Friday, November 25, 2005

TDIH: Burial at Arlington

**Editor's Note: At 6:18 p.m. I made the decision that I can't pass up an opportunity to post on the burial of John F. Kennedy. I realize I've posted three times in the last week on a Kennedy, but I also realize my post yesterday gives me a great deal of freedom in my TDIH posts, so here goes the topic really on my mind.

November 22, 1963 brought an unparalleled grief to this nation. Americans had known the feeling of loss that April day in 1945 when FDR died at Warm Springs. Americans had known the feeling of shock that December day in 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. But never had America felt as if a hope was a lost, a flame extinguished, like they did November 22nd when the announcement came that President Kennedy had died from gunshot wounds sustained in Dallas, Texas.

The days that followed the horrific trip to Dallas were distinguished by sorrow, grief, and a collective pain the nation had not felt in decades. Lyndon Johnson was sworn in on Air Force One, the same plane returning the slain President Kennedy and his widow Jackie. The United States Military was put on high alert. The nation watched as the first family was devastated. World leaders mourned the youth and courage of John Kennedy, United States congressmen moved to pass legislation important to President Kennedy, and the nation's youth were for a moment defeated.

Many times I have read the quote about Camelot and it being a brief shining moment, whenever I refer to the nation's youth being defeated, I realize that defeat was also a brief shining moment, they continued on to fight a war, protest a war, and to defend each other.

The nation watched carefully as their president was laid to rest at Arlington. Below the Lee Mansion, in a place where a time before Jack had expressed his love for that spot to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a man was buried, a mystery began, and a hope remains. So many will say that the death of Kennedy was a blow to American politics and truly a defeat, but as Robert Dallek states in his book An Unfinished Life and as I believe, "Kennedy's death was initially a triumph of the worst in human relations over the promise of better times...the grief over his loss became a compelling drive for the enactment of legislative and international gains that remain living memorials to his vision of a fairer, more prosperous, and peaceful world."

I rarely look at the burial of Kennedy in the same light as the assassination for one simple reason, the assassination was the end of a life, the burial was the beginning of a legacy.

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