When John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected President of the United States the stuff of legend was born. At forty, he was the youngest President ever to hold office, and, listening to any of his extraordinary press conferences, one could only regard him as perhaps the most intelligent, articulate, funny President our country ever had. He and his family formed a veritable dynasty that was almost immediately equated with the Camelot legends of King Arthur. His wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, was a fittingly beautiful, multilingual, intelligent person who moved with total ease in international circles. Kennedy gladdened every English professor's heart by inviting Robert Frost to read a poem for his inauguration, a rendition that could only be overshadowed by Kennedy's famous inaugural speech that admonished American citizens not to ask what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country.
It was a totally new approach to the electorate, not to expect everything from their government, but to help it to succeed in even great endeavors. And the sentiments were not mere rhetoric--Kennedy started the Peace Corps shortly thereafter and inaugurated a whole new American attitude of self-sacrifice instead of selfishness. Kennedy's greatest moment among the many high points of his brief term in office came during the Cuban missile crisis, when he pushed the plans for Russian missile deployment in Cuba to the point of threatening Russia with all-out nuclear war in retaliation. People all over the world identified with him, from the crowd in West Berlin who responded rapturously when he told them that he was, like them, a Berliner, to an unprecedented number of American citizens from all walks of life.
Visiting Dallas before the upcoming primaries for his second term bid for the Presidency, Kennedy was killed while riding in an open car. The mystery of who shot him and who was responsible for the assassination of his putative assassin is among the century's most controversial mysteries. It was the first of a string of murky political assassinations, including those of JFK's brother, Robert, when he too was running for President, of Martin Luther King, and of Malcom X. President Kennedy's death was greeted by the greatest national outpouring of grief since Lincoln's assassination. For most Americans, it was the day the music died.