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This Day in History - 11.22.2011

America Grieves for a Lost President


By Alyssa Paiz

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was visiting Dallas, Texas.  He was riding in a Lincoln convertible with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy; the governor of Texas, John Connally; and Governor Connally’s wife.  The famous couples were on a 10-mile-long drive through the streets of Dallas, passing by adoring fans of the president and his glamorous wife. When the president’s car passed alongside the Texas School Book Depository Building, Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots from the 6th floor.  Both Kennedy and Connally were injured; 30 minutes later, President Kennedy was pronounced dead in the Dallas Parkland Hospital. He was only 46 years old and had served but three years in the White House. As news of the assassination spread, the nation erupted in grief. To this day, many Americans can remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the terrible news. Like 9/11, the moment has become a marker of national tragedy.

The vice president at the time was Lyndon B. Johnson, who was riding approximately three cars behind President Kennedy when he was assassinated. Later that afternoon, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th president of the United States.  Johnson took the oath of office while waiting to board Air Force One back to Washington, D.C.  As the new president took the oath, a stunned Jacqueline Kennedy stood by. President Kennedy’s assassination has remained the subject of controversy over the years, as various theories regarding what forces ordered his murder have swirled through the media.

For a younger generation ready to see Kennedy in action, before he was cut down in his prime, go to www.jfklibrary.org, and call up the President’s “News Conference” of November 14, 1963. Also available as a video via YouTube, President Kennedy’s comments on the 14th show him as a foreign policy realist, an eloquent speaker, and a master tactician of domestic politics.