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Like, I suspect, many of us here, I just finished watching the American Experience documentary on JFK.  I have neither the time nor the inclination to address all the reasons why that film struck me so deeply at a gut level.  It caused me, however, to reread his 1963 American University speech, which is always worthy of serious reflection and consideration.

The Berlin Wall fell 24 years ago.  The Soviet state crumbled for good 22 years ago.  Millions of Americans have no clue as to what the Cold War was all about.  Many of those of us who did live through it have no memory of just how deep the freeze was in 1963.  A thermonuclear war had been narrowly avoided the previous fall.  There were no arms limitations treaties.  Nuclear testing was still conducted in the atmosphere.   Mutual suspicion and recrimination still ran deep.

In that context, Kennedy's speech remains remarkable to this day.  Its power is shown in these 4 paragraphs:

No government or social system is so evil that its people must be considered as lacking in virtue. As Americans, we find communism profoundly repugnant as a negation of personal freedom and dignity. But we can still hail the Russian people for their many achievements in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture, in acts of courage.

Among the many traits the peoples of our two countries have in common, none is stronger than our mutual abhorrence of war. Almost unique among the major world powers, we have never been at war with each other. And no nation in the history of battle ever suffered more than the Soviet Union in the Second World War. At least 20 million lost their lives. Countless millions of homes and families were burned or sacked. A third of the nation's territory, including two thirds of its industrial base, was turned into a wasteland -- a loss equivalent to the destruction of this country east of Chicago.

Today, should total war ever break out again -- no matter how -- our two countries will be the primary target. It is an ironic but accurate fact that the two strongest powers are the two in the most danger of devastation. All we have built, all we have worked for, would be destroyed in the first 24 hours. And even in the cold war, which brings burdens and dangers to so many countries, including this Nation's closest allies, our two countries bear the heaviest burdens. For we are both devoting massive sums of money to weapons that could be better devoted to combat ignorance, poverty, and disease. We are both caught up in a vicious and dangerous cycle, with suspicion on one side breeding suspicion on the other, and new weapons begetting counter-weapons. In short, both the United States and its allies, and the Soviet Union and its allies, have a mutually deep interest in a just and genuine peace and in halting the arms race. Agreements to this end are in the interests of the Soviet Union as well as ours. And even the most hostile nations can be relied upon to accept and keep those treaty obligations, and only those treaty obligations, which are in their own interest.

So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal.

Openly acknowledging the sacrifices endured by the Soviet people in a war against a common enemy two decades earlier and frankly recognizing the common humanity of the two sides was virtually unheard of from any major political figure at that time.  Proposing more of a "live and let live" approach was equally unthinkable.  A month later, agreement was reached on a partial nuclear test ban treaty--the first such treaty of its kind.

I was only 5 when JFK was killed.  I have only the vaguest memories of his presidency.  Given how his life was tragically cut short, his legacy is one of potential as much as it is one of actual performance.  His ability, however, to appeal to the better angels of our nature resonates to this day.  That ability was most profoundly demonstrated in this speech, most notably in the simple facts he set forth in the bolded portion.  It's far easier to negotiate meaningfully w/ an opponent when you frankly acknowledge your common mortality.  It's a lot harder to keep a Cold War frozen when you admit that you and the other side have at least some common interests.

There are many reasons why I became a Dem, but the legacy of JFK (not to mention that of his devoted brother) is clearly one of them.

Originally posted to RFK Lives on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 08:31 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (165+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Vita Brevis, ctsteve, churchylafemme, Words In Action, Hammerhand, LilithGardener, Dump Terry McAuliffe, Susan from 29, joanneleon, Brown Thrasher, Gooserock, Mother Mags, LNK, markdd, devis1, Stuart Heady, JekyllnHyde, Betty Pinson, daveygodigaditch, ichibon, lotlizard, falconer520, yoduuuh do or do not, palantir, Situational Lefty, FogCityJohn, Alfred E Newman, chantedor, outragedinSF, Hanging Up My Tusks, genethefiend, NearlyNormal, chuckvw, marykk, EJP in Maine, willyr, sidnora, Linda1961, LI Mike, Joe Hills Ghost, 84thProblem, SouthernLeveller, GreyHawk, Tchrldy, rapala, Buckeye54, triv33, Darmok, historys mysteries, Hillbilly Dem, eagleray, DSC on the Plateau, bluesheep, copymark, Doctor Who, lakehillsliberal, Jim R, hopi13, Friend of the court, filkertom, Radical Faith, dkmich, IrishGreg, Habitat Vic, blueoasis, Agathena, mint julep, One Pissed Off Liberal, NonnyO, native, bewild, TomFromNJ, Deep Texan, ozsea1, profundo, lineatus, drdana, reflectionsv37, parse this, Senor Unoball, Chi, Josiah Bartlett, mkor7, nyceve, Cato come back, nosleep4u, No one gets out alive, scyellowdogdem, Quilldriver, TX Unmuzzled, FindingMyVoice, reginahny, wader, tapestry, commonmass, wishingwell, dsb, Lilyvt, Murchadha, Debby, hopeful, lunachickie, LaFeminista, tweeternik, joegoldstein, MarkInSanFran, leonard145b, TracieLynn, shaharazade, Bridge Master, Lying eyes, JimWilson, poligirl, peterj911, orlbucfan, roses, Simplify, Laborguy, cocinero, dotsright, oceanview, texasmom, seefleur, unfangus, Robynhood too, Phillyfreedom, gizmo59, scamp, Meteor Blades, YucatanMan, shesaid, Debbie in ME, walkshills, Random Brainwaves, LakeSuperior, Kombema, Steven D, Bernie68, lysias, OHdog, Matt Z, rmx2630, Turn Left, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, Arahahex, nomandates, MadGeorgiaDem, Amber6541, alice kleeman, buckstop, FoundingFatherDAR, VA gentlewoman, ehavenot, Dragon5616, jan4insight, Ohkwai, Dark UltraValia, Lefty Ladig, northerntier, BlackSheep1, Zinman, shaggies2009, Floande, Ricochet67, goheelsgodems

    Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

    by RFK Lives on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 08:31:32 PM PST

  •  Didn't See the Special, But Kruschev's Son Is (65+ / 0-)

    quoted on space race programming as saying JFK reached out to NK once about joining forces on the Moon landing project. The son said Russian politics didn't permit it at the time; maybe derailed by, or too soon after, the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    Anyway JFK was in the process of trying again when cut down, and LBJ never repeated the offer.

    So with his survival we may well have had a bilingual One Small Step. And for the many of us who don't know that the Russians put 2 unmanned rovers on the Moon during Apollo, 30 years before we would do it anywhere, maybe there would've been joint Moon and Mars rovers in the days of disco.

    The what-if's on JFK surviving are daunting.

    It's widely believed these days that we only got Civil Rights and Voting Rights because of the assassination and of course LBJ's legendary strong-arming of a congress he knew so well. Civil Rights passed in 64 with JFK's Congress, voting rights in 65 with the strengthened LBJ congress with 2/3 Dem majority in both House and Senate. Though Dem didn't always mean "Dem" when Negroes were the question.

    An even bigger question is the Great Society; LBJ introduced this concept during the 1964 race in the spring at Ohio University. It's not a Kennedy concept.

    It gave us the war on poverty, cutting the poverty rate in half in 2 years, and Medicare and Medicaid.

    Would JFK who we last knew as the cautious winner of a hair's breadth 1960 victory have been as empowered by his probable defeat of Goldwater, as LBJ was by both the defeat and the loss of JFK?

    The biggest question is Vietnam. It seems that JFK was preparing to pull the plug on that problem before LBJ felt boxed-in to turn it into the beginning of the beginning of the wreck of the American Ship of State. Maybe even a cautious JFK would've moved on bigger race, poverty and social uplift programs absent the bottomless pit of a land war in Asia.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Nov 12, 2013 at 09:01:31 PM PST

  •  Ted Sorensen wrote the Berlin and AU speeches. (9+ / 0-)

    He also wrote the Inaugural Address.

    There was a hoax put up that Kennedy wrote everything himself. Machine analysis with his other writing in personal letters put an end to that one.

    What Kennedy did do was to sharpen the key points. Get the important stuff to direct images. That is always a critical talent.

    Sorensen just died, a few years ago. I've always thought of him as the guy who brought mental discipline to the Kennedy White House. What he had to to with went well. Really, all of it. He focused that White House where he could.

    But unfortunately Sorensen was shut out from the Vietnam mess, from such as that damned gangster $42,000 grand-double-187-effup. Sorenson was trusted. Doing a what-if: he might have reminded JFK that the military people were not trustworthy -- like Bay of Pigs -- and not to listen only to CIA or DoD on anything important.

    But no. And the Diem brothers were murdered on Kennedy's hands, 2,600,000 Vietnamese died savagely, and our country went on down a road toward madness.

  •  I've been watching the docs and have been glued (9+ / 0-)

    I'm a Dem because I was born into it.  I'm Southern New England raised, a minority, an immigrant, working class and dependant on government grants for things like my two years of community college 20 years ago.

    •  I say I was a Dem before I was gay (12+ / 0-)

      Because it took a while for my brain to be wired as gay while in utero, but I was a Dem from the moment of conception. I'm from Massachusetts, Irish Catholic, my parents were married in 1962 and Kennedy was the first President Ma ever voted for (Dad didn't turn 21 until 1961, so he voted for LBJ the first time). My father once voted for a Republican in a statewide office, and Ma threatened to divorce him (had he ever turned into a Yankees fan, she certainly would have made good on the threat).

      The thing is, while we venerated Kennedy, it was for what he stood for, rather than for who he was. Kennedy represented the ultimate example of what all immigrants strive for - to make good in America. So when I learned the truth about his personal life, and about his relative weakness as President (which the PBS documentary covered well), it didn't diminish his stature, it just made him more human.

      A government that denies gay men the right to bridal registry is a fascist state - Margaret Cho

      by CPT Doom on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 06:45:45 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I grew up in the heart of the Cold War, hid under (8+ / 0-)

    my desk at school during our drills.  I do not remember the Cuban Missile Crisis which is surprising since my father was keenly aware of the implication of such things, I guess he did not want to frighten me.  I was profoundly affected by one of the first large Russian exhibits of art at the Guggenheim.  Art done during the Cold many of the pictures could have been painted here.  It was a lesson that Kennedy was in the process of teaching us when he died.  The crazy people are the one's with control of the weapons, the generals for whom war is a business, the average American or Russian just wants to raise their family and have a good life.  

    •  I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis because my (9+ / 0-)

      parents were out of town at the time and my grandmother was babysitting. She was always the nervous nellie type where my parents had a way of always staying calm and making us feel safe.

      My parents had to go to KY during that time because my step grandfather died and my grandmother needed them.
      He died suddenly at age 42 and the family was devastated and my parents had to leave our home in central PA and go to Louisville for the week for the funeral and help my grandmother.

      During this time, I had a teacher who was bouncing off the walls and in panic mode over the Cuban Missile Crisis and so was Grandma. And then to top it off, my 4 yr old sister got very sick with chicken pox.  I felt protective of her.

      Once my parents returned, I felt so much better, so secure, and safe as my dad especially was so calm and reassured me and all was well again and the next day after their return, the crisis had passed.

      But I remember it because my world seemed to falling apart as I was a sheltered kid with parents who made us feel super secure as long as they were around and suddenly poof. ..first time ever they left us overnight and for over a week and poof. beloved grandparent dead and then a teacher and grandma in panic over the Russians and Cubans.

      Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at

      by wishingwell on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 07:52:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Geeez.... (5+ / 0-)
        I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis because my parents were out of town at the time and my grandmother was babysitting.
        Me too!
        My grandmother, however, calmly told us everything would be ok (my parents would have said the same had they been at home).
        We believed her and went out to play.

        I think, therefore I am........................... Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose....AKA Engine Nighthawk - don't even ask!

        by Lilyvt on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 08:09:43 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Incredible tension at the time (3+ / 0-)

        I was in high school and taking a special contemporary history course...we follow the whole scenario in depth up until the moments of resolution. Even in a small Texas town people in general were aware and alarmed about the possibility.

        My current roommate is older (b.1940) and he was in the Navy at the time, just a seaman class. He actually was on an aircraft carrier in Guantanamo Bay when the crisis occurred and remained there until it was over, at the very heart of what could have been ground zero. He said they - the enlisted sailors - had not idea whatsoever was going on, although they were on alert most of the time. It wasn't until they got back to Virginia home base did they find out what in the hell was going on.

        Scary, scary piece of history.

        The truth is we are tortured by the truth.

        by walkshills on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 11:55:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I remember thinking, at the time of the Cuban (0+ / 0-)

        Missile Crisis (when I was a high school junior), that it didn't make sense to threaten war over Russian missiles in Cuba, since (as I thought) Russia already had intercontinental ballistic missiles that could do just as much damage to us.

        I was wrong on that, because in fact we had been deceived about Soviet missiles, and Russia at that time only had a few missiles that were capable of reaching the continental U.S., and those missiles were highly inaccurate.  But, in a deeper sense, I was right, because within a couple of years Russia would be presenting us with that threat (even a greater threat, because of the smaller time interval between launch and detonation) with their missile-carrying submarines.

        In fact, we now know that that point was made in the Kennedy administration's discussions over what to do about the missiles in Cuba: it didn't seem to make sense to threaten a world war when all that could do was to postpone a shift in the balance of power by a couple of years.  But in fact the real reason for the war threat was political.  JFK had said he would take very seriously such missiles on Cuba, and he and his brother believed that he could be impeached if he did nothing.

        The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

        by lysias on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 01:31:23 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  We had to do something. Russian missiles ... (0+ / 0-)

 close to our southern landfall a missile could be there within 15-minutes after launch. That alone required action. Also wasn't there something about a doctrine... that basically said this is our neighborhood and if you want to come in and play you play be our rules. Was it Monroe doctrine?  Fuzzy on that. But it is our hood and we will enforce with force our rules. Mr K of mother Russia didn't like playing by our rules so we had to kick sand in his call his bluff. My Dad served in WWII and Korea and was close to retire...did not want any bumps on his way to retirement...Cuban crisis was a big deal in our house.

          Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of its people.

          by kalihikane on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 10:35:08 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not much of a reason to threaten the (0+ / 0-)

            destruction of the human race, in my opinion.

            (And the submarines in a couple of years were going to provide even less warning time than missiles in Cuba would have.)

            The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

            by lysias on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 07:50:06 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  There were nuclear armed submarines (0+ / 0-)

              under water close to Cuba during the whole crisis. No one knew they were so armed. They almost fired; one man stopped it.

              This was totally unknown until recent years. It was a weird story. Chilling.

              I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

              by samddobermann on Sat Nov 16, 2013 at 04:05:09 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  We all need our "heroes" and protect our identi- (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    native, joegoldstein, oceanview

    ties, our sense of who we are among the critters we feel most comfortable with. Given our limitations of biology (like the limbic system) and what we learn from generally the loudest and most simplistic sources and voices, and the realities of physics and the wonderful influences of money and what it brings to those who have the most of  it, it seems to me that institutionally and culturally and historically and prophetically, we as a species are well and truly screwed.

    Pick and choose among the relics of Saint Kennedy (a compound beatification) or Saint Reagan as you care to: all the while our saints are out there, as they really are or as the imperial hangers-on and spinners persuade us they are, little people are moving their motivations and careers through the shadows behind the Narrative. And what seems always to triumph are the creatures like LeMay and that whole long chain of Dr. Evils who have headed the CIA and NSA and their opposite Cold War equivalents (Putin, e.g.). So, as with many of the top Nazis, who skated off from the ruins of their "empire" (with the assistance of US "democrats," who enabled them to keep killing and destroying), skated with the gold ripped from the teeth of the millions they incinerated and tons of the great art paid for initially by previous generations of feudal lords who brought their own societies down after their own apotheoses of outrageous wealth, the Kochs and Joe Kennedy in his day and so many others know how to play the angles and strip the wealth and future from the rest of us. Too many of whom just ache for their own chance to be the next Gates or Blankfein.

    But challenging the real nature of "heroes" like the Kennedys gets read as a challenge to the personal identities of their fans and acolytes. So institutionally and structurally, the wars will continue, the planet will become increasingly hostile to humankind (though the worst of the predators and parasites will live out their "blessed" lives and die comfortably and free of any consequences) thanks to the wealth-stripping and manufactured-demand hierarchy.

    No number of "more and better Democrats" is going to change how the money flows, or to where, in any significant degree. And "policy monsters" like the Dulleses and Wolfowitz and Gingrich and Avigdor Lieberman and their analogs will continue to give the rest of us this, as the most likely future and I-don't-want-to-think-about-it present:

    (graphic, of course) (Note that the setting used to be nice neighborhoods and residences, now just rubble and the stuff of "Call of Duty...")

    "Is that all there is?" Peggy Lee.

    by jm214 on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 05:26:40 AM PST

    •  I was 1 (15+ / 0-)

      when we were robbed of JFK. My mother cried for hours before our TV set. Political assassination is not just another act of horrible violence, but the great enemy of democracy. It steals the choices of the people and imposes an alien will on them (much like stolen elections). My childhood was filled with these thefts of democracy: JFK('63), Malcolm X ('65), MLK, Jr. ('68), RFK ('68).

      The fascism of these violent acts is part of the reason why, even today, I NEVER joke about wishing some political enemy dead. I turned savagely on friends who made such jokes about W, loathsome as he was or who, even today, wonder aloud whether we can give Obama a better SCOTUS by arranging for an "accident," for Scalia.

      We are Democrats. We are better than that--even in our humor.

      "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

      by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 06:07:26 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Boomers were traumatized by those losses (15+ / 0-)

        JFK's death was a traumatic event from which our generation has never really recovered. It introduced us to chaos and the reality that nothing would ever be the same again.

        We've spent our lives trying to process it, learn from it.  But I know it has made us better Democrats.

        Interesting essay about the effect of JFK's assassination on our generationhere.

        If cutting Social Security & Medicare benefits for low income seniors is what Democrats do after they win a budget standoff, I'd hate to see what they do after they lose one.

        by Betty Pinson on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 06:33:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  One huge problem with that essay (6+ / 0-)

          The FIRST people who mythologized, analyzed, mourned, researched, pointed out the flaws in the Warren Commission Report, and so on, were NOT baby boomers.  They were too young.  It was the World War II generation, of whom Kennedy was the shining example, who did all this.

          And they're still doing it as much if not more so than they did before:  Vincent Bugliosi, who wrote what is probably the definitive account of the assassination from a non-conspiracy POV, was born in 1934.  So was Robert Dallek, whom the author of this article mentions as part of the mythologizing.  Robert Caro, whose magisterial histories of LBJ's presidency of necessity touch on the Kennedy assassination, was born in 1935.

          The same goes for some of the chief conspiracy theorists:  Mae Brussell, whose work on the Warren Commission Report may have started the whole nonsense about the grassy knoll and the second gunman in the first place, was born in 1922.  Jim Garrison, who prosecuted Clay Shaw, was also born in the early 1920's.  Oliver Stone may be a boomer, but he drew heavily on these two figures, so blaming the mythologizing of the assassination on him is very short-sighted.

          I don't deny that the Kennedy assassination had a huge impact on the baby boomers.  Of course it did, just as the bombing of Pearl Harbor had had a huge impact twenty years earlier.  But dumping responsibility for the way that Americans see the assassination and its aftermath on the boomers is simply not accurate.  It's the Greatest Generation we should look to for Camelot in the first place, and for the way that we view its end.

          This isn't freedom. This is fear - Captain America

          by Ellid on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 07:32:01 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Agree, the author is young (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            YucatanMan, Ellid

            Younger generations have never understood the impact of JFK's assassination on our generation.  As parents, Boomers have done a pretty good job of sheltering our kids as much as possible while trying to give them a better world.

            If cutting Social Security & Medicare benefits for low income seniors is what Democrats do after they win a budget standoff, I'd hate to see what they do after they lose one.

            by Betty Pinson on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 07:50:16 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  We were children and teens but yes it was our (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Betty Pinson, northerntier

            parents generation who were adults , who were those who voted for Kennedy and LBJ, who were most immediately affected by his death and those events in the 60s.

            So maybe all of we boomers feel it  impacted us because were were kids when it happened.  Boomers could be considered at that time to be in K-12 ( I was still in elementary school and I am almost 60) ..and there are those who are boomers who were in high school at the time..  

            But you are right, my parents were born in the early 1930s and their peers. Those who volunteered for and were Kennedy voters and supporters..the young adults of that time..our parents for the most part were born in the 20s and 30s

            Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at

            by wishingwell on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 07:58:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  We had to deal with it as helpless bystanders (6+ / 0-)

              without the same level of maturity and experience our parents had.  They were frightening times if you were a kid. I had just turned 9, my dad had died unexpectedly 3 weeks before at age 34.  Not fun.

              If cutting Social Security & Medicare benefits for low income seniors is what Democrats do after they win a budget standoff, I'd hate to see what they do after they lose one.

              by Betty Pinson on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 10:17:44 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  This is key, I think. (5+ / 0-)

                Our immaturity and the inability to place the horror into any kind of adult context.  I was 10.  My parents wept all weekend.  We sat as a family and watched  an entire weekend of black and white television coverage.  To this day, I can instantly recall the drum cadence.  I learned the word "catafalque."  I found out what a "riderless horse" is, and what the metaphor means.  I watched Ruby murder a man on live television.  I watched two other children hold onto their mother's hands and watch as their father was mourned and buried.  This experience is pretty much universal for the people I know, and was fodder for many dorm conversations when I went to college later.  I don't think there's any way the moment can be psychologically overstated for people who were children when this happened.

                I liked Kennedy because he was a Democrat (my family was VERY Democratic) and because he had a nice smile and because he said things in press conferences that made people laugh.   When I was older, I learned what we had lost when he died.  It still breaks my heart to think of it, and I do, every November 22nd.

                "If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." - Will Rogers

                by Kentucky DeanDemocrat on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 01:00:04 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  10th grade geometry when JFK was killed. (0+ / 0-)

              In the DC suburbs. That day, no one knew if it was a coup. No one knew if the bombs would start falling.

              Much less news available than on 9-11 so much more speculation and fear.

            •  11/22/63 was the beginning of the '60s for me (0+ / 0-)

              I was 17, a Boomer, and a freshman at UC Berkeley on that awful day. I walked out of a physiology class, joined a hushed group around a little transistor radio in the hallway, and learned that my world had been blown apart by an assassin in Dallas, Texas.

              Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now 400ppm. That is "Climate Cluster Chaos". (hat tip to JeffW for CCC)

              by Zinman on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 11:10:57 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  I experienced it (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            northerntier, RFK Lives

            at 14 as a grief more wrenching than any in my life, ever. I lost my father seven years later; I've lost many loved ones since then, and anguished at the assassinations a few years later. But I've never felt anything like the desolation I felt that weekend and the weeks that followed. The world turned black for me.

            This resonates with me:

            The sense that emerges is that many boomers found themselves in the curious position of being young enough to both experience it and not experience it _ for it to be both a real event and something dreamlike, a fable that they saw through the eyes of parents, teachers, television before they were able to process it. The processing came later, as they grew.
            I don't see this as dumping responsibility on the baby boomers for how Americans see the assassination and its aftermath.
            •  I keyed in on other parts of the essay (0+ / 0-)

              Agreed that it was wrenching, and traumatic, but ignoring the part of Kennedy's peers in the man's myth shouldn't be done.  The whole country was damaged.

              This isn't freedom. This is fear - Captain America

              by Ellid on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 03:14:23 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  Further on Dem Boomers and the chaos (11+ / 0-)

          of JFK's assassination.

          For those of us Boomers who are ardent Dem political animals, JFK's assassination, and the later ones of MLK and RFK, bred a distrust of government institutions and an inclination to bend the political world towards controlling chaos.

          Instead of rejecting government and politics, we continued to embrace them as tools to make the world a better place, while maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism.

          More than any modern generation, we're aware of how quickly chaos can descend and how people from within our own government can take advantage of it to do harm (Nixon, Reagan, Cheney, et al I'm looking at you).

          JFK, RFK, Vietnam, Kent State, etc. imbued us with a passion to make our government open, accountable and honest. We're the first generation who had to deal with the unsavory activities of the FBI, CIA, and US military, products of a government we want to trust, and expect to prevent or control chaos.

          Is anyone surprised that we feel anger and betrayal when our own government, leaders of our own party, spy on us instead of working to make the world a better place?

          If cutting Social Security & Medicare benefits for low income seniors is what Democrats do after they win a budget standoff, I'd hate to see what they do after they lose one.

          by Betty Pinson on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 07:46:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Dubois was for african (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RFK Lives

            american history, like what is needed now. He revisited  the myths used by historians that ridiculed reconstruction, and now Foner's generation is getting at the facts which radically change our view of Black history. For 1963 the full evidence is being withheld until 2038, but Jim Douglass suggests a research paradigm. As the special showed, JFK was very cool and casual, so he can be easily portrayed as mainstream, as he played it that way. But Douglass, a Catholic pacifist, sees 9 or 10 radical decisions on behalf of peace that clashed with the plans of people like Allen Dulles and Gen. LeMay. Historians, maybe not Dallek, will view RFK and King as closely related, shining light on JFK. The suit against Jowers produced evidence that at least Black historians cannot sweep under the rug. Current histories of the cold war reflect an era of accepted militarism, but the growing academic field of peace studies will highlight JFK's legacy as well as that of Jimmy Carter, our elder statesman.

        •  Born in '62 (6+ / 0-)

          I actually straddle the fence between the Baby Boom and Gen X, depending on who is dividing up the generations. My mother was a Boomer, though.

          Those killings allowed the Right to take over. They stole our country.

          "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

          by SouthernLeveller on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 08:25:01 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Capitol Dome through the flames, 1968 (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          northerntier, BlackSheep1

          Still makes me shake. At Georgetown U, the year Clinton would miss his graduation, standing on the roof of the dorm seeing the Capitol Dome through the flames as 14th street burned.

          Both my parents worked on K Street, by the way. We had no idea how far the chaos would spread that night.

          From JFk to MLK to RFK...You are correct that our generation has never recovered.

      •  It was amazingly well said in '63 (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        It is said that the human mind has a greater capacity for remembering the pleasant than the unpleasant. But today was a day that will live in memory and in grief. Only history can write the importance of this day: Were these dark days the harbingers of even blacker ones to come, or like the black before the dawn shall they lead to some still as yet indiscernible sunrise of understanding among men, that violent words, no matter what their origin or motivation, can lead only to violent deeds? This is the larger question that will be answered, in part, in the manner that a shaken civilization seeks the answers to the immediate question: Who, and most importantly what, was Lee Harvey Oswald? The world’s doubts must be put to rest. Tonight there will be few Americans who will go to bed without carrying with them the sense that somehow they have failed. If in the search of our conscience we find a new dedication to the American concepts that brook no political, sectional, religious or racial divisions, then maybe it may yet be possible to say that John Fitzgerald Kennedy did not die in vain. That’s the way it is, Monday, November 25, 1963. This is Walter Cronkite, good night.[29]*

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 09:47:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Some selected headlines from the NY Times: (4+ / 0-)
    DEBT LIMIT RISE SENT TO KENNEDY; $315 Billion Ceiling Voted Over Conservatives' Pleas Gibe by Senator Williams
    WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 (UPI)--The Senate passed and sent to the White House today a bill raising the national debt ceiling to $315 billion.

    Washington.; Why the Talk Is Turning to Nixon and Scranton The South's Dilemma Scranton's Dilemma
    November 22, 1963,

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 Former Vice President Nixon and Governor Scranton of Pennsylvania are being mentioned increasingly for the Republican Presidential nomination. There are several reasons for this.

    Military Space Lag Charged by G.O.P.

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 21--A House Republican group complained today that the space program had grown in a "haphazard" fashion, with too little attention to military potentialities.

    HALLECK EXPECTS DELAY ON RIGHTS; Doubts Bill Will Go to the House Floor This Year Chairman a Factor 121-Page Report

    WASHINGTON, Nov. 21 The House minority leader, Charles A. Halleck of Indiana, said today that he did not see how the civil rights bill could get to the floor of the House before the Christmas recess.

    SAIGON'S CONTROL IN TWO PROVINCES PERILED BY REDS; Rice-Rich Areas in Mekong in Danger--Top U.S. Aides Report Gain in War Rural Positions Undermined VIETNAMESE REDS PERIL 2 PROVINCES 4 Main-Force Battalions Major Test Expected Long Artillery Attacks Rangers Wiped Out

    By DAVID HALBERSTAM Special to The New York TimesThe New York Times (); November 21, 1963,

    KENNEDY PLEDGES SPACE ADVANCES; OPENS TEXAS TOUR; Dedicates San Antonio Site and Declares Research 'Must and Will Go On' PARTY SPLIT EVIDENCED Yarborough Scores Connally and Refuses to Accompany Johnson on Motorcade

    By Tom Wicker
    November 22, 1963

    Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

    by willyr on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 07:22:28 AM PST

  •  All of the Kennedy boys were brilliant, (7+ / 0-)

    their service to our nation unparalleled. I still miss Teddy.

  •  I'm pretty much a Civil Rights (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Democrat and have been since I was about fifteen.  I was still a couple of months shy of my 21st birthday when Kennedy ran--couldn't vote for him, but I certainly worked for him.  One reason I think he would have handled Vietnam in a smarter way than LBJ and Nixon is his choice of advisors--and let's face it, LBJ was a "macho" Texan with all that implies despite his push for civil liberties. His advertisers would have been hired gunmen in the old west.

    •  LBJ's advisors were the same as Kennedy's (6+ / 0-)

      Actually, all of LBJ's key advisors on Vietnam were the same folks that Kennedy had chosen to serve in his administration, people such as McNamara, Rusk, Bundy, etc.  By 1965, South Vietnam was nearing a state of collapse due to pressure from North Vietnam and internal instability thanks to the US approved coup to overthrow Diem in 1963.  Virtually every one of these holdovers from the Kennedy administration told LBJ to demonstrate fidelity to long standing American policy to keep South Vietnam from falling to the Communists by first bombing NV and then sending in ground troops.  George Ball. who understood the calamity that befell France in Indochina ten years earlier, was the only advisor at the time to suggest the US ought to consider cutting its losses by getting out.  As far as LBJ being a macho Texan with the implication that he was eager for a fight, his own tape recordings from 1964 reveal that he was privately deeply troubled by the prospect of escalation in Vietnam and getting into a war that couldn't be won.  Unfortunately, rather than go with his instincts about the war being unwinnable, he ultimately chose to accept the advice of "the best and the brightest", tragically leading his country further into a quagmire.

      These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

      by Laborguy on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 09:34:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Plenty of blame to go around for Vietnam decisions (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RFK Lives, lysias, RainyDay

        going all the way back to Truman, Eisenhower, the Dulles brothers, and Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and their advisers.

        One you didn't mention was Walt Rostow, who was a premier hawk in the Kennedy administration and who LBJ turned to again and again for support on Vietnam after Kennedy's primary advisers left the Johnson administration or turned against the war.

        The difference between Johnson and Kennedy in this regard was that Kennedy had the self-confidence to reject the advice of his advisers and especially the military (though he only learned that lesson after the Bay of Pigs) while LBJ was fundamentally an insecure man who used his advisers to justify to the outside world what he was doing.

        Your comment about George Ball is well-taken, and epitomized by the disastrous encouragement of a coup against Diem by Kennedy's advisers of Cable 243

        Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

        by willyr on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 11:06:09 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  See also this interview with McGeorge Bundy (4+ / 0-)

          who was national security adviser to both Kennedy and Johnson. It's an hour long, and pretty unsettling.

          The interview starts off asking Bundy about how the encouragement for an end of brutal repression of Buddhists by President Diem evolved into support for a coup, which to Kennedy's horror became an assassination of Diem and his brother just 3 weeks before his own:

          Resist much, obey little. ~~Edward Abbey, via Walt Whitman

          by willyr on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 11:37:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I agree there is plenty of blame to go around (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          While LBJ certainly has to take his share of the blame for deciding to escalate the war in 1965, his decision to do so was the logical result of continuing to follow a long standing American policy of supporting SVN against communist NVN.  As you indicate, this policy had been first established under Truman and subsequently supported by every president right through to Kennedy.  Over two decades, every one of these presidents made decisions to involve the US deeper into the Vietnamese quagmire and raise the political ante, thus making it ever harder for their successors to extract the United States from Vietnam.  At least LBJ finally recognized the folly of continued escalation after the roof fell in on his policy after the disastrous Tet Offensive in 1968.  His decision to not seek re-election in March 1968, de-escalate the bombing, and offering to pursue peace negotiations with the North was a recognition that the war could not be won militarily in a politically meaningful way.  Of course, as we now know, Nixon deliberately scuttled LBJ's attempt to reach a conclusion to the war as part of his '68 election strategy by secretly convincing the South Vietnamese to drag their heels on the peace negotiations.  As a result, another seven years of bloodshed and carnage followed.

          These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

          by Laborguy on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 12:37:06 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for the links (0+ / 0-)

          Here is one you might interesting.  John Prados at the National Security Archive has just updated his research on the Kennedy Administration's decision in August 1963 to back a military coup against Diem.  While JFK never signed off on the assassination of Diem and was genuinely horrified at the news of his murder, Prados challenges the notion that there was ever really a seperate cabal led by Hillsman and company that pushed for the coup against the wishes of JFK and his other top officials.  Based on tape recordings and other documentary evidence from late August 1963, Prados concludes that Kennedy and his men were all pretty much on the same page that Diem had to go in order for the Vietnam War to be winnable.  Kennedy says something to the effect that while Congress might be mad if Diem is toppled, they would be even madder if JFK let Vietnam go down the drain.  In this regard, JFK's concern about negative domestic political backlash sounds chillingly a lot like LBJ a year or two later when he was faced with the disasterous and unintended consequences of Diem's overthrow.

          These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

          by Laborguy on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 08:14:07 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Big profits for Brown & Root and for Bell (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RFK Lives

        Helicopter were a major effect of the Vietnam War, and undoubtedly played a role in LBJ's thinking.

        The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

        by lysias on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 02:38:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Evidence? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          willyr, BlackSheep1

          In the numerous scholarly works that I have read over the years documenting the origins of the Vietnam War and LBJ's decision to escalate it in 1965, some very critical of Johnson, not a single one one has ever cited increased profits for Brown & Root and Bell as a factor in his decision to bomb NVN and send in ground troops. Yes, I know about LBJ's close ties to B&R since he was in Congress, but can you cite any documentary evidence to support your assertion that this was a significant factor in his decision making on Vietnam

          These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

          by Laborguy on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 04:21:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Come on. You know about LBJ's ties to B&R (0+ / 0-)

            (detailed throughout the volumes of Robert Caro's biography of LBJ).  Bell Helicopter provided LBJ the helicopters he used in his campaigns (notably his "landslide" campaign for the Senate in 1948,) and Lady Bird owned a lot of Bell stock.

            All of this (including the connection with the Vietnam war) is detailed in Roger Stone's new book The Man Who Killed Kennedy, which I just finished reading.

            The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

            by lysias on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 07:47:16 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  In other words, you have no evidence. (0+ / 0-)

              You have not provided a shred of credible objective facts to support your theory. What you (and Roger Stone) have provided is mere speculation, but without any objective evidence.  Your premise is that because Bell provided helicopters to LBJ in 1948, and his wife owned stock in the company, he must therefore have factored their increased profits arising from escalation when he made his decision to send ground troops into Vietnam in 1965.  Your notion that association proves causation is a classic logical fallacy.  This is the reason why wild speculation without evidence is generally worthless in any kind of meaningful historical analysis or scholarship.    

              These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

              by Laborguy on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 08:51:48 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Read Caro's volumes. Then get back to me (0+ / 0-)

                and tell me you don't believe corrupt considerations could not have played a role in LBJ's decisions.

                The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

                by lysias on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 04:16:55 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I am very familiar with Caro ... (0+ / 0-)

                  and I don't recall him ever suggesting anything remotely close to the idea that LBJ expanded the Vietnam War to increase the profits of B&R or Bell.  That is merely your own inference.

                  These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

                  by Laborguy on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 05:17:14 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

              •  What's the kind of evidence that you think (0+ / 0-)

                might have existed if LBJ had expanded the Vietnam War for corrupt reasons and the absence of which you think argues against that view?  Do you really think LBJ would have put it down on paper or have mentioned it in telephone conversations that he knew were being recorded?

                The influence of the [executive] has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.

                by lysias on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 04:20:00 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Um, sorry, if you make an accusation or alledge (0+ / 0-)

                  that someone has done something that you have no way of knowing yourself, then you ought to have at least something to back it up in the form of objective evidence. Saying that LBJ wouldnt have left any evidence does not support your argument in any way.  You are offering nothing more than your own inference based on causation through association, which is a logical fallacy found in many dubious theories.  A classic example of such bogus logic is the following conspiracy theory:  1.  Hillary Clinton worked in the same law firm as Vince Foster and was close to him for many years.  2.  Vince Foster would have therefore have been aware of the Clinton's financial and legal problems with Whitewater and other corruption scandals.  3.  When Bill became president, the Clintons were desperate to cover up evidence of their corruption and misdeeds in Arkansas.  4.  Therefore, Hillary and Bill must have had Deputy White House Counsel Vince Foster murdered and then made it look like a suicide in order to cover up evidence of their corruption.  Your inference against LBJ is based on the same dubious logic as the right wing conspiracy theories about Vince Foster's death and no more credible.

                  These Republican gluttons of priviledge are cold men ... They want a return of the Wall Street economic dictatorship -- Harry Truman

                  by Laborguy on Thu Nov 14, 2013 at 05:37:55 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  I watched it as well (13+ / 0-)

    Some disjointed thoughts:

    Embarrassing to admit, but I never really understood the chronology of the Kennedy Presidency that well. For example, the American University speech. I didn't realized that was towards the end of his presidency -- which made it more poignant and possibly indicated a serious change in direction after the wakeup call of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    My heart was literally pounding hard during the Cuban Missile Crisis segment. Curtis LeMay STILL scares the living shit out me (something scary to consider: the 2013 Air Force Academy class has LeMay as their class "Exemplar" (Fuck).

    I gained a deep appreciation of JFK's incredible will in the face of adversity and his poor health. Frankly, this is the positive side to the energies that led to his infidelities, which I've never been crazy about.

    Above all, I now understand the scope of the tragedy: I now get the notion that this was perhaps the turning point, the road not taken, the path of sanity we decided not to take, instead the path that lead to 1980 and all that has meant.

    I cried.

    •  "Decided not to take" (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SouthernLeveller, Dave925, Matt Z

      Terrible choice of words... a path we were deprived of taking, more accurately.

    •  Turning point? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      willyr, Matt Z, bluezen

      I thought the series was well done. I lived through that time, but there were a lot of things of which I was unaware.

      I was born in 1939 to a staunchly Republican family. I cast my first presidential vote for Nixon in '60. It took me about another 6 years to gain political sanity and become an active Democrat, mostly motivated by the Viet Nam War and civil rights.

      While Kennedy's assassination was a turning point in style, switching from the glamorous Kennedys to LBJ, it was not really a policy turning point. Kennedy's civil rights positions were continued and put into law by LBJ. Kennedy's evolution on civil rights reminded me of the recent evolution on DOMA and marriage equality by Obama/Biden.

      The Viet Nam mess was continued into catastrophe by LBJ with Kennedy's advisors. Then continued by Nixon until Congress cut off the funds. That tragedy dates back to decisions made at the end of WWII and, especially by the Eisenhower administration.

  •  That speech has been my touchstone I guess, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RFK Lives, willyr, Dave925

    as I look back on my life.  I was 13 when JFK was assassinated and a high school senior when King and RFK were killed.  I was profoundly changed by those events and have tried to be a good citizen and contribute to society.  I truly thought money was evil and owning property was a crime. I have three adult kids who still wonder who their parents are? Ha ha, times are so different.

    " For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal."

    We take care of the future best by taking care of the present now.

    by Catkin on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 10:51:52 AM PST

  •  My dad had a key to the bunker (3+ / 0-)

    I very well recall that time. My dad, a high-level government employee in DC, had an entrance ticket to the underground government nuclear hide out. Of course, that was for him, not for us.

    During the Cuban missile crisis, we were prepared that he would leave and we would be left behind.

    You cannot imagine those times. Kennedy was DIFFERENT.  We knew it. What we lost when he was killed was a whole alternate future. The tension that continued into the Reagan era made a lot of money for some people.

  •  JFK and RFK were controversial high profile... (0+ / 0-)

    ...personalities in an American era of controversy and the waves of high profile personalities that grew out of them. Mix in the growing storms of the Vietnam conflict and the Civil Rights revolution; it is remarkable the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King's assassinations were able to stay fixed in our minds as vividly as they have. I think back to the 60s decade in America and it's an absolute blur but I'm sure it was when my Democratic seeds were planted in my mind.  They didn't bloom until I "meant" Jimmy Carter.  He had the strength of character and heart that sat well with the average American. But timing was not on his side and history tells the rest of the story.

    Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of its people.

    by kalihikane on Wed Nov 13, 2013 at 09:55:51 PM PST

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