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Editorial: Our 50-year search

Today is an anniversary that many Americans would rather not have mark, especially if you have sensitive memories of the events of 50 years ago.

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was one of those terrible moments in history where afterwards people can recall not only where they were when they heard the news, but decades later even details that normally would be long gone from memory: like the catch in the principal’s voice as she announced that the president had been shot, the somber and stunned looks of passersby.

In the hours and days after initial shocking news, the nation’s attention was gripped by a series of events from the swearing in of Lyndon Johnson as vice president, to the gunning down of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald while in custody and the funeral procession involving the young widow and her children, including a 3-year-old son saluting his father’s casket.

The slaying shook not only the nation but the world. As an editorial that ran on this page the day after the president’s death put it, “The nation and the universe are shocked at a deed so infamous ... that one man should be forced to sacrifice his life in the service of the U.S. Presidency.”

For many Americans, this president’s youth, his beautiful family and his prevailing optimism had created what later became viewed as Camelot, an idyllic time, one of hope and innocence. While that view of the times tends to ignore what people couldn’t or didn’t want to see when it came to civil rights, of American relations and involvement around the world, his death brought it all to a screeching halt to be replaced by “what if” instead this president had finished his first term and successfully run for a second term.

It was also filled with theories, serious and less so, about whether Oswald acted alone or was a pawn or player in a much larger conspiracy.

In the search for answers, we have over the years peeled away the exterior veneer of Kennedy and his presidency to show their shortcomings.

That search for answers continues some 50 years later, even though many of the individuals who could provide vital information are no longer with us.

Perhaps we continue to struggle with this because the hope this president represented was taken away all too soon. It may also be rooted in another part of that same Recorder editorial: “Let us pray for the eternal peace of Pres. John F. Kennedy ... and for what he tried so valiantly to produce: A far better America. Let us go forward with his ideals, his programs and his faith in mankind.”

Fifty years later, we still need to work toward those goals.

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