Television became the primary source by which people were kept informed of events surrounding John F. Kennedy's assassination. In fact, television started to come of age before the assassination. On September 2, 1963, Kennedy helped inaugurate network television's first half hour evening newscast in an interview CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite for the newscast.
Newspapers were kept as souvenirs rather than sources of updated information. In this sense it was the first major "TV news event" of its kind, the TV coverage uniting the nation, interpreting what went on and creating memories of this space in time. All three major U.S. television networks suspended their regular schedules and switched to all-news coverage from November 22 through November 25, 1963, being on the air for 70 hours, making it the longest uninterrupted news event on American TV until 9/11. Kennedy's state funeral procession and the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald were all broadcast live in America and in other places around the world. The state funeral was the first of three in a span of 12 months. The other two were for General Douglas MacArthur and Herbert Hoover. All three have two things in common: the commanding general of the Military District of Washington during those funerals was Army Major General Philip C. Wehle and the riderless horse was Black Jack, who also served in that role during Lyndon B. Johnson's funeral.
The assassination had an effect on many people, not only in the U.S. but around the world. Many vividly remember where they were when first learning of the news that Kennedy was assassinated, as with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 before it and the September 11 attacks after it. UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson said of the assassination: "all of us ... will bear the grief of his death until the day of ours." Many people have also spoken of the shocking news, compounded by the pall of uncertainty about the identity of the assassin(s), the possible instigators and the causes of the killing as an end to innocence, and in retrospect it has been coalesced with other changes of the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, especially the Vietnam War.
Special Forces have a special bond with Kennedy. "It was President Kennedy who was responsible for the rebuilding of the Special Forces and giving us back our Green Beret," said Forrest Lindley, a writer for the newspaper Stars and Stripes who served with Special Forces in Vietnam. This bond was shown at JFK's funeral. At the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of JFK's death, Gen. Michael D. Healy, the last commander of Special Forces in Vietnam, spoke at Arlington Cemetery. Later, a wreath in the form of the Green Beret would be placed on the grave, continuing a tradition that began the day of his funeral when a sergeant in charge of a detail of Special Forces men guarding the grave placed his beret on the coffin.
Kennedy was the first of six Presidents to have served in the U.S. Navy, and one of the enduring legacies of his administration was the creation in 1961 of another special forces command, the Navy SEALs, which Kennedy enthusiastically supported.
Ultimately, the death of President Kennedy and the ensuing confusion surrounding the facts of his assassination are of political and historical importance insofar as they marked a turning point and decline in the faith of the American people in the political establishment—a point made by commentators from Gore Vidal to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and implied by Oliver Stone in several of his films, such as his landmark 1991 JFK.
Kennedy moved further on civil rights than his predecessors. In a radio and TV address to the nation in June 1963—a century after Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation—Kennedy became the first president to call on all Americans to embrace civil rights as a moral imperative. The year after JFK's assassination, President Johnson pushed the landmark Civil Rights Act through a bitterly divided Congress by invoking the slain president's memory.
Kennedy's continuation of Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower's policies of giving economic and military aid to South Vietnam left the door open for President Johnson's escalation of the conflict. At the time of Kennedy's death, no final policy decision had been made as to Vietnam, leading historians, cabinet members and writers to continue to disagree on whether the Vietnam conflict would have escalated to the point it did had he survived. The Vietnam War contributed greatly to a decade of national difficulties and disappointment on the political landscape.
Many of Kennedy's speeches (especially his inaugural address) are considered iconic; and despite his relatively short term in office and lack of major legislative changes coming to fruition during his term, Americans regularly vote him as one of the best presidents, in the same league as Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some excerpts of Kennedy's inaugural address are engraved on a plaque at his grave at Arlington.
He was posthumously awarded the Pacem in Terris Award. It was named after a 1963 encyclical letter by Pope John XXIII that calls upon all people of goodwill to secure peace among all nations. Pacem in Terris is Latin for 'Peace on Earth.'
President Kennedy is the only president to have predeceased both his mother and father. He is also the only president to have predeceased a grandparent. His grandmother, Mary Josephine Hannon Fitzgerald, died in 1964, just over eight months after his assassination.
Throughout the English-speaking world, the given name Kennedy has sometimes been used in honour of President Kennedy, as well his brother Robert.
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