My Last November 22nd: Focusing on Kennedy's Legacy
54 years ago today, a person’s life came to an end in a gore-splattered car in Dallas.
Historians and political scientists are still exploring the effects John F. Kennedy had on the country and the world; and whether these effects are a direct result of his presidency, or his immortalized image as a young and eloquent leader.
Regardless of the origin of his cultural significance, he is indeed significant. Everyone, even those who weren’t alive then (like myself) have strong opinions about Kennedy and his image. Especially those of us in the American Space industry, who almost all but owe our field to the slain President. Here is Kennedy’s iconic “We Choose the Moon” speech. I highly recommend you watch it in its entirety:
As someone who greatly admires and respects President Kennedy, this day resonates every year. However, this will be my last year marking his death. That's not what his wife and family wanted. It’s not what his children and grandchildren want. Jack Schlossberg, his only grandson, spoke of this shortly after classified files related to the assassination were released last month. Instead of sensationalizing his death, we should be carrying on his vision. That should be the legacy of John F. Kennedy.
President Kennedy's dream for the world - for humanity - is timeless, intertwining with human nature itself. The primary theme of Kennedy's philosophy and presidency is self-improvement - as individuals, as a country, as a society, and as a planet. The trial never ends. No matter how much good we do, no matter how far we advance, it is never enough. It can't be. Our existence today is proof of that. There will always be something more.
We’re always wanting more in our personal lives: more technology, more experiences, more love, more time, more stuff; but that human trait does not have to be limited to the self. The only more that is larger than our own lives is what you can do for tomorrow. Every day, there is always a way we can do better; and that’s an attitude that has been progressively declining since we lost Kennedy. In the words of Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan, he was our last great challenger.
We have been to the Moon. Now what can we do? The Cold War is over. Now what can we do? We are connected to one another through devices in our pockets. Now what can we do? You live in one of the most fortunate societies to ever exist. Now, what can’t you do?
These are the thoughts of a healthy culture. The human adventure will continue with or without us. Tomorrow is inevitable. Don’t you want it to be better? Does the future have anything to do with you?
Cover Image: Kennedy examines Friendship 7 with John Glenn after the latter's spaceflight. (Courtesy of the JFK Library)