I was a third grader eating lunch in the cafeteria when my best friend, Ronnie Chadwick, came up to me. His dad was the principal, and his dad had just told him the shocking news out of Dallas. Now Ronnie told me. Soon Mr. Chadwick was on the loudspeaker sending us all home early.
If you were born before 1960, you probably have your own story to tell about where you were when you first heard the news. And your life and your perspective on life, I am guessing, changed at that moment. As an 8-year-old, it was incomprehensible to me that such a thing could happen. Life had seemed so innocent and carefree. Now this handsome man and charismatic leader with a wife and two small children had been shot dead. It just didn’t make any sense.
Historians suggest the upheavals of the 60’s and 70’s, including Vietnam, the race riots, the counter-cultural movement, and more assassinations, might have played out very differently had President Kennedy lived. (Although Stephen King in his book 11-22-63 suggests that George Wallace would have been elected in 1968.) We don’t know. But we do know that inexplicable and horrific events continue to happen to this very day. Maybe all that has changed is our capacity to be shocked.
I heard Kathleen Kennedy Townsend interviewed yesterday. She was President Kennedy’s oldest niece. She was 12 years old when he was killed. She told the story of the letter her grief-stricken father, Robert, wrote her on the day of the funeral.
You seem to understand that Jack died and was buried today. As the oldest of the grandchildren, you have a special responsibility. Be kind to others and work hard for our country.
She was not quite 17 when she pulled out that letter and read it again. Her own dad had just been gunned down. She said she still tries to live by those words. They are good words for us to live by, too, no matter how evil and awful things might seem to be. We each have been given a special responsibility. So, “be kind to others and work hard for our country.”