The Kennedy Legacy and Mystery 50 Years Later

by: Shelby Powers

November 22, 1963 is the infamous date of the assassination of 35th president of the United States, John F. Kennedy. The loss of a beloved leader rocked an innocent and confident nation, the wealthiest in the world at the time, and propelled forward a decade of unequaled social change. As the 50th anniversary of his death passes this month, Americans look back on his legacy and question the unsettled events surrounding his death.

Most history books teach the commonly-accepted story that the president was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, a socialist ex-marine with an unstable past and an affinity for the communist societies of Cuba and Russia, from the window of the Texas School Book Depository. As Harvey was arrested on network television, nightclub owner Jack Ruby shot him, leaving many questions forever unanswered.

The uncertainty of the whole situation, as well as the Kennedy’s own mysterious personal appeal, have given way to hundreds of conspiracy theories. Some common ones include that Kennedy’s vice president Lyndon B. Johnson orchestrated the murder in order to become president, that the “military industrial complex” hired Oswald to prevent Kennedy from removing troops from Vietnam, or simply that Oswald did not act alone. Another theory is that the CIA assassinated the president because of a dispute over his actions in regard to Cuba. Perhaps the public will finally know more in 2017, when the classified CIA files on the assassination investigation are finally released by 1992’s Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act.

Just as the media obsessed over Kennedy and his stylish family during his presidency, today’s media is equally interested. According to USA Today, over 40,000 books about Kennedy have been published. A National Geographic Channel docudrama based on Bill O’Reilly’s book Killing Kennedy broke their ratings records with 3.35 million viewers.

There is no doubt that in today’s tumultuous society, people find comfort in the “good old days” of Kennedy’s presidency. In this pre-Nixon era of trustworthy politicians, post-WWII optimism and prosperity, before the social movements of the late 1960s, many Americans saw Kennedy as a superhero. He brought to life the American dream of space exploration, acted tactfully in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis, and on top of that seemed to be a relatable and normal man with a perfect nuclear family. But even more than the appeal of Kennedy’s legacy is the mystery surrounding his assassination. Until the truth is known, if it ever emerges, conspiracy theories will abound.


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