Shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963, CBS commentator Eric Sevareid noted the principal legacy of the murdered leader might well be an ‘attitude,’ a contagious spirit that all things are possible if only we have the vision and will.
In fact, JFK had important tangible accomplishments – as well as failures – during his brief tenure in office. Nonetheless, Sevareid was remarkably perceptive in emphasizing the emotional impacts of this president on the population. His shocking grotesque murder continues to reverberate in our collective lives, even after a half century.
The administration’s disastrous failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs dogged President Kennedy from the start, and provided Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev with strong incentive to deploy offensive missiles on the island. Intense U.S. efforts to kill Fidel Castro, directly pressed by Attorney General Robert Kennedy, spurred Moscow.
This led to the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. In recent years, meetings between surviving officials from both sides in the confrontation have revealed that nuclear war was even closer than realized in that tense time.
The President, a combat veteran of World War II, resisted powerful pressure to attack Cuba and was highly imaginative. He and his advisers were able to get the missiles out of Cuba through a blockade, combined with a secret Cuba-Turkey missile trade. Kennedy’s outlook contrasts markedly with the administration of President George W. Bush regarding Iraq.
In the aftermath of the missile crisis, Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev achieved a treaty banning nuclear tests in the atmosphere, a major breakthrough. The Senate ratified the treaty with a bipartisan vote of 80-19. JFK had other success with Congress, including international trade negotiation authority key to the 1967 Kennedy Round agreement.
Two domestic issues always on the front burner were civil rights and organized crime, the former reflecting growing popular pressures, the latter the focus of driven RFK. JFK was careful on race relations, addressing the subject decisively only when pressed to do so by a massive public march on Washington.
RFK was relentless in pursuit of the mafia, while simultaneously gangsters were recruited for the effort to kill Castro. Dallas ended both efforts. Regarding organized crime, a decade passed before the Nixon administration returned to prosecution, notably with the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) legislation.
People around Robert Kennedy were puzzled by his marked disinterest in possible conspiracy in the assassination. In hindsight, RFK no doubt avoided that dark tangled path because he might come face-to-face with it himself.
Senator John Kennedy’s book ‘Profiles in Courage,’ about U.S. Senators who put principle above political expediency, received the Pulitzer Prize. While critics cracked President Kennedy should show less profile and more courage, he actually demonstrated considerable personal strength.
Professor Herbert Parmet has documented exceptionally serious health problems that plagued JFK from birth. Despite this, he managed to enlist in the U.S. Navy in World War II, then volunteered for hazardous PT boat duty.
Sevareid’s observation applies perhaps most tangibly to the American space program. President Kennedy early on made a dramatic public commitment to carry out a successful manned moon landing, including safe return to earth.
A number of technological innovations resulted from the mammoth space effort, including extreme miniaturization of electronics. Every time you turn on a computer or cell phone, you’re saying hello to JFK.
Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of the book After the Cold War (NYU Press). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Lake Effect essayist Art Cyr reflects on the anniversary of JFK's assassination.
50th Anniversary of the JFK Assassination: The Conspiracy Theories
Although John F. Kennedy was shot about half a century ago, there hasn’t been a conclusive answer as to who actually shot the president on that fateful November afternoon in 1963. While the official report released by the government claims that Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president, not everyone seems to buy that. In fact, a recent poll by the Associated Press shows that 50% of Americans today believe that actually multiple shooters were involved and as a result, numerous conspiracy theories have emerged in regards to this matter. The top two conspiracy theories in the public domain that the JFK was shot actually assassinated by the CIA, the Mafia and even the Russians.
The first conspiracy theory claims that the CIA shot JFK. The Central Intelligence Agency is an organization that operates behind a shroud of secrecy. However, it is an open secret that bad blood developed between the CIA and the JFK administration following the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in April 1961 that led to the resignation of the then CIA Director Allen Dulles. The agency did not appreciate the president interring in its operations and additionally, was opposed to the idea of the president making peace with some of the hostile nations including Russia and Cuba.
The second conspiracy theory claims that the JFK was assassinated by the Mafia. The connection between the Kennedy family and organized dates back to the 1920s during Prohibition. During that time, JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy father is rumored to have been involved in bootlegging. What’s more, an article by the Los Angeles Times claims that Joseph Kennedy leveraged his Mafia connections to help his son beat Richard Nixon for the presidency in 1960. However, events in the political arena including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy campaign against organized crime led to a falling out between the Kennedy family and the Mafia.
Half a century after the assassination of JFK, 50% of Americans still have doubts regarding the events that took place on Friday, November 22, 1963. As a result, conspiracy theories are rife regarding who shot JFK.