Reflecting on the lingering promise of JFK's legacy
Rita Papazian
Published  in the Norwalk Citizen news,  Friday, November 22, 2013 

  • John F. Kennedy, the nation's 35th president, in an image posted on the White House website. He was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Photo: Contributed Photo / Fairfield Citizen contributed

John F. Kennedy, the nation's 35th president, in an image posted on the White House website. He was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. Photo: Contributed Photo

It's been an intriguing past two weeks leading up to Friday, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There have been a remarkable number of informative and captivating television programs and print articles looking at the event, ranging from the days leading up to and following the assassination, to questioning whether or not indeed the assassination was the work of more than one shooter. Topics ranged from looking at the conspiracy theory from a forensics point of view to a personal look into the life and marriage of Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian wife Marina.

There was even a program that looked at the death of Kennedy at 1 p.m. Central Time on Nov. 22, 1963, from the journalistic perspective of television news broadcaster Walter Cronkite, who was reluctant to announce the president's death until it was confirmed by some authoritative figure, which turned out to be a priest who administered the last rites of the Catholic Church and relayed that information to a wire service reporter at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

A recent event in Washington, D.C., briefly took the spotlight away from the president's assassination, but still shown on a Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg , the late president's daughter, was sworn in as the U.S. ambassador to Japan. She is a third generation Kennedy to become an ambassador. Her grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy, was ambassador to Great Britain from 1938-40, and her aunt, Jean Kennedy Smith, was ambassador to Ireland from 1993-98.

However, it wasn't the photograph of Caroline Kennedy being sworn by Secretary of State John Kerry and witnessed by her husband Ed Schlossberg that created a buzz. That was generated by the other male in the photograph, her 20-year-old son, John Bouvier Kennedy Schlossberg, a Yale University sophomore. Here we go again and for good reason. JFK's only grandson appears to have the good looks, the smile, the thick head of hair, the charm and the wit of his maternal grandfather.

And so the legacy continues ...

Yet, young Schlossberg has pretty much been under the radar, except for a letter to the editor in the New York Times two years ago, when he took issue with the Times' columnist Ross Douthat, who chided the American public for confusing JFK's charisma with competence, his rhetoric with results, and his celebrity with genuine achievement. Schlossberg refuted Douthat's remark by writing that his grandfather's "legacy remains relevant today not because of Camelot or conspiracy, but because Americans find inspiration and meaning there."

I agree.

As I watched the JFK commemorative programs these past two weeks, remembering the assassination not only brought me back to that fateful day as I recalled -- as millions do today -- where I was when I heard the news, remembering that day stirred memories of a time in my life that held so much promise for me and the nation at large.

Yes, I and so many of my friends did look to the Kennedys for inspiration and for meaning. Whatever the politics of the day or the jarring events in the world, we saw youth, exuberance and a joyfulness in the Kennedys and that was how we wanted to pattern our own lives.

We envied their glamour, their money, their lifestyle. As we became mothers, we dreamed that maybe one of our daughters would marry a Kennedy. And when John, Kennedy Jr.'s airplane went missing we held our breath and then we cried when we learned that he, his wife and her sister had perished when their airplane nosedived into the waters off Cape Cod. When we heard the news, how many of us called our own adult sons, just to hear their voices.

I make no apologies when I still get a thrill in meeting a Kennedy, even though it may be the signing of one of their newly published books.

How many remember that in 1957 JFK won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, "Profiles In Courage?" The award prompted criticism that the book, which profiles eight U.S. senators who performed with grace under pressure, was actually written by his research assistant, Ted Sorensen.

Among my own memorabilia I have saved the past 50 years are 10 issues of Life and Look magazines that have featured the Kennedys. Within the past 50 years, I have moved 15 times. It amazes me that these magazines have managed to survive all these moves. Today, I keep them together along with current magazines in a magazine rack near my computer. They bring me comfort. They keep me close to another time in my life when there was so much of life still ahead of me and so many possibilities before me.

I flip through these magazine pages and I see so many of the Kennedys that have passed and I think of my own family members who are gone, along with so many career possibilities at the time.

Yet as I go online and watch a short video of John Bouvier Kennedy Schlossberg -- so young, so handsome, so full of charm, with, life and possibilities -- I think of my oldest grandson, seven years younger, and I see a young man so handsome, smart and creative, who's full of life with possibilities and I see the future, not the past and as young Schlossberg wrote to the Times, I see inspiration and meaning.

Rita Papazian is a freelance writer and can be reached at 

Copyright 2013 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.