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50 Years Ago: JFK

November 22nd, 2013

John F. Kennedy. Photo credit: White House Press Office/public domain

If you asked just about any older person where they were around lunch time fifty years ago today, they’ll know. It was such a sad and shocking moment in American history, people remember.

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

He was shot and killed while he was riding in the back of an open car in a parade in Dallas, Texas.

John F. Kennedy was our 35th president, the youngest ever elected at age 43, and the first and only Roman Catholic U.S. president.

President Kennedy and his family were enormously popular at the time of his death. They were attractive, smart, charming, wealthy and powerful.

It happened 50 years ago, why is this still important now?

President Kennedy’s death cast a shadow far longer than that day.

“The death of John F. Kennedy changed everything for the United States,”  NBC Nightly News  anchor Brian Williams recently said.

At the time, much of the nation’s hopes were riding on Mr. Kennedy’s presidency and leadership. He’d been president for less than three years but his ideas were evolving and he was beginning to take the country in a new direction during a dangerous and uncertain time.

He was starting to understand the importance of ending racial discrimination in the U.S. Internationally, he was working toward peace with the Soviet Union (which later became Russia and several other countries). And he had announced that he wanted to send astronauts to the moon for the first time.

Many people believe that although he hadn’t accomplished all of this yet, he was on his way. He was also a very talented speaker and the first president to use television to communicate regularly.

So, for many the question is, “ What if President Kennedy had lived? ” How would our country be different today? Some think President Kennedy’s death changed America’s course forever.

Another reason why President Kennedy’s death remains a big topic is the legacy of his family. One younger brother, Robert, died while campaigning for president. An uncle, Teddy, became one of the longest serving Senators in modern history. And JFK’s daughter, Caroline, just became U.S. Ambassador to Japan.

(Below is some news footage surrounding President Kennedy’s death. There is no footage of the event itself. Courtesy: JFK Presidential Library) .

People are also still talking about it because President Kennedy’s murder remains controversial .

A man named Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for shooting President Kennedy from the 6th floor of a book depository building. But before we could learn much from him, Mr. Oswald was killed as well, on live national television, by a man named Jack Ruby who had ties to organized crime.

Lee Harvey Oswald. Photo credit: Dallas Police/Warren Commission/public domain

The official investigation, called the Warren Commission Report, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was responsible for killing the president, and that he acted alone.

But there are many who, to this day, question that. Some don’t believe Mr. Oswald did it. Others believe he did but that it was part of a conspiracy — that more than one person was involved and that Mr. Oswald was just the one to take the blame. Conspiracy theorists don’t, however, agree on who they believe was behind it.

Part of why it’s so difficult to know what exactly happened that day is that there were mistakes made during the investigation. There are also many different accounts of what happened.

What is certain is that shocking death of a young, popular president full of promise traumatized the nation and was felt around the world. Thousands today will continue to mourn President Kennedy’s death. Many will also be mourning what he, and our country, might have become had he lived.

John F. Kennedy bio for kids . You can also learn more at The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library .

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