Fifty years ago, John F Kennedy was gunned down while riding in a convertible alongside his wife in Dallas, Texas. He was a little less than three years into his first term as President of the United States and still only forty-six-years-old. In many ways, what Lee Harvey Oswald took from Kennedy was a second half. He left the politician’s legacy unfinished. He left thousands of what-ifs for historians, political enthusiasts and everyday citizens to ponder and created an environment rife for study and second guessing.
Fortunately for JFK, however, the man was able to accomplish quite a bit prior to his passing. In fact, he was able to do more than an overwhelming majority of us are able to accomplish during our entire lives. So, in honor of the former President on this, the fiftieth anniversary of his passing, let’s take a look back at some of the things that made him so special.
He Was A War Hero.
People like to throw around the term hero very liberally when it comes to war. After all, in some ways anyone who risks his or her life to fight to keep a country free deserves the distinction, but even if you want to use a very rigid standard, Kennedy was a full-on war hero. After his PT boat was rammed by the Japanese, he collected the wounded and swam hours to a nearby island to wait for help. Even more incredibly, he pulled another dude while he was swimming because he was injured and unable to support his own weight.
He Won A Pulitzer Prize.
Most politicians have written books. Many of them have even written well received books, but John F Kennedy’s effort won a Pulitzer Prize. That’s a trump card he has over every single other President, and it’s a trump card he has over damn near every author too. In the past, there have been some rumbles about how much speechwriter Ted Sorenson may have helped him, but regardless, we know for a fact he wrote the bulk of the opening and closing essays, as well as shaped the tone and principal arguments and themes that weave in and out of the book. So, regardless, job very, very well done.
He Made Us Understand The Importance Of Television.
John F Kennedy was a handsome man. Richard Nixon wasn’t exactly hideous, but frail from a recent hospital stay and unwilling to wear makeup, he couldn’t possibly compete with JFK. And that’s what seventy million people found out in 1960 when the first televised debate was beamed across the country. The difference between the two men was jarring, and while we’ll never know how much it may have affected the overall race, it certainly taught everyone just how much television can change our perceptions of people.
He Was Catholic.
I’m not necessarily for or against Catholicism, but what I am in favor of is diversity. Every single one of our Presidents, save John F Kennedy, has been a protestant. This was a huge issue during the politician’s initial run to the White House. In fact, he had to give speeches promising he wouldn’t put the Pope’s interest ahead of the country’s. Obviously, he didn’t do that, and in time, people learned that Catholics could be just as readily trusted, which was an important lesson many hilariously did need to learn.
He Fought For The Civil Rights Act.
History might give Lyndon Johnson credit for passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 since it ultimately went through on his watch, but he asked Congressman to vote for it as a tribute to JFK, who originally proposed the bill and spent much of his final few months working to shore up the votes for. Its passage was an important moment in American history and was a clear message to the world that we were moving in the right direction on racial issues.
He’s A Main Reason Why NASA Went to The Moon.
Kennedy wasn’t alive to see astronauts walk on the moon, but one of the primary reasons the United States got there is because he willed it. Angry about being behind the Russians, Kennedy asked Johnson to look into how far NASA was behind. After interviewing many of the top minds in the field, he concluded there was enough time to catch up. In response, Kennedy increased funding and gave the speech about choosing to go to the moon above. By the end of the decade, the entire world watched as Neil Armstrong took one small step for man.
He Could Captivate A Room Like Few Others
Kennedy gave more than a few great speeches in his life. He was particularly wonderful at connecting with the crowd, as evidenced by his famous Ich Bin Ein Berliner moment, which won over four hundred and fifty thousand Berlin residents at a moment when the residents really needed to feel like the United States was still on their side.