The Kennedy Legacy

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50 years after: Kennedy murder a breakpoint in time

On Nov. 21, 1963, John F. Kennedy gave a speech in San Antonio. Americans “stand on the edge of a great era,” the president declared, “filled with both crisis and opportunity, an era to be characterized by achievement and challenge.”

Those words might be written off as standard presidential boilerplate, uplifting rhetoric of the sort that Kennedy did so well.

Except that, because of what happened the next day, they can’t be written off. Those words assume an eerie prescience. A new era, gruesome as well as great, followed Kennedy’s assassination. The 1960s, as state of mind and cultural epoch, had arrived.

Kennedy’s death didn’t trigger that era. Demographic trends, economic growth, technological advances, and much else besides combined to produce the upheaval that was the ’60s. But that awful day in Dallas retains enormous symbolic importance as touchstone: marking a boundary between a pre-assassination then and a post-assassination now, a now that in significant ways remains with us.

The shock of Kennedy’s death eventually faded. Shock always does. Yet the confusion and suspicion that followed haven’t. They’ve become part of our cultural climate. We have not only grown accustomed to doubt and skepticism but come to expect them — so, too, with a normalization of violence and expectation of random direness.

As the ‘X-Files’ tagline has it, ‘The truth is out there.’ Dealey Plaza is where ‘out there’ begins.

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Phrases like “conspiracy theory” and “distrust of government” were rarely if ever heard prior to Nov. 22, 1963. Soon enough they became commonplace. That a popular ’90s television series, “The X-Files,” would have three recurring characters known as the Lone Gunmen wasn’t necessarily surprising. (They even got a brief-lived spinoff series.) The trio could have as easily been called the Grassy Knolls or the Oswald Patsies. Assassination terminology, with its weird blend of the sinister and casual, had long ago entered everyday vocabulary.

The surprise was the Lone Gunmen being portrayed as eccentric misfits. The great legacy of the assassination is how many people take for granted that the only place to find the truth is outside the public square. Or as the “X-Files” tagline has it, “The truth is out there.” Dealey Plaza is where “out there” begins.

The 50th anniversary brings abundant evidence of the hold Kennedy’s death retains on the popular imagination. Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s “Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot” remains a bestseller more than a year after its release. It’s the most prominent of numerous books published in observance of the anniversary.

A cable movie adapted from “Killing Kennedy,” starring Rob Lowe as JFK, is one of many television movies and documentaries being shown throughout November. A theatrical film, “Parkland,” was released last month. It centers on events in and around Dallas’s Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy was taken after the shooting.

Art exhibitions relating to Kennedy and the assassination are on display in museums ranging from the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover and the Yale University Art Gallery to the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth and New York’s International Center of Photography. Kennedy understood the camera as few public figures have, and his responsiveness to it contributed even more than his glamorous looks and heroic bearing did to there being so many striking images of him.

Kennedy had excited artists and writers even before he became president. The most famous example is Norman Mailer’s adulatory 1960 essay “Superman Comes to the Supermarket.” And artists and writers, no less than other citizens, responded to the assassination. Igor Stravinsky composed an “Elegy for J.F.K,” with text by the poet W. H. Auden. The architect Philip Johnson designed a memorial in Dallas. Andy Warhol executed silk screens of Kennedy and his wife, of Lee Harvey Oswald, and of related images from Dallas. Books about Kennedy became a small industry.

So intense and varied a response makes perfect sense. It was of a piece with the renaming of public facilities and streets to honor the murdered president. What couldn’t have been predicted is how Kennedy and the assassination would endure as artistic inspiration.

Of course the nature of that inspiration evolved. Piety and grief gave way to disquiet and obsession. The Vietnam War and Watergate contributed to a darkening view of society, as did the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Kennedy’s brother Robert. But no other event carried quite the psychic charge that JFK’s death did. When a singer is shot onstage in Robert Altman’s 1975 film “Nashville,” a character tries to reassure the audience. “This isn’t Dallas.” No, it’s not. A dozen years after the assassination, everywhere was.

The most popular television series of the ’80s shared a name with the Texas city. Did the association with Kennedy’s murder no longer matter — or did it matter in a different way? Oswald and Jack Ruby, as individuals, seemed so puny compared to their crimes. (That, too, was part of the sense of dislocation the assassination visited on the culture.) J.R. Ewing, now there was a villain to reckon with.

Oswald is the protagonist of Don DeLillo’s 1988 novel, “Libra.” Seven years later, Mailer devoted nearly 800 pages to him in the nonfiction account “Oswald’s Tale: An American Mystery” — this after having published a 1,400-page novel about the CIA, “Harlot’s Ghost,” in 1991. Not surprisingly, the Kennedy assassination figures prominently in the book. Oswald never appears in James Ellroy’s 1995 novel “American Tabloid.” He’d just get in the way of Ellroy’s luxuriating in all the tawdriness (the Mafia especially) surrounding JFK and events leading to the assassination.

For Oliver Stone, the assassination is a kind of creation myth in reverse. Eden became Gehenna just outside the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Stone’s 1991 “JFK” takes conspiracy as a given — but also Kennedy’s absolute virtue. Even though he’s seen in only the briefest of glimpses, Kennedy haunts the movie. By comparison, the way Kennedy’s memory haunts Clint Eastwood’s character in the 1993 thriller “In the Line of Fire” makes perfect sense. Eastwood plays a Secret Service agent who was on duty in Dallas 30 years before.

Our national horror stories subsequent to the assassination at least had redeeming elements: the bravery of soldiers in Vietnam, the way Watergate demonstrated the system worked, the heroism and sacrifice of New York firefighters and Flight 93 passengers on 9/11. Sometimes the redemption takes time to come out, as with the success of Tony Mendez’s hostage-rescue mission, portrayed in “Argo.” There are no second acts in American lives, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously said. There certainly are silver linings in American failures, and Americans love finding them. (That’s one reason “Argo” won its best picture Oscar.) Not the Kennedy assassination: There were no silver linings. Even something as basic as conclusiveness would qualify as a silver lining. “We know who did it. We know how he did it. We know why he did it. Okay? That’s that.” Nothing like that was forthcoming.

Kennedy’s assassination was a political act and historical event. Its failure to resolve itself was, and still is, a cultural phenomenon. There have been so many investigations of the assassination, starting with the Warren Commission: by journalists, authors, obsessives, even the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in the late ’70s. The name sounds like the title of a Philip K. Dick novel. The sum of the answers they tried to give, and the further doubts they raised, contributed even more to how what happened in Dallas has ramified than the actual killing did.

That cultural phenomenon has a pair of defining texts, its Old Testament and New: the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission report, with its finding that Oswald acted alone; and the Zapruder film, the 26.6 seconds of 8mm home-movie footage shot by Dallas clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder, with its recording of the actual event. One created the post-assassination landscape. The other, as some saw it, offered the promise of revelation, an answer at last.

The Warren Commission report offers the truth, such as it is, handed down from on high. Commission members included the chief justice of the United States, eminent leaders of Congress, and a former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.

It’s one measure of how vastly the assassination changed the United States that the idea of a past CIA director being part of any comparable investigation now is inconceivable. The truth may or may not be out there, but wherever it is, the CIA is not to be trusted with it.

The report was obsolete the moment it was published, an overdetermined, contradictory, confusing, and often-implausible monument to what DeLillo has called “the endless fact-rubble of the investigation.” DeLillo has likened the report to a nonfiction counterpart to James Joyce’s famously hermetic novel, “Finnegans Wake.”

The Zapruder film has no counterpart. What counterpart could it have? The film’s opaque brevity is as confusing as the report’s numbing immensity and claim to finality. In fact, the report’s attempts to interpret the film are no small part of the confusion, as the commission attempted to explain why the backward jerk of the president’s body didn’t suggest a bullet fired from somewhere other than Oswald’s perch. The phrase “magic bullet” entered the post-assassination lexicon. Yet precisely because of that capacity to confuse, the 486 Zapruder frames possess an ongoing relevance and suggestiveness given to very few works, let alone one intrinsically artless and inexpressive.

Instead of counterparts, the Zapruder film has progeny. Every decade, the British film journal Sight & Sound polls critics for a list of the ten best films of all time. The most recent results, in 2012, named Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” as number one. There’s no need to solicit votes for the most discussed and analyzed film of all time. That would be the Zapruder footage.

For years, the film was impossible to see. Life magazine had bought it from Zapruder, a great journalistic coup — except that it wasn’t. To protect the magazine’s investment as well as for reasons of decency, the film was never shown. But everyone knew about it. It was widely discussed and referred to. Individual frames and sequences were reproduced in Life and elsewhere. It was a kind of like atmosphere: invisible yet everywhere.

Inaccessibility made the Zapruder film seem at once dubious (not seeing is not believing) and all the more authoritative (evidence that’s impossible to see is evidence that’s impossible to refute). Now you can see it on YouTube. In slow motion? Digitized? Zoomed in? With Dictabelt soundtrack? Hosted by Geraldo Rivera? Take your pick. The footage is there among countless cat videos and karaoke numbers and the latest viral sensations. All access, all the time. Ho hum. Except that 50 years later viewing it remains utterly unnerving — and stays so, no matter how many times you watch it. The horror of watching the impact of the second bullet, in frame 313, cannot be exaggerated.

Watching the footage is unnerving for another reason: how familiar it seems. A Zapruder aesthetic, as one might call it, long ago emerged: low-res, dreamlike, handheld, voyeuristic (the subjects unaware they are being viewed), affectless, detached, so visually unknowing as to seem (to sophisticated eyes) the height of knowingness, marked by unmediated violence and reliance on shock. Aspects of the aesthetic are there in Warhol’s underground films, cinema-verité documentary, Hollywood paranoid thrillers, video games (the violence and shock), security-camera and drone footage. Abraham Zapruder went out that day intending to take a home movie to show to his family. What he ended up with was something incalculably different, a piece of history unlike any other. Except that it did turn out to be a home movie, too: everyone’s home, everyone’s movie.

Filed under JFK John F. Kennedy

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The contact sheet from Jacque Lowe’s first shoot with John Kennedy at their home in Hyannis Port, Mass, 1958: ‘He was reserved but when my dad asked if Caroline and Jackie could be involved, he became more at ease, providing a more intimate shot.’ Thomasina Lowe is the daughter of the late Jacques Lowe, a photographer who met Kennedy in 1958. Lowe’s intimate access to the Kennedys created some of the most iconic images of JFK’s presidential and family life. Photograph: Estate of Jacques Lowe.

The contact sheet from Jacque Lowe’s first shoot with John Kennedy at their home in Hyannis Port, Mass, 1958: ‘He was reserved but when my dad asked if Caroline and Jackie could be involved, he became more at ease, providing a more intimate shot.’ Thomasina Lowe is the daughter of the late Jacques Lowe, a photographer who met Kennedy in 1958. Lowe’s intimate access to the Kennedys created some of the most iconic images of JFK’s presidential and family life. Photograph: Estate of Jacques Lowe.

Filed under JFK John F. Kennedy Jack Kennedy Jacqueline Kennedy Jackie Kennedy Caroline Kennedy Sweet Caroline Kennedy Jacques Lowe

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Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a Party is not to our Party alone, but to the nation, and, indeed, to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.
So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake.

Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause — united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future — and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.

The last lines President Kennedy would have given the night of his assassination

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Parkland (2013) starring Zac Afron, Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden

November 22, 1963: A recounting of the chaotic events that occurred at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital on the day U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

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"If Shakespeare were alive today, he would have written about the Kennedy family, and JFK would have been a titular character and actors would play him as a rite of passage." — Rob Lowe“Killing Kennedy” premieres November 10 at 8 PM ET/PT on National Geographic channel.

"If Shakespeare were alive today, he would have written about the Kennedy family, and JFK would have been a titular character and actors would play him as a rite of passage." — Rob Lowe

“Killing Kennedy” premieres November 10 at 8 PM ET/PT on National Geographic channel.

(Source: politicspoetry)

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JFK 50th draws Camelot mania

The 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy has unleashed Camelot mania.

While hearkening back to that grim day on Nov. 22, 1963, the appetite for all things Kennedy has been ratcheting up all season, and the media world is eager to feed the public’s interest with books (there are more than 100), as well as dozens of movies, documentaries, TV specials, and iPad apps.

The challenge for the Kennedy anniversary projects, according to those involved, is to be respectful when recalling a national tragedy, while at the same time finding ways to stand out in a super-saturated field. That’s led to some creative (and unusual) efforts to say something fresh about historical events that already have been dissected for five decades - for example, in perhaps the most extreme bid to find a new angle, there’s even a book imaging what would have happened had Kennedy lived.


“The public just can’t get enough,” said Shana Capozza, the director of marketing and publicity at The Globe Pequot Press, which is promoting three new JFK books: “Where Were You? America Remembers the JFK Assassination,” “Kennedy and Reagan: Why Their Legacies Endure,” and “JFK in Ireland: Four Days that Changed a President.”

“When you think about how many different ways that story can be told — on an historical, personal, political, or cultural level — you recognize that the increased public interest in the Kennedys because of the looming 50th anniversary offers a plethora of opportunities for authors and publishers to engage with and fulfill the needs of readers on a number of different levels,” Capozza told POLITICO.

And plethora it is: “Parkland” hit theaters last month and tells the story of the assassination and its aftermath from the perspective of the medical staff Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, where Kennedy was pronounced dead. Magazine racks are filled with special anniversary editions from Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and LIFE, which first brought the Zapruder film to the American public, and has a new book out featuring the complete Zapruder film.


Traditional book publishers are leaping at the opportunity as well — perhaps more so than any other platform. A search for “JFK” on Amazon finds more than 100 books with a publication date between September and December. One examines the five days surrounding the assassination, another just the day of Nov. 22, 1963 and a third takes a look “minute by minute.” Other works examine the assassination in novel form. There’s even a spoof on the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series, dubbed “Lose your own adventure.” More seriously, another book takes a look at what might have happened if Kennedy hadn’t been shot.

“For a book publicist, there is no better time to be working on a book about JFK,” said Lorna Garano, the founder of Lorna Garano Book Publicity, which is promoting, “The Hidden History of the JFK Assassination” by Lamar Waldron. “If you have a credible book with new information or an original perspective, you’re almost guaranteed media interest.”

“There is an entirely new generation to be introduced to the Kennedys, and it may be through all of the exhibits, books and movies that will spring up,” said Jayne Sandman, principal at BrandLinkDC.

Aimed at that new generation is anniversary digital content. The NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, KXAS, has made an iPhone app, called “NBC 5 Remembers,” which “offers unique historical insight into events leading up to and surrounding that tragic day.” University of Virginia politics professor Larry Sabato’s new book, “The Kennedy Half-Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy,” also has an app coming with audio of the Dallas police dispatch from the day of the shooting.

Hugh Morton, who has been trying to bring his “Who Killed JFK?” app to the market, says, “There’s plenty of room for everyone in many diverse media, old and new, provided they keep their projects grounded in fact and not get carried away with demeaning and confusing rumor and innuendo.”

For moviegoers who’ve may already have seen “Parkland,” Warner Bros. is re-releasing Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK” in theaters and on Blu-Ray. The Smithsonian Associates will also screen Stone’s film at the National Museum of American History on Nov. 1, followed by a sold-out discussion with the director.

Just down the street at the Newseum, there will be a “JFK Remembrance Day” on Nov. 22 featuring a full lineup of discussions and the rebroadcasting, in real time, of CBS News’ live television coverage from that day. In New York, the International Center of Photography is offering its “JFK November 22, 1963: A Bystander’s View of History” exhibit.

It’s possible to ride the Kennedy anniversary wave without ever leaving home, just by flipping on the television: NBC is planning a special called “Where Were You?” (the two-hour documentary has a book companion, as well). The Military Channel will air “What If…? Armageddon 1962,” which explores the thwarted plot to assassinate Kennedy by a political fanatic named Richard Pavlick in Palm Beach, Fla., in 1960. PBS will air its four-hour, two-part special “JFK” beginning Nov. 11. And TLC is scheduled to air “Letters To Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy” on Nov. 17.


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Poll: John F. Kennedy tops presidential rating

As the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination approaches next month, polling released Tuesday as part of a new book about Kennedy’s legacy shows that he remains one of the most highly rated presidents of the past 50 years.

Asked to rate all the presidents from 1950 to 2000 on a scale of 0 to 10, Kennedy scored the highest, at 7.6. He was followed by Ronald Reagan, at 6.9, Dwight Eisenhower, at 6.8, and Bill Clinton, at 6.7. None of the other presidents scored above a 5.0.

Nevertheless, Kennedy would not be Americans’ first choice to bring back as the next president, if any former leader alive or dead could serve again. Asked who they would most want to bring back, 24 percent of adults chose Reagan, 21 percent chose Clinton and 13 percent chose Kennedy. Abraham Lincoln was next, at 9 percent.

The findings, from a survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted this summer, were released Tuesday to coincide with the release of a new book from University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, which takes on evidence of popular conspiracy theories about Kennedy’s assassination and analyzes his lasting legacy.

At a press conference unveiling his book at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Sabato said it was the findings on the impact Kennedy’s life has had that most struck him, not the findings about his death.

“The most important thing didn’t have anything to do with the assassination, it was the fact that even though John Kennedy had a terribly abbreviated tragic presidency, he’s actually lived for 50 years through nine successors,” Sabato afterward told a handful of reporters, which included press from the U.K., Germany and Korea.

The 624-page book, “The Kennedy Half Century: The Presidency, Assassination, and Lasting Legacy of John F. Kennedy,” was the result of five years of research, and it examines the findings of the Warren Commission and House Select Committee on Intelligence on Kennedy’s death as well as the ways that Kennedy’s successors invoked him in their own presidencies.

Sabato said the other important takeaway from the book was debunking one of the most widely cited conclusions of a conspiracy in Kennedy’s death, the conclusion by the House committee that a police recording proves there were more gunshots than Lee Harvey Oswald could have fired.

“The second finding clearly is the assassination one, because there has been so much cynicism generated about the assassination and so many of the theories are just bogus, they’re just completely wrong. Now we haven’t eliminated all possibilities, but we certainly have taken one right off the table,” Sabato said.

In a preview of the book to POLITICO, Sabato unveiled Monday that a key piece of evidence used by the House committee investigating Kennedy’s assassination to support a conspiracy theory about his death was disproven by his research.

Sabato’s study found that an audio recording from a police officer’s motorcycle that purportedly captured the sound of four gunshots, none from the grassy knoll, was actually nothing of the sort. The police officer was more than two miles away from the motorcade where investigators had previously placed him, Sabato said, and the sounds on the recording are not gunshots at all.

The audio was part of a collection of recordings of all police dispatch communications in Dallas made the day of Kennedy’s assassination, and Sabato announced Tuesday that as part of the book project, the entire 30,000-word audio and transcript of those will be released as part of an app next week.

On Tuesday, Sabato said that his research also confirmed that the Warren Commission’s investigation into Kennedy’s death was inadequate, and a definitive explanation of the day’s events is likely lost forever. In rushing to release findings that confirmed what they wanted to believe, Sabato said, the Warren Commission’s actions have left us with as many questions than answers.

“The many inadequacies of the Warren Commission have condemned us as a nation to 50 years of unending suspicions and cynicism about the assassination,” Sabato said. While the American public was willing to pay whatever it took and wait as long as needed for the commission’s findings, “instead the Warren Commission’s shortcuts and hidden deceptions have led to a half century of second guessing and a cavernous credibility gap.”

Sabato said while he believes Oswald fired the shots that killed Kennedy, Americans will likely never know if he acted alone or was encouraged or supported in his actions by anyone else.

A key missing piece of the puzzle, Sabato said, are documents from the CIA and FBI that are sealed until October 2017, and he urged the public to do its part to ensure that release isn’t blocked, including asking all 2016 presidential candidates whether they will seek to prevent the release of any of the documents.

“No one can write the definitive book on this subject without examining those documents,” Sabato said.

The book and app are part of the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ larger Kennedy Legacy Project, which also includes an online course, a website and a forthcoming PBS documentary.

Filed under Kennedy JFK John F. Kennedy

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The marriage of Washington’s best-looking young senator to Washington’s prettiest inquiring photographer took place in Newport R.I. this month and their wedding turned out to be the most impressive the old society stronghold had seen in 30 years. As John F. Kennedy took Jacqueline Bouvier as his bride, 600 diplomats, senators, social figures crowded into St. Mary’s Church to hear the Archbishop of Boston perform the rites sand read a special blessing from the pope. Outside, 2,000 society fans, some come to Newport by chartered bus, cheered the guests and the newlyweds as they left the church. There were 900 guests at the reception and it took Senator and Mrs. Kennedy two hours to shake their hands. The whole affair, said one enthusiastic guest, was “just like a coronation.”                                 - Life Magazine, September 12 1953

The marriage of Washington’s best-looking young senator to Washington’s prettiest inquiring photographer took place in Newport R.I. this month and their wedding turned out to be the most impressive the old society stronghold had seen in 30 years. As John F. Kennedy took Jacqueline Bouvier as his bride, 600 diplomats, senators, social figures crowded into St. Mary’s Church to hear the Archbishop of Boston perform the rites sand read a special blessing from the pope. Outside, 2,000 society fans, some come to Newport by chartered bus, cheered the guests and the newlyweds as they left the church. There were 900 guests at the reception and it took Senator and Mrs. Kennedy two hours to shake their hands. The whole affair, said one enthusiastic guest, was “just like a coronation.”

                                 - Life Magazine, September 12 1953

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Celebrating 50 years of the JFK International Airport - Hundreds gather in Howard Beach to mark anniversary


More than 500 people packed into Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach on Tuesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the naming of John F. Kennedy International Airport, as well as to celebrate the facility reaching 50 million annual travelers this year.

The JFK International Airport Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event, which was attended by John “Jack” Schlossberg, President John F. Kennedy’s only grandson, Chamber President Robert Caton, and David Neeleman – the founder of JetBlue who is credited with building five airlines.

“Airports in general don’t get the notoriety that they should,” Caton said. “For New York, it’s a big driver of commerce. It’s the first perception people from around the world get of New York – the airport. We want to acknowledge its role in making sure business flourishes in the New York area.”

Construction began on what was once known as Idlewild Airport in 1942, and the initial plans called for only 1,000 acres to relieve the overcrowded LaGuardia Airport. However, it grew to five times that size by the time the facility was completed.

The airport was rededicated to honor Kennedy on Dec. 24, 1963, in memory of the nation’s 35th president, who was assassinated one month prior.

Chamber members said the airport has grown by leaps and bounds over the past five decades and has become the 13th busiest airport in the world. In 2012, JFK International handled 49,292,733 passengers – and more than 50 million people are expected to travel through the airport this year.

“Fifty million passengers is a big feat,” Caton said.

Mayor Bloomberg noted in a proclamation he issued for the airport’s anniversary that it employs about 35,000 people and generates $30 billion in economic activity each year.

“For a president who spoke eloquently of the imperatives and opportunities of cooperation across national borders, renaming a travel hub serving the world’s most international city was a fitting tribute,” Bloomberg said in the proclamation.

Frank Festa, the past president of the chamber who has worked at the airport for 52 years, said the celebration Tuesday is also representative of a bright future for the facility.

“It’s really something special,” said Festa, previously the chief of U.S. Customs at JFK. “The airport has changed a lot. Fifty years – and 50 million passengers – is a big milestone.”

Tuesday’s ceremony included the Color Guard from Long Island City’s Aviation High School, and attendees each received a commemorative book with photos of everything from John F. Kennedy’s brother, Robert Kennedy, attending the airport’s renaming to the Beatles landing at JFK in 1964.



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JFK 50 years later: “There’s still a healing going on”

Bill Paxton can still remember the excitement and anticipation in the crowd — and the magic of the moments that followed.

An 8-year-old boy at the time, he was part of the crowd of thousands who watched President John F. Kennedy walk outside the Hotel Texas in downtown Fort Worth and give a brief speech the morning of Nov. 22, 1963.

“There was a real electricity in the crowd,” Paxton, now a well-known movie and television actor, said Wednesday night. “Everybody was so excited.”

He said he didn’t remember a lot of Kennedy’s speech, but he did remember the president said he was sorry his wife couldn’t make it. He said she tended to take longer to get ready than he did.

Paxton’s memories were among those shared Wednesday during a “Fort Worth Remembers JFK” program at Texas Christian University geared to make sure that the president’s overnight visit to Fort Worth nearly 50 years ago is not forgotten.

He joined a crew of journalists — CBS’ Bob Schieffer, a former Star-Telegram reporter, historian Hugh Aynesworth, former Star-Telegram reporter Mike Cochran, former KLIF radio anchor Gary DeLaune and former KRLD radio announcer Bob Huffaker — as they recalled events surrounding the president’s visit in November 1963.

President Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy arrived at the then-Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth late on Nov. 21, 1963, to a crowd of thousands and much excitement.

“Fort Worth opened up its heart to the Kennedys,” Cochran recalled. “It was something to behold, the affection Fort Worth had for the Kennedys.”

The next morning, the president spoke outside the Hotel Texas, now the Fort Worth Hilton; talked to those gathered for a breakfast of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce; and rode in a motorcade seen by thousands from downtown to Carswell.

About an hour later, Kennedy had arrived in Dallas and was assassinated while riding in the presidential motorcade.

‘Biggest story I almost got’

Schieffer tells the story about how he was the Star-Telegram’s night police reporter and unfortunately not involved with covering the president’s visit to Fort Worth.

His brother woke him up on Nov. 23, 1963, telling him the president had been shot.

He hurried to the newsroom, only to find phones ringing off the hook and an empty newsroom because most of the reporters had been sent to Dallas to cover the president’s assassination.

Trying to help, he answered a phone and heard a woman on the other end ask if someone could give her a ride to Dallas.

“Lady, we don’t run a taxi here,” Schieffer recalls telling her.

The woman told him she believed her son had been arrested in the shooting of the president.

Schieffer quickly got her address.

He and another reporter soon picked up Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother.

He interviewed her on the ride over and said she talked about how people would feel sorry for her daughter-in-law, and send her money, but nobody would care about her and she would starve.

“The woman was truly deranged,” Schieffer recalled.

He took her to the Dallas Police Department, stayed with her, and thought he was going to be in the room when she and her son finally spoke.

About that time, an FBI agent in the room asked who he was and Schieffer admitted he was a reporter.

The man told him to leave the room and told him that “if I ever see you again, I’ll kill you.”

Schieffer quickly left and still believes that was the “biggest story I almost got.”

Aynesworth is widely considered one of the most respected authorities on JFK’s assassination — he witnessed Kennedy’s shooting, the arrest of Oswald at the Texas Theater and the shooting of Oswald by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

Initially, he said, he was irritated because he was one of the few reporters at The Dallas Morning Newswho didn’t have an assignment.

But he decided to go ahead and watch the motorcade because it’s not very often people had a chance to see the president. He stood near the depository and heard shots shortly after the president’s car passed him. He said there was pure chaos — people screaming, crying, running around in the street.

Trying to determine the best place to be, he soon heard on a police scanner that a police offer had been shot. Having a feeling that it was connected to the president’s assassination, he ran to the theater and arrived in time to see the police arrest Oswald.

DeLaune was the first person to tell the world that Kennedy had been shot, “perhaps tragically.” He also was standing just feet from Oswald when he was shot by Ruby.

‘A healing going on’

Schieffer said there are moments in history etched in people’s memories “because they were so overpowering.”

For many, one of those dates is Sept. 11, 2001.

For many, another of those dates is Nov. 22, 1963.

“It was the weekend that changed America,” Schieffer said.

After all this time, Paxton said, he was glad to get a chance to be part of Wednesday’s event that remembered the country’s fallen president.

After the assassination, he said, “everyone in North Texas wanted to pretend like it never happened,” he told the Star-Telegram. “It was like it never happened. It was such a dark time.”

For so long, he said, Texans simply wouldn’t talk about the trip or the shooting.

“We forget what a great trip they had until it all went wrong,” he said. “There’s still a healing going on.”


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Five Things You Don’t Know About Caroline Kennedy

She grew up in one of America’s most famous families, but Caroline Kennedy has always shunned the public life – until now. 

This week, the only surviving child of John F. and Jackie Kennedy begins a quest to win the U.S. Senate to be vacated when Hillary Clinton joins Barack Obama’s cabinet. (Clinton’s replacement will be appointed by New York’s governor.) 

Kennedy, 55, is married to New York designer Edwin Schlossberg. They have three children, Rose, 25, Tatiana, 23, and Jack, 20. She is a lawyer, author and fundraiser. But did you know she learned to talk while her dad was running for president, first uttering the words “plane,” “goodbye” and “New Hampshire”? 

More facts about Kennedy:

• She has a tattoo 
While on a trip to Hong Kong in the ’80s, Caroline and cousin Kara Kennedy were challenged by male family members – John F. Kennedy Jr. and Teddy Kennedy Jr. – to get inked, the New York Post reports. Kennedy flashed the resulting butterfly tattoo, on the inside of her right forearm, at this year’s Democratic National Convention in Denver. 

• She inspired the song “Sweet Caroline”
Neil Diamond revealed that he wrote his 1969 hit “Sweet Caroline” in honor of the slain president’s daughter. “I’ve never discussed it with anybody before – intentionally,” Diamond told the Associated Press. “I thought maybe I would tell it to Caroline when I met her someday.” He did, when he performed the song for her live via satellite at Kennedy’s 50th birthday party. 

• She volunteered as a school crossing guard 
According to the New York Times, Kennedy, who persuaded wealthy New Yorkers to donate millions to the city’s schools, was not too proud to don a reflective vest and stand in traffic as a school crossing guard at her children’s own (private) school. 

• She gets stage fright 
Even with her pedigree, Caroline still has moments of self-doubt. In 1999, the year after her brother John’s death in a plane crash, social worker Rosa Pardo received an award from the Robin Hood Foundation, a favorite Kennedy charity.  Caroline was at the ceremony on behalf of her brother and was sitting at the same table as Pardo, who told PEOPLE that Kennedy was as nervous as she was about standing up before the large crowd. “She’s a normal everyday person,” says Pardo. 

• Her likeness is a hot collectible 
Dozens of Caroline Kennedy items have shown up on eBay, including her books (In Our Defense and Right to Privacy), photos and dolls. The rarest? The Caroline Kennedy First Lady Dress-Up Book – a 1963 paper doll set featuring then 5-year-old Caroline in historic First Lady attire. Because of JFK’s assassination, the book was shelved just before its planned release. Only a few copies remain and are worth up to $900.


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