The Spectator

The Spectator on the assassination of JFK and how to remember the president

6 December 1963

…That we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain…

Lincoln, a hundred years ago at Gettysburg. And President Johnson, in his noble speech to Congress, echoed the words in tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Earlier in November we in this country had been wondering how long Remembrance Sunday could remain. Wondering whether the poppy symbolism of the First World War meant very much to those who fought in the Second, the youngest of them now moving towards their forties. That President Kennedy should have become the spokesman of those who fought in war and yearned for peace was natural.

But he became also a symbol of youth and hope to a whole generation that was too young to fight and that also yearned for peace. President Kennedy was the first man of the twentieth century to reach the White House. Now he is dead and, with the exception of a few bigots of the extreme right and the bigots of Communist China, the whole world mourns. How, then, to remember him?

Looking only at the cold balance sheet of achievement it is absurd to compare Kennedy with Lincoln. And yet the bond is strong and true. Professor Allen, writing in this issue on ‘Democracy and Violence,’ shows clearly how much the civilised world was affected by Lincoln’s assassination. The United States was not then the leader of the Western world and the fierce immediacy of television made Kennedy’s loss even more terrible. But Lincoln and Kennedy were confronted by the same sort of problems and they shared the same sort of aims and ideals. And both were murdered. It is now our duty to be more urgent in our support of the causes for which Kennedy fought.

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