The Kennedy legacy

According to the latest Census, a majority of Americans - 57.5 percent, to be exact - are under 40 years of age. Thus, most Americans have no personal memory of that fateful day of Nov. 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated. For this generation, names like Lee Harvey Oswald and the Warren Commission are merely trivia quiz questions.

John Kennedy is beginning to slip into our troubled history, like Lincoln. He exists in a variety of books, TV shows, and movies; some, like Oliver Stone's movie, purveying wild assassination theories.

In this anniversary week, there has been much in the media about the drama of Kennedy, but less about the legacy of Kennedy. As one of the Kennedy generation (he'd have been 86, almost exactly my age), I think of 40 years as a good time to reflect on Kennedy's more enduring contributions to our national life:

First of all, the pursuit of peace, even in the face of Soviet provocation, inaugurating a generation of détente and arms control with the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Then, the "equal rights" revolution, laying the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act that President Johnson achieved.

Then, the "ask not" summons to volunteerism and sacrifice among young people, its monuments being the Peace Corps and the contemporary AmeriCorps.

Then, the space program and the challenge to send a man to the moon within a decade - which culminated on President Nixon's watch.

Finally, the sense of optimism that Kennedy conveyed about America's future - not just in slogans like "New Frontier" and "getting the country moving again," but in getting a start on fashioning a national agenda.

Forty years later it may be time to remind those who came after of what Kennedy left behind.

Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK