4 SCU Faculty and Staff reflect on what JFK's life meant to them.
From David DeCosse (Director of Campus Ethics Programs, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics):
"As a 9- or 10-year old (1970-71), I was haunted by JFK's death. I do not remember his death from when I was an infant (though I vividly remember the deaths in 1968 of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy). But as a child I began reading copiously about JFK's assassination and even had a nightmare about it -- a young, vibrant man killed suddenly to my disbelief and shock -- that I remember to this day. I think I intuited even then the youth and hope and newness that his presidency signaled. And I think my awareness of his death was like the first great entrance into my life of the mystery of evil -- not just because of his violent, sudden murder but also because I sensed in some childlike way that what was vibrant and full of hope could be taken away and that I had no power over such loss nor a way to foresee or explain it). Do we always lose what we love well before its time and without warning? I think more than anything that JFK's death left me with that question and with the struggle between cynicism and hope that is embedded in trying to answer it."
From Penelope Duckworth (poet and adjunct lecturer in the Theater and Dance Department):
"For me, the assassination of President Kennedy was an event like no other for most of my generation. Just about everyone knew where she or he was the moment they heard the news. I was a senior in high school in the suburbs of Akron, Ohio, going to class and a boy who liked to tease me stopped me in the hall that afternoon and told me the president had been shot. I didn't believe him and thought he was getting pretty far afield in his teasing but when I got to class, there was an announcement on the PA system and I learned it was true. A while later, about the time we got to the bus, we heard he had died.
"We were all pretty numb with shock. The next several days, everyone watched the news as often as possible and I was watching live TV when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. I ran and found my dad and he was incredulous as I was until he saw it replayed for himself. It was a time of unbelievable news. We then heard a great deal about the grassy knoll and the trajectory of shots but the senselessness and the tragedy for Kennedy's family was what held most of the public attention. It seemed more random craziness than anything else at the time and it was only later that conspiracy theories began to gain some traction.
"My own political awareness over the years has reassessed the Kennedy presidency. His youthful family and great inherited wealth conveyed a buoyant and fashionable image which many in my generation aspired to emulate. Bill Clinton is a good example. But the darker side of his character, his womanizing and brinksmanship, were also part of the picture and have colored his image for me in later years. Unfortunately, that, too, is an aspect of him that others in positions of power have sought to emulate. The complexity of his leadership and life style has made his death more puzzling and problematic but no less a crystalizing moment in our national history."
From Eric Hanson (Professor, Political Science Department):
"I remember being a senior editor at Houston's St. Thomas High during the 1960 campaign. Although a Republican and Goldwater supporter in those days, I got very involved in the contentious citywide debate about whether a good Catholic could also be a good American and a good president. Most of my natural political allies stood on the other side. Kennedy came to Houston and gave one of the great presidential campaign speeches to the Protestant ministers."
From Fr. Paul Soukup, SJ (Professor, Department of Communication):
"President Kennedy's life meant a kind of beauty of language and vision that offered a promise to us, something that appealed to what we might be. His death was a kind of end of innocence for the America I grew up in, something that ushered in an age of confrontation and more political deaths. I'd like to cling to the hope, but that has to be a more conscious decision now."