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The Hiller Instinct

Remembering JFK's assassination

Of course I remember that day. I was in college, watching television in the student union. There was a news flash: President Kennedy, seriously wounded in Dallas.

Instantly, the room was quiet. What was happening? And why? All we wanted was news. Any news. Like millions, I stared at the screen. An hour later, he was dead.

I watched the television for four days. I saw Jack Ruby leap at Lee Harvey Oswald and kill him in the Dallas police station and I watched JFK's funeral in Washington, not knowing that the images would become iconic. I couldn't turn it off. I thought that if I just watched long enough, there would be an explanation I could understand; but there never was.

JFK! His picture is in your mind and it never gets old, because he never did, and when we measure his impact, I think we forget his election is how we started the sixties. The decade when the first Baby Boomers came of age, amid unprecedented political violence over Vietnam and Civil Rights, protests, demonstrations, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr in April, 1968, and Robert F. Kennedy two months later.

Add in the emerging issues of the Sixties, including some we still fight about today like abortion and equal rights. Then mix in the music, like the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Woodstock, it's all connected. JFK was the first president who was in fact, a celebrity, a rock star. Like the Sixties, he is a symbol of dramatic change. He represented vitality, power, glamour, wealth, unlimited potential and above all, he was young.

His death taught us lessons we didn't want to learn about limits, and loss and fifty years later, JFK is alive and well in our memories as well as our culture and I don't think he is in any danger of being deleted.