Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Letter to President Kennedy, Thanksgiving 1963

Thanksgiving, 1963

Dear President Kennedy,

Thank you for being our President. I am so sorry you were shot. It’s hard to believe. We prayed for you at our Christian school, even though you are Catholic.

I was so very sad all that weekend, watching all the news about your death. We went to a Mexican restaurant that Saturday night to get away from the TV and I was surprised to find it was filled with people having a good time, laughing as if nothing had happened. I just turned 13 last month, but it felt wrong. I felt so sad for your family and for our country. You were so smart and funny, good-looking and cool, and you did a lot of good. I especially liked your Peace Corps idea.

Sunday morning I saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot live on TV. I did not feel good about that, but was glad he would no longer get so much attention.

I know my Aunt Helen is particularly sad. She took my older brother to the Democratic Convention here in Los Angeles when you were nominated for President, and as a high school math teacher in Kansas, she is active in the NEA.

My parents loved Roosevelt and Truman, and voted for Adlai Stevenson twice. Please don’t hold it against us that they voted for Nixon partly out of fear that you would be under the Pope’s control. (By the way, I was very sorry that Pope John XXIII died this past summer. I knew the world had lost a great man.) And please forgive me that I have been supporting Goldwater lately.

Even though many of our friends are Republicans, some of our best friends are Democrats, and we are glad that Republicans and Democrats can get along despite their differences.

I am so glad you were President when the Russians tried to put missiles in Cuba. We were having a schoolwide assembly for my junior high when Mrs. Gerrald, our principal, announced the Russian ships had turned around. We were very happy, because we were afraid we were going to have the atomic war we have been afraid of all of our lives. Mrs. Gerrald was also the one who went from class to class, including my English class, to announce you had been shot in Texas. My algebra teacher Mr. Parrish said it was likely the singlemost historic event that we would ever witness. I wonder if that’s true.

My mother cried when they took your rocking chairs out of the White House.

I greatly admire you, and I want to be like you when I grow up.

We will never forget you.


While the content is true, this letter is a work of imagination, and I invite readers old enough to remember President Kennedy’s assassination to consider writing their own letters from the perspective of their age and experience at the time. It may help us understand why his life and death and that era meant so much to so many over the past 50 years.

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1 comment:

  1. Dear Mr. President,
    I am sorry you were shot.I am a 4th grader at a three room school.Our teacher,Mrs. Tomlinson got a call on the telephone that served as intercom.The principle,who was also teaching 6,7, and 8th grades had called my teacher and she announced you were shot.She let us off the rest of the day,some kids were cheering.That was unbelievable!I was really sad.I came home and my Mom was really sad and Dad came later really sad and TV on for long time as we watched the CBS bulletin and Walter Cronkite pronounced you dead.For a week afterwards,I saw many sad adults walking around as if in a daze.How can they shot a president? Nothing remained the same since.Tom