Everyone who was alive at the time knows exactly what they were
doing when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, so it’s
often said. And the passing of five decades has scarcely diminished the
intrigue around his assassination and the life that preceded it.
Kennedy – known as JFK – fascinates for many reasons. He was
president at a time of huge change, as the civil rights movement in
America was gaining momentum and pop culture was exploding. Young,
good-looking and with a glamorous wife, he seemed of his time – a break
from the starch-collared politicians of the past.
His short presidency was remarkably eventful and came at the height
of the Cold War. The Cuban Missile Crisis saw the world teeter on the
brink of nuclear war, while American fear of communism was entangling
the US in the ultimately catastrophic Vietnam conflict.
Kennedy’s presidency produced several iconic moments: his seemingly
naïve prediction that the US would put a man on the moon by the end of
the decade, which was achieved after his death, his “Ich Bin Ein
Berliner” speech, and his birthday serenade by another 20th-century
American icon who died too young, Marilyn Monroe.
The JFK myth endures, too, because he is only one character in a
tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Brother Joe, seen as the family’s
most likely president, died in World War II. Brother Bobby was
assassinated in 1968. Sister Rose was lobotomized at the instruction of
her father and left incapacitated. Sister Kathleen and son John died in
But it is JFK’s death that resonates across the ages – like Lincoln,
he was a president cut down in his prime. Unlike Lincoln, JFK’s death
was captured on film and gives a tantalizing glimpse of the man that
might have been.
1. What is assassination and how does it differ from other types of
2. Why do we commemorate unpleasant events?
3. Why might the President of the United States of America be at risk
4. Whose responsibility is it to prevent attacks like this in the