association invited me to present at their conference in Dallas in 1998 (I was one of the first school board members to use the Internet as a way to communicate with constituents), giving me my only opportunity to visit that city. I made time during that trip to visit Dealy Plaza and the Sixth Floor Museum. It was a fascinating afternoon that I will long remember! Do we really know what happened that day? I'm still captivated by the events of November 22, 1963, and hope that in the long term future, this date is not looked back upon as the high water mark of the American empire.

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