Today marks the 50th anniversary of the most infamous crime of the 20th century.
The murder of President John F. Kennedy continues to fascinate and disturb people around the globe. The killing has been investigated and analyzed, reviewed and written about, videotaped and dramatized, and is unequivocally the most talked about criminal event in the last 100 years.
Although Kennedy’s death is seared into the American psyche, there is so much more to the man than his demise. The image of Jaqueline Kennedy crawling across the trunk of the presidential limousine as a Secret Service agent jumped on board remains as vivid today as it was 50 years ago.
Yet Kennedy’s manner, his swagger his confidence in himself and his country should not be forgotten, it should be celebrated and revered.
Kennedy’s murder remains unsolved. The Warren Commission concluded a lone assassin was responsible, the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassination concluded it was “probably” a conspiracy.
America prides itself on a system of justice that provides a series of protections for those accused of a crime.
Those arrested are presumed innocent until proven guilty. A prosecutor — whether from the state of Texas or the federal government — must prove an accused guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The man accused of killing Kennedy never had his day in court. He was murdered only days after Kennedy.
All we know for sure about Nov. 22, 1963, is that JFK was fatally wounded while sitting in an open car traveling slowly through Dealey Plaza in Dallas. John Connelly, the governor of Texas, was wounded as well. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested that day and charged with Kennedy’s murder and the murder of a Dallas police officer.
Oswald never had the chance to confront the witnesses against him; he never had a chance to challenge the state’s case. Although Oswald would have had no obligation to testify or present evidence in his own defense, America never had the chance to hear Oswald’s version of the events of Nov. 22.
Today is the somber anniversary of JFK’s death — but it can be more, a celebration of an extraordinary life.
For Americans, and admirers around the world, JFK is forever young and vibrant. His charisma was second only to his intellect. He was a leader who inspired a generation and continues to inspire today.
His heroism in war, his audacity to challenge Americans to do for their country, his tenacity to stand up to the Soviets during the successful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis and his vision to launch us on a successful race to the moon — are all testaments to his leadership.
Today, and the days leading up to today have been filled with theories of conspiracy and treachery. The news has been filled with stories of investigations gone awry and a government too inept to solve the murder of its very leader.
Page 2 of 2 - Today is also about what could have been. Had Kennedy survived the remainder of his term and maybe won a second term, what would America be like today?
We can only imagine an America in the 1960s without Vietnam. Where would we be today if a young and vibrant president could have fully embraced the civil rights movement? How about a visionary peace movement in place of raucous anti-war protests? What if Watergate was just the name of another Washington, D.C., office building?
Kennedy modeled a pragmatic approach to problem solving instead of partisan back-biting that we’ve come to know as leadership. JFK once said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
Today, our nation can reveal a lot about itself. If, instead of wallowing in the unresolved murder of a president, it celebrated a life well lived and country that glowed in the light of that well lived life.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly and George and the former district attorney for Lawrence County, Pa. You can read his blog at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.