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From our archives: Stunned reaction to Kennedy’s death

What we thought: 50 years ago

Published: Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Cecil Stoughton, White House Photographs, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)
President John F. Kennedy attends Veterans Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., on Nov. 11, 1963.

Note to readers – Sauk Valley Media reprints editorials and articles from the past as a regular Monday feature. The following items appeared in the Telegraph on Nov. 25, 1963, and the Daily Gazette on Nov. 26, 1963.

Our hearts

are also stilled

The assassin’s bullet that stilled the heart and cut off the life of President John F. Kennedy, in Dallas, Texas, Friday, all but stilled the hearts of all Americans, as well as the people of other nations all over the world.

That such a thing could happen, and that it did happen, still leaves our citizens stunned, still hardly able to believe what we know is true. How long this stunned and numb feeling will continue, we cannot say.

The writer finds himself utterly unprepared to comment adequately upon the great loss to this nation, as well as to the entire world. We know that the impact of his death is interminable and beyond any real comprehension.

The death is a national tragedy, an event which twists and jams the heart and soul of every American. That death should come to President Kennedy is one of the mysteries equal to the mystery of life itself.

In him, the United States was reflected to the world. In him, as in presidents before him, was entrusted our lives, our honor, and our national purpose.

President Kennedy was a vigorous and personable man; a man whom people could take to their hearts. The shock of his death is mixed with unreasoning anger toward the twisted mind which brought it about.

May a just God give him peace and arm his successor with strength and courage. – Daily Gazette, Nov. 26, 1963

John Fitzgerald

Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy came to the presidency of the United States as the bearer of great change. He was the symbol of something new, but he died by something as old as time – the hand of the fanatic.

He was the first man born in the 20th century to hold the office – and the second youngest in history. He was the first Catholic in the White House. He came as a naval hero of World War II who narrowly had missed death in Pacific waters, and survived a second brush with death in a grave illness nine years ago.

To the nation’s high politics he thus brought a fresh stamp. The well-remarked “Kennedy style” was a blend of intellect, vigor, wit, charm, and a clear talent for growth.

On the always shifting, often troubled world scene, he sometimes moved with more caution than expected in young leadership. Soon after entering the White House, he gamely took full blame for the Cuban Bay of Pigs fiasco as an enterprise sadly lacking in boldness.

Yet only his worst enemies withheld from him the label “courageous” when he moved resolutely against Soviet Premier Krushchev in the great Russian missile crisis in Cuba in late 1962. And he boldly pressed for an East-West test ban treaty this year in the face of heavy charges that this imperiled our security.

In domestic affairs, Kennedy won much of his program beginning in 1961, gained far less the following year, and encountered a major stalemate in 1963. The constant note against him was insufficient leadership.

But again, when 1963 brought the greatest racial crisis of this century, Kennedy – at acknowledged heavy political cost – committed himself to sweeping civil rights proposals that opened a vast new battleground.

Amid all his efforts to put the imprint of vigorous, imaginative youth upon the country’s affairs in the 1960s, the late president found himself moving against a deepening background of protest, with an ugly underscoring of violence which he sought with only limited success to wipe away.

Much of this protest went to the steady encroachments of the federal government and its rising cost. But the bitterest reaction was white and Negro response to the enlarging racial struggle. The far right gave the mood its most perilous texture.

With the calamity in Dallas, the lesson of the danger inherent in violent extremism now may be deeply implanted in America’s conscience.

In this way, Kennedy in death may achieve what the living president could not do to curb the almost ungovernable rancor that increasingly discolored the politics of his brief time in power.

It was John Kennedy’s good fortune to surmount many obstacles to rise to his country’s highest office and bring with him the winds of a new era.

It was his final tragedy that as he labored in difficult times to use those forces for the nation’s and the world’s gain, they were swiftly challenged by countering winds of bitter reaction. In Dallas, one swift gust struck him down.

The nation thus loses a young leader whose great promise lived in the shadow of great controversy.

The way he died must inescapably cost all Americans deeply in self-esteem as free men of good will.

That is the greater tragedy. – Telegraph, Nov. 25, 1963

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