Posts Tagged ‘President Kennedy

23
Nov
13

a rose for caroline

The day after the Dow Jones Industrial set a record high – closing for the first time ever over 16,000 points, we pause and remember a record low for our country.

Today, the weather outside is fitting, not just for the time of year of giving thanks, but particularly for commemorating the 50th anniversary of the day America lost its innocence.  Across this great state it is fitting that the skies weep.  After all, we went from an era of great hope and optimism, to one of great distrust and cynicism – on one sunny crisp fall day, following three fatal shots of an assassin’s rifle, at Dealy Plaza in downtown Dallas.

The 35th President of the United  States

The 35th President of the United States

The “City of Hate” is the unfortunate moniker that stuck far too long for the southern city that in the early 60’s, was still shaking off the era of Jim Crow.  Fifty years and Dallas has certainly come far from that community of approximately 700,000 people to the bustling Metroplex it is today.

However, that will forever be a part of our history here in Texas, Dallas in particular.  Happier days have certainly come and gone, but on this solemn anniversary we can count our blessings for not only all those happy days, but certainly for the sacrifices of so many to make this nation great.

The Kennedy family sacrificed on that day and the world cried along with them.  And for that family, unfortunately history dictates that they were far from through.  But on this Thanksgiving, I know I’ll spend time giving thanks for those like Kennedy, who perished so that this nation could prosper.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was not alone – not anywhere near.   And to this day patriots continue to join the sacrificial ranks.  The long grey line that started way before Kennedy’s time continues today, and will go on into perpetuity.  It’s quite a big club actually.

To put it in terms closer to home, it’s also about people such as 29-year-old Army 7tSpecial Forces Group Staff Sgt. Alex A. Viola of Keller, Texas.  Sgt. Voila died this past Sunday, Nov 17 in a far away land – Kandahar, Afghanistan.  He died with his boots on as they say, and the American flag on his shoulder.  Or for example,  his colleague, 28-year-old Staff Sgt. Richard L. Vazquez, of Seguin, Texas who was also attacked and killed only four days earlier on Nov 13,  He too was on a dismounted patrol, but this time in Panjwai, Afghanistan. Patriots all.

You see we don’t have to look far to find someone or something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Family, health, good food, good friends, the blessings are many – but we do have to look, and we most certainly should penitently pause.  And as well we should on more days than just Thanksgiving.

For centuries our Roman Catholic Priests have said these words over our fallen,  “Te absolvo a peccatis tuis. In nomine Patris et Filio et Spiritus Sancti, amen.”

In an article from the New York Herald Tribune, dated Nov. 24, 1963, beat writer Jimmy Breslin describes the moment Father Oscar Huber administered the sixth of seven Catholic Sacraments and the last this President would receive on Nov 22nd 1963, somewhere around 1:00PM.   The translation – “I absolve you from your sins. In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, amen.”

As Father Huber finished praying over the President, he anointed him with holy oil and uttered the final words of, “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.”  The First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy almost interrupted and stoically, added her own, “…and let perpetual light shine upon him.”  From that moment on, perpetual light became a theme she insisted on, rightfully so as history has proven.

"JFK inspired a nation"

“JFK inspired a nation”

She never cried.  This amazing woman remained composed through it all.  As if sensing the nation needed her to be strong and she was – she did exactly that over the course of the coming days, weeks and years.  Until her own last breath, she lived as gracefully as she proved to be as the nation’s First Lady. Amazing grace some might even say. Camelot was indeed an amazing ride.

President Kennedy was good friends with Poet Robert Frost, a frequent guest at the White House and often cited his work in his speeches – one of his favorites I’ll use here.  It has been referred to, many times over the last 50 years and I have run across it often over the last several weeks:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep – and miles to go before I sleep.”

President Kennedy inspired a nation; he stared down the Soviets and averted a nuclear catastrophe.   In a very short time he set so many things in motion.  Good things.  Furthering the Great Society Legislation that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had begun.  He inspired a generation to reach the moon by the end of the century, which we faithfully fulfilled.   He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and so much more.  And much to his credit, what Kennedy inspired, Lyndon Baines Johnson carried out – forcefully when necessary.  In a way only he could.

LBJ was to be tested and the Texan was not without his faults, but little known are the more tender moments not often reported.  The text below is from a letter LBJ wrote to a very special little girl, 50 years ago tonight:

 

November 22, 1963

7:20 Friday Night

Dearest Caroline –

Your father’s death has been a great tragedy for the nation, as well as for you, and I wanted you to know how much my thoughts are of you at this time.  He was a wise an devoted man, you can always be proud of what he did for his country.

Courtesy of the LBJ Library

Courtesy of the LBJ Library

Affectionately,

Lyndon Baines Johnson

 

It is also fitting that one of the last men to serve President Kennedy was a simple workingman, a fellow WWII veteran – Clifton Pollard a native of Pittsburg.  A veteran of the 352nd Engineers battalion in Burma, Pollard was also interviewed for the Tribune by Breslin in 1963.

He was a gravedigger at Arlington National Cemetery who when the phone rang at his home early in the morning on Sunday, November 24th, he answered knowing his boss would be on the other end of the line by saying simply to him, “I’ve been waiting for you to call, I’m on my way in.”  At the time, Pollard made $3.01 an hour.

“He was a good man,” Pollard said. “Now they’re going to come and put him right here in this grave I’m making up, you know, it’s an honor just for me to do this.”

This Thanksgiving it is men like Kennedy, Johnson, Pollard, Voila and Vasquez that deserve our thanks.  Men and women who can’t be here today to enjoy the many freedoms they have helped to provide.  All with promises they themselves made and intended to keep but were cut down short of their time, leaving so many miles to go before they sleep.

But who is to say it is their time?  I think you know the answer to that.  This Thanksgiving in my home we will give thanks for all those unfinished miles and for those peacefully sleeping – grateful for the opportunity to do our part on this fantastic journey.

Aaron Shikler's famous painting of John F. Kennedy, based on a candid photograph taken by White House photographer Jacques Lowe.

Aaron Shikler’s famous painting of John F. Kennedy, based on a candid photograph taken by White House photographer Jacques Lowe.




Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 276 other followers

Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 276 other followers