RICHMOND (WRIC) - 50 years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, that city, and the nation, paused today to remember the day that shocked the nation.
Why, is he remembered so fondly by so many half a century later?
Examining the man, his myth, and how Kennedy has come to symbolize the promise and potential of America itself.
In 1960, at 43 years old, John Fitzgerald Kennedy becomes the youngest President in American history.
People like Pierre "Pete" Eicher, who remember Kennedy when he was alive, recall great promise.
"Why does America remember him so fondly? Why does America remember Lincoln? It was joy. It was happiness. It was getting people to smile, instead of wondering what was going to happen next."
Carolyn Murray remembers charisma.
"He was handsome as all get out. I think he was very sophisticated."
Kennedy beat Richard Nixon in 1960 on the strength of his performance in America's first televised debates.
Polly Bowring watched them.
"He used television better than Nixon. Poor Nixon needed to shave and didn't know it."
But the promise of Kennedy's "Camelot" didn't sway everyone. Enid Gray, who grew up in Dallas, wasn't fond of him at all and didn't agree with him politically?
"Nope. There was a group in Texas who were kinda to the other direction."
Others were wary of Kennedy's Catholic religion.
"In the 1960's, particularly among southern evangelical whites, being catholic was just as bad as being Jewish or Muslim," says Richard Meagher. "It was so alien. They were very suspicious of his motives."
Many mistrusted Kennedy's background: wealthy and privileged and northeastern.
In office, his record was mixed. Kennedy's attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs was a complete disaster, but even apparent success in the Cuban Missile Crisis wounded the young president.
"It damaged him in his relationships with the military and his relationships within the administration and damaged his relationships with older establishment types."
The things Kennedy does get credit for includes the Peace Corps, putting a man on the moon and civil rights legislation, only fully realized after his death.
Kennedy's enduring appeal isn't based on what he actually accomplished.
"Some argue that Kennedy was one of the first modern presidents, truly modern presidents."
He's a modern image in which we see can recognize and reinvent ourselves.
Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
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