News

US Remembers 40th Anniversary of JFK Assassination

Saturday, November 22, marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. National Correspondent Jim Malone recalls a day that shook the world, and looks at a presidential legacy that remains both inspirational and controversial.

January 20, 1961. A new president is inaugurated and a new era in American politics begins.

"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans," President Kennedy said.

Less than three years later, President Kennedy traveled to Texas in hopes of unifying Democrats in advance of his re-election bid in 1964. The crowds were friendlier than expected as the president's motorcade made its way through downtown Dallas.

"Here is a bulletin from CBS News," announced Walter Cronkite. "In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting."

Dallas radio reporter Ron Jenkins describes what happens next.

"The presidential car coming up now. We know it is the presidential car. We can see Mrs. Kennedy's pink suit," he said. "There is a Secret Service man spread-eagled over the top of the car. We understand [Texas] Governor [John] and Mrs. Connally are in the car with President and Mrs. Kennedy. We can not see who has been hit if anybody's hit, but apparently something is wrong here. Something is terribly wrong."

News of the shooting sent shock waves around the country and around the world. A short time later, the worst fears are realized.

"From Dallas, Texas, the [news] flash, apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1:00 p.m. central standard time," he announced. "Vice President Lyndon Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded. Presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States."

In the evening the president's plane, Air Force One, returned to Washington and the new president, Lyndon Johnson, addressed Americans for the first time.

"I know that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bears. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help, and God's," he said.

Back in Dallas, police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald and charged him with assassinating the president.

"These people have given me a hearing without legal representation or anything," Oswald said.

"Did you shoot the president?" a reporter asked.

"I did not shoot anybody. No, sir," Oswald answered.

Two days later, Oswald was himself shot to death on live television by a Dallas nightclub owner named Jack Ruby.

Reporter Ike Pappas was there when it happened.

"There is the prisoner. Do you have anything to say in your defense? Oswald has been shot! Oswald has been shot!" he shouted.

A 10-month investigation into the assassination led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President Kennedy. But opinion polls over the years indicate that most Americans still believe the assassination was the result of a conspiracy that has yet to come to light.

Beyond the questions about John Kennedy's death, his legacy remains a lively subject of debate.

Surveys continue to place him near the top of the list of presidents Americans admire most.

Kennedy biographer Robert Dallek says he thinks he knows why.

"So there is a sense that Kennedy was a man with great promise that was aborted, cut short. But the country clings to him, in a sense, as someone who promised the best for America and the best for the world," he explains.

For others, Kennedy's lasting contribution was his call to national service made during his 1961 inaugural.

"And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country," President Kennedy said.

"John F. Kennedy was a president who broke the mold. Really, neither before or since, has there been a president who, in the television age, had the power to inspire Americans beyond themselves to spur this country to deed of idealism beyond selfish interests," explains Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian at the American University in Washington D.C.

Kennedy's image has been somewhat tarnished over the years by revelations of compulsive womanizing and because he kept an assortment of serious health problems secret from the public.

But on balance, author Robert Dallek says the Kennedy legacy remains largely inspirational because of the sense of optimism that John Kennedy conveyed while he was alive.

"Was he a great president? I do not think you can say he was great in the sense that he was there such a brief time," he says. "But he does give the nation something that does not seem to end, namely a kind of attachment to him as a hopeful figure, as someone who, if he had lived, would have made the country a better United States and made the world a better place. And that is a pretty good legacy for a president to leave behind."

Had he lived, John Kennedy would have been 86 years old this past May.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs