On November 22, 1963 Americans were gripped by unimaginable fear and grief - glued to their TVs. sets in a daze of disbelief. John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 43rd President of the United States, had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas as he rode down the streets of the city. His wife, Jacqueline, who never would fully recover from the memories of that day, would nevertheless hold the nation together in the days after Dallas.
No one can ever forget the image of Jackie prodding three year old John, Jr, "John-John" to salute his fathers coffin as it passed before him. Surely if she, this widowed 34 year old mother of 2, could find the courage to survive then we, as Americans, were obliged to do the same. We owed our American Queen the same amount of dignity she bestowed upon us in the face of national tragedy.
Together Jack and Jackie had defined a new age of glory, glamour, style and "vigah". John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the youngest President of the United States ever elected and the first and to date only Catholic to hold the nations highest office. The Kennedy's had faced tragedy in the past, yet they had Triumphed. Just months before Dallas, the couple had lost their days old infant, Patrick, to respiratory failure. Despite the immense sorrow they surely felt, the couple maintained strength and dignity. It was that inner strength that Jackie would soon call upon again for herself, her family, and for the nation in the wake of her husbands death.
The week after her husbands funeral, Jackie summoned LIFE magazine writer, Teddy White, to Hyannis Port, with an intense urge to memorialize John Kennedy and make sure his legacy was not lost to the generations to come. She feared Americans would lose sight of the accomplishments he made, and for the beliefs that he stood for. Jackie deliberately promoted the image of magical enchantment to represent these years. She recalled that at night when severe back pain left her husband unable to sleep she would play his record from the musical Camelot . She quoted his favorite lines, sung by Richard Burton:
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
That for one brief shining moment
That was known as Camelot
and in so doing, Jackie unofficially christened the Kennedy years in the White House as Camelot . Indeed, the early years of the 1960's, especially for those coming of age, offered up a renewed sense of Hope, inspiration, and patriotism.
America's future looked bright. Together Jack and Jackie had guided the nation out of the drab and dreary years of the Eisenhower administration and ushered in a mystical reign of culture, fashion, and youth. Our fascination with them, and especially the widow Jackie, knew no Limits. The Kennedy's Thousand days in office are forever etched in our memories. Jackie's fears proved unfounded. The Kennedy legacy still continues to shine as bright and strong as the Eternal Flame that Jackie lit in her husbands honor more than 40 years ago
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