President John Kennedy was assassinated 48 years ago today in Dallas, Texas.  Where were you when you first heard the news?  I was in Toronto studying and had just finished a one pm. appointment with my dentist.  I had just walked into my residence where the Television set was on.  It was just at the moment when Walter Cronkite, his lip trembling, announced that the young president had died.  That’s how I heard.  I was supposed to take a graduate degree in history that night at a convocation at the University of Toronto but skipped it to watch the assassination events unfold on TV.

Which brings us to an assessment of John Kennedy’s presidency.  I once heard a commentator says that Kennedy should be on Mount Rushmore with FDR and the others.  This is ridiculous.  It’s true that Kennedy was dashing, handsome and articulate.  But a great president?  He was second rate at best.

Foreign policy?  Bellicose and erratic.  At the Vienna summit Kruschov took Kennedy to the woodshed and told him the facts of life.  The Bay of Pigs was a disaster.  We hear a lot about how the Kennedys saved us from the Cuban missile crisis.  Not so much about how they got us into it in the first place. And to boot, Kennedy increased our military presence in Viet Nam.

Domestic policy?  Largely ineffectual.  On the major issue of the time – civil rights – the Kennedys struck out and it was left to Lyndon Johnson to pick up the pieces.

Some argue that Kennedy did not have enough time.  But most presidents get their major legislation through in their first term and Kennedy had served three-quarters of that term with not much to show for it.

A lof of myths have grown up around John Kennedy.  But that does not make him a great president.  In many ways he was a bust.

Where were you on November 22, 1963, when you first heard of the Kennedy shooting?

Was K ennedy a great president?

What do y ou think?


  1. 1
    Jim Says:

    I was looking at an outdoor tickertape on a building across Cadillac Square in Detroit. It was posting, up-to-the-minute blurbs about the murder of President Kennedy. It was and still is one of the saddest moments of my life.
    He wasn’t great and he didn’t have the ego to want to be great. He had a heart and soul dedicated to his fellow man such as:-
    He brought us Camelot when the nation needed it.
    He brought the young generation into politics.
    He started the Peace Corps, still in place to this day.
    He initiated rocketing a man to the moon. A major, major accomplishment.
    And the Civil Rights Act.
    And he was the first Catholic to be elected President.
    He got the missiles out of Cuba.
    He got Food Stamps for the poor.
    He was a war hero, which entitled him to
    Hump Marylin Monroe.
    What a man!!!

  2. 2

    I was still in elementary school then, but I`ve read a fair bit about Kennedy. His phrases still resonate; ask not what your country can do for you..` Ich bin ein berliner..` And the Apollo project,which sucked in all the Canadian scientists turfed when Diefenbaker killed the Avro Arrow .

    Carter is rememberd as a failed president because he didn`t inspire. Reagan escaped blame for the cut-and- run from Lebanon because he did inspire,and also got things done.

    So, Neil, does that mean you consider Kennedy to be a white Obama ?

  3. 3
    Tony Kondaks Says:

    I was on my way home from grade 3 in a school in Snowden when I heard.

    I agree with most of Neil’s assessment. But I do agree with jim on the initiative to go to the moon. I remember seeing a video of his speech that they have in Washington DC’s Air and Space Museum where he says we should send a man to the moon before the decade is over and bring him safely back to the Earth. Very inspiring…and we accomplished it!

    jim: what did Kennedy have to do with the Civil Rights Act?

  4. 4

    I was at work at a small company in Montreal, where we listened to the radio all day.( pre-musak) We heard he was shot in Dallas. We couldn’t believe it! Nothing like that had happened in our time. I took the long bus ride home from Park Ex. to Atwater and it was a silent ride.
    It was collective shock.
    I think JFK was a breath of fresh air to the country and to the White House.
    His young wife and family, had something in common with us-youth.
    It’s easy to idolize someone who dies young and tragically. He may have not have been a perfect President, but he certainly was an inspiration to the world.
    JFK awoke my interest in politics & I fell “in love” with Bobby Kennedy. I was devastated when he was killed and lost hope for awhile.

  5. 5
    Jim Says:

    Tony – Kennedy was the instigator of what later became the Civil Rights Act 1964. He set the ground work for President Johnson to carry out. He had a tough time implementing most changes. Some successful changes he made, using executive order, were no discrimations in the area of housing and in loans.

  6. 6
    Barbara Says:

    My mom picked me up after my college classes to go shopping and I heard about it on the car radio. I was glued to the tv, like everyeone else, for the remainder of the day. Like littlepatti said, the later assassination of Bobby Kennedy was like the loss of the last vestige of hope for me.

    I disagree with you, Neil, that most presidents get their legislation through during the first term. Quite the reverse, it is during their second term when they don’t have to worry about re-election.

    Kennedy was a leader and an inspiration, despite his faults. He shook us out of the doldrums of the Eisenhower years. He was young and brought the young, the best and the brightest into politics. You can’t imagine the fervour he ignited in the college age students of the USA at the time! In the light of today’s politics, he may seem failed to you, but he was a man of his time and had to deal with the situation of the Cold War. Kruschchev was a bit of a buffoon, wasn’t he?

  7. 7
    Neil McKenty Says:


    Do I consider Kennedy a white Obama? Not exactly. The jury is still out.

    Certainly Obama’s personal life and his intellect are far superior to Kennedy’s

  8. 8

    I didn’t know (at that time) that black people couldn’t vote until 1964. I expect that JFK laid that ground work. They were fighting in Viet Nam though… I thought we were living in a thoroughly modern time, I guess not! Disillusioned youth, once again.

  9. 9
    Heidi Gulatee Says:

    I have forgotten a lot of my childhood. But I remember the day Kennedy died very well. I was in the hospital in Switzerland and I heard it on the radio. I had a crush on Kennedy and I remember crying.I was a teenager at the time and very idealistic I thought the world had lost a very caring man.

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