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Fifty Years Later, the Aura of JFK Endures…

Kennedy’s White House portrait (via wikipedia)

We’re a little late to this, but in some ways, the images from Dallas are indelibly etched into the minds of Americans, as if by birth.  However, what can be less clear is the raw outpouring of grief from around the world when John F. Kennedy was murdered and then lay to rest.  Kennedy may have only been the most recent president struck down midterm, by man or by God, but he was the first one to die in the midst of a new, strikingly bifurcated world in which the United States was on one side.

Nevertheless, in death, Kennedy brought the world together in a way so few events have done.  Hundreds of dignitaries participated in his funeral and many Heads of State (or Government) participated directly.  Everybody remembers the image of the veiled, grieving widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, but how many knew that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Canada walked in the procession with the Presidents of France and Ireland?

The Rotunda with JFK’s coffin, Jacquie and Caroline kneel at its side 11/24/63 (via NY Daily News)

Today, fifty years ago, JFK’s coffin lay in state in the the Rotunda of the Capitol between the two chambers in both of which at one time he had once served. The same day, his killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was in turn killed by Jack Ruby. On the next day, the nation bid farewell to the man that inspired a generation to commit to public service.

The death and funeral of JFK stands as a convenient entry for the turbulence of the 1960’s and beyond would usher in.  However, it may also be one of the few times in which the world actually stopped and truly stayed at peace, if briefly to honor one man.  If we can do it for one man, perhaps, one day we could work toward securing that peace and honor for all men and women in life.  If Kennedy’s outlook and philosophy matched his rhetoric, he would likely be quite pleased if we succeed in that endeavor.