Over fifty years ago, the American nation was shocked and dismayed. The young, energetic, and beloved leader was mortally wounded by a sniper in front of thousands of people while traveling in the presidential motorcade. Kennedy’s death marked a major turning point in the life of the naive country and forever changed people who witnessed this tragic event. The president’s assassination and its aftermath profoundly affected political, economic, and cultural processes, which drastically changed the United States. The mourning citizens started to wonder how the dramatic event would affect the national politics and their lives personally. In the short run, the tragedy had relatively negligible impact on the country, but the long-term effects that the assassination had on parties, press, people, and partisan politics were profound, and they continue to reverberate nowadays.
The President Kennedy played a crucial role in revolutionizing the US politics. He promised a lot to American people, but, unfortunately, never had the opportunity to fulfill all his promises. The majority describes the president’s life as unfinished. For that reason, numerous assessments of the Kennedy’s policy during his presidential tenure remain mixed. Television started to have a significant impact on voters and their social life. Moreover, the long drawn-out election campaigns became commonplace. Before becoming the U.S. president, John Kennedy had privileges and lived in prosperity and comfort. Therefore, his short congressional career was described as unremarkable. Millions of voters longed for dynamism in Kennedy’s politics, but other people worried about the president’s inexperience that made him a poor leader during the hard times.
According to McMahon and Zeiler (2012), in the sixties, the situation in Vietnam significantly deteriorated. Thousands of the American military advisors had been dispatched back home by the end of the Kennedy’s tenure. The most important thing is that the President’s administration had no real plan how to deal with the conflict. However, the administration achieved some success in the civil rights issues. Bloody conflicts became prevalent on the American streets. Racial injustice raged. Assessments of the president’s tenure spanned a wide spectrum. Some people regarded Kennedy’s assassination as public slaying while others claimed it was a quintessential trauma of the whole nation. Many historians emphasized the seedier side of the Kennedy’s family relationship and the President’s dubious personal morality. Many attempts were made to find a middle ground. In the nation’s memory, John F. Kennedy is still a charismatic and compelling leader who governed in the period of immense challenges to the American politics.
According to Anderson (2011), some loyalists claimed that had the 35th American President not been murdered in 1963, the considerable escalation of the military presence in the Vietnam War would never occur. Undoubtedly, it is hard to prove today, but they are mostly right. With no doubts, Kennedy wanted the successful results of his foreign politics to be the jewel of his heritage. However, the start of his presidency was quite rough in that realm. The abortive Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile crisis that was close to catastrophe (Knight, 2007), the summit with the Soviet Premier Khrushchev, in which the US President was highly criticized for being nonprofessional, and the erection of the Berlin Wall took place in the first year of the Kennedy’s presidency. The national leader feared that he was a weak personality in the international arena. The fear was present until the Cuban missile crisis occurred in 1962 when the President finally got respect for foreign affairs. Although the Kennedy’s administration desperately sought to win over the communist forces, including Vietnam, many serious challenges remained.
Despite the fact that the Kennedy’s administration paid significant attention to the foreign politics, the President had offered the nation quite an ambitious domestic agenda named The New Frontier. According to Piereson (2007), the Kennedy’s initiatives contained the greatest expansion of the welfare state since the New Deal programs proposed by Roosevelt in the distant thirties. The 35th President offered a different reform policy from reintroducing the comprehensive food stamp programs to enhancing the Social Security benefits by almost twenty percent to stimulate early retirement. Other proposals from the presidential agenda included civil rights legislation, corporate and income tax reduction, introduction of Medicaid and Medicare that guaranteed healthcare services for poor and older people. All these developments, initiatives and programs continued to function after the Kennedy’s assassination significantly affecting the social and economic lives of American citizens. John F. Kennedy was probably the last representative of the Democratic Party, who believed that tax cuts would foster the economic growth. The 35th President of the USA could not change the world, and his assassination in November 1963 did not largely alter the future of America. However, it is not surprising that 50 years later his memory still causes a deep sense of loss.
In addition, John F. Kennedy was not ready to concede guidance over the national financial system to the US Federal Reserve System. According to Farrell (2011), the President signed Executive Order 11110 in June 1963, authorizing the American Treasury to issue certificates as an alternative form of money to the Fed’s notes. Over four billion dollars were injected in the economy before the President was killed. If Kennedy’s economic initiatives had continued, a viable alternative to the Federal Reserve could have been established. However, when Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy, the next leader Lyndon Johnson immediately suspended the former programs and initiatives. Since that time, the management and control of the Federal Reserve over the American economy has never been questioned.
Although the assassination and its consequences caused a permanent public distrust of the federal authorities in the consequent decades, the immediate steps taken by the administration in Washington, DC arguably generated the most progressive legislative era in the Unites States’ history. In life, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was described by many as a calculating, cool, and cautious politician who hesitated whether to uphold civil rights. Moreover, he was the only one for whom the tax reduction was a priority while others believed in the high need to increase domestic spending.
The late President was a vigorous and courageous Cold Warrior who drastically increased the defense spending and sent additional troops to Vietnam. Kennedy was depicted as a comrade of Martin Luther King in the popular culture and political oratory despite his noticeable absence on the great march in August 1963. According to Hertzberg (2004), it was often argued that the 35th President would never have escalated the war in Vietnam as his successor did. The Democratic Party after Kennedy’s assassination became more focused on fighting poverty in the USA. However, the most ambitious project offered by Kennedy was to put an American man on the moon.
Over fifty years have passed since the Kennedy’s cold-blooded murder on the streets of Dallas, Texas. To the vast majority of Americans, this tragic event that happened a long time ago has no relevance to various events that occur nowadays. However, whether the nation realizes it or not, the society Americans live in today has been largely determined and shaped by the decisions, actions, and choices of personalities who came before today’s generation. While the nation pays tribute the founding fathers, heroes, whom Americans lost in the war, and famous inventors, whose significant breakthrough led to the technology and innovation that now dominate human lives, people still have quite a limited awareness of how significant events continue to transform human minds after all these years.
Anderson, D. L. (Ed.). (2011). The Columbia guide to the Vietnam War. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.
Farrell, J. P. (2011). LBJ and the conspiracy to kill Kennedy: A coalescence of interests.
Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press.
Hertzberg, H. (2004). Politics: Observations and arguments, 1966-2004. New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Knight, P. (2007). The Kennedy assassination. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press Ltd.
McMahon, R. J., & Zeiler, T. W. (Eds.). (2012). Guide to US foreign policy: A diplomatic history. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press.
Piereson, J. (2007). Camelot and the cultural revolution: How the assassination of John F.Kennedy shattered American liberalism. New York, NY: Encounter Books.