Today is the 48th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and yes, I can remember where I was what I heard the news. JFK was the first president to have been born in the 20th century and his presidency was a pivotal turning point in history ~~ the civil rights movement, the Peace Corps, the Space Race, the beginning of the Vietnamese war ~~ all defining moments that changed who we are. If JFK were running for the presidency today, would he be a feasible candidate? The way we scrutinize nominees for any office, I doubt very much whether he would survive his life being put under the microscope; he definitely had feet of clay, and he had made mistakes both before and during his presidency.
In the fullness of time, I think President Kennedy is best remembered for how he stared down Premier Kruschev and the USSR between October 14 and October 28, 1962. That was the closest the world has ever come to annihilating itself. It took a man of great courage to do what he did. I remember my mother was hanging her laundry on the line, and before she could finish, she came inside, sat down on her chair, and stayed there until the crisis was over. She believed it was the end for all of us, and in her own way she was making peace with the world's demise. The Secretary General of the United Nations, U Thant, asked both Kruschev and Kennedy to have a cooling off period. Kruschev said yes, Kennedy said no. He insisted the U.S. Navy would stop and inspect all Soviet ships arriving off Cuba, beginning October 24. After one Soviet ship was stopped and boarded, on October 28 Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missile sites subject to UN inspections, and the crisis was averted. My mother got up out of her chair.
It took a man of great strength to do what Kennedy did. It was the ultimate game of *chicken* and he won. That is true leadership. It is rare to see leadership like that today. Folks are too busy trying to please everyone. It is for that strength and leadership that JFK will be remembered.