Batavia, NY- November 22, 1963 was a fateful day in American history. President John F. Kennedy, on a fundraising, fence-mending trip to Dallas was shot dead by an assassin while riding in a motorcade through the city’s downtown. A stunned nation could hardly believe that the vigorous Jack, the youngest person elected to the presidency at the age of 43, was gone. Genesee Community College Professor of History Garth Swanson looks back at the legacy of the JFK presidency in a talk titled “Camelot at 50” on November 21, 2013 at 12:30 pm. The program is free and open to the public.
The youthful and telegenic Kennedy brought a certain glamor to the White House with his stylish wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, who was just 31 when her husband became President. The couple captivated America and the world. Jack was a war hero, with distinguished service in the Navy during World War II. The 1960 presidential campaign was dominated by Cold War concerns, with tensions rising between the U.S. and Russia. Kennedy declared that the U.S. would have the will and the strength to resist communism around the world. He beat Richard Nixon in one of the closest elections in U.S. history, becoming the youngest elected president, the only Catholic president and the first president born in the twentieth century.
After his death, Jackie wanted to put the proper historical perspective on her husband’s time in office. In an interview with journalist Theodore White a week after the assassination she shared a line Jack often enjoyed from the musical “Camelot.” She said it kept replaying in her head: “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.” Upon her insistence, White wrote a piece for Life magazine employing the Camelot theme and it stuck. “So the epitaph on the Kennedy administration became Camelot—a magic moment in American history, when gallant men danced with beautiful women, when great deeds were done, when artists, writers and poets met at the White House, and the barbarians beyond the walls held back,” White recalled in his book “In Search of History.”
“Camelot at 50” looks back on that magical, mythical moment. Swanson will consider the issues that marked Kennedy’s presidency: civil rights struggles, congressional opposition and Cold War brinksmanship. He’ll highlight Kennedy’s triumphs and disappointments.
Swanson will speak at 12:30 pm on Thursday, November 21, 2013 in Room T121 of the Conable Technology Building on the Batavia campus. For more information, contact Marketing Communications Associate Director Donna Rae Sutherland at (585) 343-0055 ext. 6616, or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A photograph of the motorcade in Dallas is available here: