Today would have been John F. Kennedy’s 95th birthday. Given that his term as the 35th President of the United States was cut short by an assassin’s bullet, we will never know what this nation would have been during, and could have been after, his presidency.
Much took place during his shortened time in office. Among other issues, the nation came face to face with a serious nuclear threat from the (then) Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Tensions escalated due to the perceived threat of communism. U.S. troop activity was increased in Vietnam. And after years of discriminatory Jim Crow laws, the nation remained divided during the fight for racial equality and civil rights.
But through all of the challenges, President Kennedy indicated that he didn’t see America solely as what it was; he saw America for what it could be. He believed the nation could grow, develop and move forward as a country that set positive examples for all others to follow. He believed that with the right motivation, we could be better than we were. He inspired us to get out of our own way and work together towards a building a nation that would be idealistic enough to explore space; compassionate enough to form a Peace Corps to seek greater understanding among nations; and evolved enough to make strides in areas that make our citizens lives better such as food and drug safety, programs to reduce chronic unemployment and poverty, environmental protections and healthcare provisions within emergency social support systems.
Over the years, many theories have been discussed about President Kennedy’s life — Camelot, his legacy, what he represented to so many people — but the part of the conversation that remains most speculated about is the loss of promise for a better future based on his vision for this country. Much of whatever sense of innocence the nation had was lost on that one day, late in 1963…
Though he is no longer with us, what he left behind is something we will always have when we learn that we can work together to affect positive change: Hope for a better future.