By the time I was a senior in high school, I knew my part in life would involve writing, and when that Fall my President was murdered before the eyes of thousands in Dallas, Texas, I was inspired to write of him. I didn’t know him personally, but I was full of passion and in shock concerning the crime that took him from us.
For our school newspaper, The Tatler, I wrote an impassioned, four page “Tribute to JFK”, the longest work I’d done to that date. My English teacher approved our The Tatler articles, as our newspaper advisor, and he pointed out to me that my article was written from an emotional viewpoint, that it was based on facts I stated but didn’t know about JFK, the President I’d never met.
I later realized the article also was a wonderful example of the writing truism, “Less Shall Be More”, for it was grossly redundant and ran on to unnecessary lengths with biographical material. However, recognizing my unstoppable passion and grief over JFK’s demise, my English teacher approved the article for The Tatler and it ran as written. It is the most out-of-control piece of writing that I ever produced, but it allowed me to spiel my emotional shock over the assassination. Adding to my distress over the murder was the fact that he would have been the front-running candidate in my first political voting experience, something I’d been relishing.
Here’s the opening paragraph of “Tribute to JFK”:
“When America lost John Fitzgerald Kennedy, it lost not only its President and great leader, but also a man who feared God and loved his country; a man who was faithfully devoted to family and friends; a man who recognized and challenged his many responsibilities; a man who figured it was too easy to quit and go home when the waters got rough; a man who was an ardent supporter of sports and physical fitness; a man who, although the first Roman Catholic ever elected to the Presidency, was not hesitant about speaking of his religion — which was a deep and faithful one — because of political involvements; a man who despised hatred and bigotry, fought against them, but in the end lost because he was himself struck down by one who cared nothing for these very things.”
Can you imagine three more pages like this beginning? Well… as I said, I was in shock.
The Tribute ended like this:
“Will America’s peoples now learn a lesson? Will we throw off our cloak of complacency, resetting our goals and once again putting our shoulders to the task of keeping American great, a land of freedom and equality for all? Or will we, after the initial shock of this underhanded act and national grief, allow America to return to her state of listlessness and Americans to their state of unjustified complacency? Our President, “a great and good man,” is dead, but our nation is not dead and it must not play dead. However sadly, however morosely, our nation must move on now more than ever. Let us do take heed.
“The best way we can memorialize John Kennedy is to continue to strive for the values and objectives which he began and for which he fought so valiantly and vigorously. To make and keep America greater in every aspect is what he wanted. That is what we, behind our new capable President, must do.”
I don’t at this point in time belittle my passion of 1963, for JFK’s horrific demise became part of who I became, and I still loathe that day in Dallas. But, of course, my wise English teacher was correct in his assessment of my Tribute. Probably, the article would have been better effective with the first paragraph revised to facts; then the last two paragraphs of plea would have been enough added to it to complete the Tribute written from my viewpoint.
Through passion, I learned. “Tribute to JFK” was my last written production of note before I graduated high school in the Spring of 1964. Our class trip included a tour of New York City and Washington, D.C., and the original gravesite of JFK.
In 1968, I traveled to D.C. with a friend, and we visited the Eternal Flame (right). In the left-hand photo is the JFK permanent gravesite which I took from the hill above it.
Later in 1968, JFK’s brother, Bobby, and the Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. were also assassinated.
My grief never has ended…