T.S. Eliot wants me to think that "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons," but it is moments like these that define a life, I believe, and not the dull, drab, day-to-day existence in pursuit of the mundane that we believe will make our lives incrementally better.
No, life for me is measured in the moments that crystalize and coalesce my thinking. His assassination being one, to be sure. To understand that this nation could achieve, could consecrate it's role in the world for progress and peace, and to have such dreams drain away like the life from a young man.
But here, read passages of his official biography:
His Inaugural Address offered the memorable injunction: "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country." As President, he set out to redeem his campaign pledge to get America moving again. His economic programs launched the country on its longest sustained expansion since World War II; before his death, he laid plans for a massive assault on persisting pockets of privation and poverty.He was far from perfect, entangling us in Viet Nam, and nearly creating a world-wide disaster through his actions (or more correctly, inactions) at the Bay of Pigs, but the enduring legacy of the Kennedy administration was one of hope, of peace and prosperity.
Responding to ever more urgent demands, he took vigorous action in the cause of equal rights, calling for new civil rights legislation. His vision of America extended to the quality of the national culture and the central role of the arts in a vital society.
He wished America to resume its old mission as the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights. With the Alliance for Progress and the Peace Corps, he brought American idealism to the aid of developing nations. But the hard reality of the Communist challenge remained.
Of the future.
All broken in the single slurred sixth note of Taps played at Arlington, a bugler mourned for the loss of innocence.
But the dream did not die. It lives on in me. In you. In the numberless masses of poor and disenfranchised in this nation and around the world. In people old enough to remember, and young enough to think only that JFK is a big airport they've heard of.
Remember today. Remember it forever.
"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you."
(One of my favorite bloggers, Cookie Jill at Skippy, posted an excerpt of the remarks he would have delivered that day)