November 22, our day that will live in infamy

Today is the day before Thanksgiving (always the fourth Thursday in November), the most quintessentially American holiday I can name, right up there with July 4th (our Independence Day).  This day before Thanksgiving is traditionally a very busy day for those celebrating — whether traveling from afar or preparing the food — so I thank you for opening this post and reading today.

Today is also November 22, a special anniversary for those of us of a certain age, here in the US. Today marks fifty-four years since President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated. The years of JFK’s presidency (1961-1963) came to be known as “Camelot” from the title song of the Broadway play by Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe (based originally on the King Arthur legend), which had run during those years.

Over this past half century I’ve returned in memory often to that particular Camelot, though more so this past year.  And, in this holiday time of giving thanks I realize anew how grateful I am for those Camelot years, when, under JFK’s leadership, we in this country strived to do good, both here at home and in the world.

  • He gave us the Peace Corps, after all, and I was thrilled to be able to live out that forty year old dream when I finally joined with my husband in 2004 (read more about that here).
  • He brilliantly maneuvered a path through the Cuban Missile Crisis, which had brought us as close as we’ve ever come to nuclear disaster, until the past 12 months; then he worked (with the USSR and the UK) to establish a test ban treaty which removed further nuclear tests from above ground.
  • He initiated the Alliance For Progress, which in its short life brought progress to many in Latin America.
  • And, here at home, he worked toward both civil rights for all Americans and equal pay regardless of gender.

Of course there were also failures; but, in my mind they pale when seen against the advances we made under his dynamic leadership.

 

Here is Richard Burton singing that title song, thanks to YouTube, which of course none of us back then could have imagined!

 

 

[learn_more caption=”I like to give the lyrics to the songs I post. Here you go. “] [ARTHUR] It’s true! It’s true! The crown has made it clear.
The climate must be perfect all the year.

A law was made a distant moon ago here:
July and August cannot be too hot.
And there’s a legal limit to the snow here
In Camelot.

The winter is forbidden till December
And exits March the second on the dot.
By order, summer lingers through September
In Camelot.

Camelot! Camelot!
I know it sounds a bit bizarre,
But in Camelot, Camelot
That’s how conditions are.

The rain may never fall till after sundown.
By eight, the morning fog must disappear.
In short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot
For happy-ever-aftering than here In Camelot.

Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause,
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those are the legal laws.

The snow may never slush upon the hillside.
By nine p.m. the moonlight must appear.
In short, there’s simply not a more congenial spot
For happy-ever-aftering than here in Camelot.

[2:40 mark]

Each evening, from December to December
Before you drift to sleep upon your cot
Think back on all the tales that you remember
Of Camelot

Ask every person if he’s heard the story
And tell it strong and clear if he has not
That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory
Called Camelot

[COMPANY] Camelot! Camelot!
I know it gives a person pause
But in Camelot, Camelot
Those were the legal laws

[ARTHUR] Where once it never rained till after sundown
By 8 a.m the morning fog had flown
Don’t let it be forgot that once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment

[COMPANY] That was known as Camelot

[/learn_more]

 

 

And so, as you gather around your Thanksgiving table tomorrow, I hope you’ll give thanks for the opportunity John F Kennedy gave us to know what our country is capable of.  And let us not forget. 

What are you grateful for from those Camelot years? 

 

with thanks to tinkerbellchime.com for this image of the inscription at the Kennedy grave site at Arlington Cemetery, which reads: AND SO MY FELLOW AMERICANS ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY MY FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE WORLD – ASK NOT WHAT AMERICA CAN DO FOR YOU – BUT WHAT TOGETHER WE CAN DO FOR THE FREEDOM OF MAN
[learn_more caption=”Inscription on the granite wall below President Kennedy’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery”]

LET THE WORD GO FORTH FROM THIS TIME AND PLACE TO FRIEND AND FOE ALIKE THAT THE TORCH HAS BEEN PASSED TO A NEW GENERATION OF AMERICANS

LET EVERY NATION KNOW WHETHER IT WISHES US WELL OR ILL THAT WE SHALL PAY ANY PRICE – BEAR ANY BURDEN MEET ANY HARDSHIP – SUPPORT ANY FRIEND OPPOSE ANY FOE TO ASSURE THE SURVIVAL AND THE SUCCESS OF LIBERTY

NOW THE TRUMPET SUMMONS US AGAIN NOT AS A CALL TO BEAR ARMS – THOUGH EMBATTLED WE ARE BUT A CALL TO BEAR THE BURDEN OF A LONG TWILIGHT STRUGGLE
A STRUGGLE AGAINST THE COMMON ENEMIES OF MAN TYRANNY – POVERTY – DISEASE – AND WAR ITSELF

IN THE LONG HISTORY OF THE WORLD ONLY A FEW GENERATIONS HAVE BEEN GRANTED THE ROLE OF DEFENDING FREEDOM IN ITS HOUR OF MAXIMUM DANGER
I DO NOT SHRINK FROM THIS RESPONSIBILITY I WELCOME IT

THE ENERGY – THE FAITH – THE DEVOTION WHICH WE BRING TO THIS ENDEAVOR WILL LIGHT OUR COUNTRY AND ALL WHO SERVE IT AND THE GLOW FROM THAT FIRE CAN TRULY LIGHT THE WORLD

AND SO MY FELLOW AMERICANS ASK NOT WHAT YOUR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR YOU ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR YOUR COUNTRY
MY FELLOW CITIZENS OF THE WORLD – ASK NOT WHAT AMERICA CAN DO FOR YOU – BUT WHAT TOGETHER WE CAN DO FOR THE FREEDOM OF MAN

WITH A GOOD CONSCIENCE OUR ONLY SURE REWARD WITH HISTORY THE FINAL JUDGE OF OUR DEEDS LET US GO FORTH TO LEAD THE LAND WE LOVE – ASKING HIS BLESSING AND HIS HELP – BUT KNOWING THAT HERE ON EARTH GOD’S WORK MUST TRULY BE OUR OWN

Excerpts taken from President Kennedy’s January 1961 Inaugural Address. Stonework was done by John E. Benson of Newport, R.I.[/learn_more]

 

Next week: A special post from the Southern Poverty Law Center

22 Responses

  1. Nurken
    | Reply

    Janet,
    This was informative. And I’ve learned a word or two here and there.
    Loved reading the post!

  2. Mildred LaBeur
    | Reply

    A lovely way to start my day. Thank you.

  3. Pamela
    | Reply

    You brought me back to that day, one that as a child in 6th grade, I’ll never forget. We kids were returning into the school from an outside recess, and all of a sudden I saw teachers leaving the building, crying. I’d never seen a teacher cry (much less a parent), so I was touched and scared and sad, even though I didn’t know why. For me, I knew how important a man JFK was by the reaction of those around me when they heard of his assassination. A horrendous day for our country; amazingly, America got through it. But it’s been quite a bumpy ride since then. But all in all, and despite the current political climate (which I just pray changes – soon – and that the voters in this great country return to sense and values that our citizens are known for) I’m grateful that I live in America, that I grew up learning about our history – the faults and failings for sure, because we’re made up of human beings – but the core of the democracy and the Constitution most of us believe in. Thanks for a wonderful post, Janet.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thank you, Pamela. I wish I shared your optimism. Today I shall focus on gratitude and trust that will bring me serenity.

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Like a magnet, this beautifully crafted post pulled me back to that very day.
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Gratitude – It Does a Body GoodMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Many thanks, Laurie. Hard to believe it’s been 54 years

  5. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    On that day and every year since then I remember November 22, not as a student like Pamela but as a first-year teacher. Time stood still in my classroom after I reported the announcement to my students. School was dismissed. The shock took a while to sink in.

    In the days following my students learned the meaning of caisson and dirge and deep sorrow. Political parties didn’t mean a thing to us when this tragedy struck. We all mourned.
    Marian Beaman recently posted…Giving Thanks 2017My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I wish it were true that we all mourned, Marian. I recall too well the attitude of my band director who insisted we must practice for the game the next day. So, after my fellow twirling squad members and I had a good cry in the locker room, we joined the band on the nearby pavement, listening to the band and feeling quite confused. Fortunately, before too long someone higher up came and told Mr. Bergstrom he had to stop. And the game on Saturday was of course canceled as we spent the weekend in front of the TV. It was my last year on the twirling squad.

      • Marian Beaman
        | Reply

        The “all” I knew about then were the campus leaders and students at Lancaster Mennonite School. How sad to hear about your Mr. Bergstrom. How callous.
        Marian Beaman recently posted…Giving Thanks 2017My Profile

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Callous, yes. Good word.
          He was not a happy person as I recall.

  6. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    Hi, my goodness, 54 years since JFK died, I can’t believe I am still alive. I was in Catholic school and we didn’t know what happened but we all had to go to chuch and pray.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I’m trying to imagine that scene, Susan: being told to pray but not knowing what to pray for. Then, I remember I’m thinking like a Protestant. As the first Catholic president, JFK’s death must have been especially painful for the staff at your school. Thanks for adding your story here.

  7. Cathy M. Monaghan
    | Reply

    Great article, Janet. Thanks for writing it.
    I’m with you, not too terribly optimistic at the moment. I find it hard to believe that in only 50+ years the great USA went from Camelot to Cons-a-lot. We are going to need a Super Man to help us get back on track.
    *** Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. ***

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Cons-a-lot. I love it. Thanks Cathy.

      Or a Wonder Woman.

      🙂

  8. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    A few years before my time, Janet, so I have no memories of it, other than what I’ve seen and learned since, growing up. It seems it was possibly a real turning point for our country, meaning, it’s been mostly downhill ever since. You could say I share your pessimism about the current course of affairs, although I think there is also an opportunity for someone with charisma, vision, and cross-appeal to possibly make a dent in things. Whether that person could get anything meaningful accomplished in today’s toxic political climate is a mystery, and in fact seems unlikely. We could certainly use someone like JFK right about now, warts and all.
    Tim Fearnside recently posted…The Other Men and Women Who Fought and Died for FreedomMy Profile

    • Tim Fearnside
      | Reply

      Or, better yet, without the warts 😉
      Tim Fearnside recently posted…The Other Men and Women Who Fought and Died for FreedomMy Profile

      • Janet Givens
        | Reply

        Hey Tim. I’m back, thinking of those metaphorical warts. I’m thinking I’d prefer a leader with warts, as long as she (or he) knows what they are and is open about them. How refreshing that would be, huh? And I can see this catching on and suddenly anyone who wants to win votes starts being honest and open and real. Ah, that was fun.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Charisma! Wouldn’t it be something if we the electorate didn’t need charisma? I’ve been pining a bit for Adlai Stevenson lately, engaging in a little “if only” luxury. As for hope, the only hope I hold onto is that the right course will reveal itself in time. Thanks for getting me thinking along a new pathway.

  9. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    It’s hard to believe it was 54 years ago, Janet. I was in second grade. The sixth graders had gone to see JFK’s procession–because we lived in Dallas then. I have no idea if any of the kids at the school witnessed the assassination. I remember some kid saying to me that the president was shot, and I said “That’s not funny.” I remember my parents being stunned and upset.
    Merril Smith recently posted…Thanksgiving Ghosts: ShadormaMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      I wonder if anyone at the time realized it was more than the death of a man, it was truly the death of an era. Thanks for adding your memory, Merril.

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