I watched the Bill O’Reilly interview of Rob Lowe, who played John F. Kennedy in a film version of O’Reilly’s book, “Killing Kennedy.” He played a clip of the movie that was shown on the National Geographic channel.
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I didn’t’ watch it and probably won’t. I saw it pretty much live on TV on Nov. 22, 1963. Our high school yearbook at Bella Vista High was dedicated to Kennedy. I’ve already seen lots of reruns of the Zapruder film of the assassination and don’t need to see anymore.
He may not have been one of our greatest presidents, but he certainly inspired a lot of young people, probably because of his young age — 43 — when he took office as president. Barack Obama was 48 when he took office. He was about 2 1/2 when Kennedy was assassinated. Obama certainly inspired a lot of young people but his first inaugural was memorable only for insulting the outgoing president.
Kennedy was president before the invention of the TelePrompter. He was from the era when one practiced and memorized one’s speech to avoid looking down at notes or the written speech too much. He was an inspiring speaker and obviously had an outstanding speech writer.
He did not have President Eisenhower’s organizational and administrative skills, but he did find an innovative way to end the Cuban Missile Crisis. He wouldn’t have got there if he didn’t have the guts to use the U.S. Navy to enforce a blockade on Cuba.
My wife and I visited his grave in Arlington with its perpetual flame and quotes from his inaugural address some years ago when we visited Washington, D.C.
Inscribed on the wall around the gravesite are excerpts from his inaugural speech. The excerpts were selected by Jacqueline Kennedy and speech writer Ted Sorenson. They are some of the most memorable presidential statements and the only ones from an inaugural that I remember, though I’ll confess I haven’t read Abraham Lincoln’s inaugurals — but one sure remembers his Gettysburg address.
From Kennedy’s inaugural:
“… the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”
“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans …”
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
“My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
A few remarkable quotes I am less familiar with from assorted speeches follow:
“The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.”