Saturday, August 10, 2013

Remembering JFK - 50 years later

November 22, 2013 will mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. I don't remember the first time I heard about Kennedy, or his assassination.  It is almost like I was born knowing about him because of the stories I heard growing up. I loved hearing my parents tell stories about themselves when they were kids, especially while they were dating in college. One of the stories I remember the most was the day they came to visit my grandmother in Irving and just about scared her to death. It was November 24, 1963, the day Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. My grandmother and a friend were listening to the news. It had just been reported that Oswald had been staying in Irving. My parents came up to the house, grabbed the door, and walked in giving both ladies quite a fright. Like the author's father, my father collected a variety of newspapers in 1963 about the assassination. Since my family is from the Dallas area, my father collected the local papers which included the The Dallas Morning News and the Dallas Times Herald.

"The President Has Been Shot!":
the Assassination of John F. Kennedy
by James L. Swanson

The opening pages of the book provide a quick overview of the early years of the President's life in a single chapter which includes the fact that he was one of nine children, his service during World War II as a navy lieutenant, and his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier.

Following this brief history the author quickly moves on to the 1960 election in which Kennedy defeats Richard Nixon in "one of the closest elections in history." We then move on to January of 1961 for the inauguration and a number of excerpts from the Presidents inaugural address, including his most famous lines
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.
Key elements in Kennedy's administration, including Bay of Pigs operation, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Space Race, the President's speech in Berlin, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the Civil Rights movement are presented in short easy to read chapters. Throughout the book black and white photographs with descriptions are included as half-page or double-page spreads.

Part Two of the book takes the President and First Lady to Texas and the fateful day in Dallas. It is stated Lee Harvey Oswald "would have known from his military training, to hit someone from such a distance, he would have to use a rifle." A brief history of presidential assassinations and attempts is presented to show "no American president had ever been assassinated by a rifle." [67] Swanson's theory is that Oswald had not planned to, nor would he have attempted to assassinate Kennedy had he not come to him, by passing the School Book Depository.

An account of Lee Harvey Oswald's life is portrayed as the youngest of three boys to a single mother. The family was unstable and moved around to a number of different cities and his mother would frequently turn the boys over to relatives or a local orphanage for care. It goes on to tell how he dropped out of school at sixteen, join the United States Marine Corps shortly after and was court-martialed twice. It is during this time Oswald learned his rifle firing accuracy. Oswald's demeanor in the years leading up to November 22nd was one of "a lifelong loser, a high school dropout, a second-rate ex-U.S. Marine, and a malcontent with a chip on his shoulder." [78]

Then with an almost minute by minute account leading up to the assassination, Swanson provides details of the Kennedy's and Oswald's actions. As the president's motorcade approaches Elm Street, Abraham Zapurder's, who's famous footage captured the assassination, movements are revealed. The events and actions of these men are presented in great detail. As you read, you feel that you are there, witnessing the events in the presence of each of the individuals, including the traumatic details and quotes from the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy. The perspective of the writing is very well done.

The author then takes the reader through the swearing in of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the flight back to Washington, D.C., Mrs. Kennedy's meticulous planning of her husband's funeral, and the funeral itself. Swanson goes back and forth between Washington, D.C. and Dallas by telling how Mrs. Kennedy prepared for her husband's funeral while the captured assassin was claiming his innocence.

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy is a well researched account of the events of November 22, 1963. It is written for middle and high school age students. I believe, for this age group this is an excellent overview of the life of, presidency, and sacrifice of John F. Kennedy. I would highly recommend this book for all libraries serving teenage patrons.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Scholastic, has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book for review purposes. My review is in no way influenced by the author or publishing company and is solely my opinion.

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