King Arthur: "Don’t let it be forgot / That once there was a spot / For one brief shining moment / That was known as Camelot.’’
— from the Lerner and Loewe musical, "Camelot’’
It was 50 years ago today, also a Friday, that one shot or three shots — whichever conclusion you embrace — killed the leader of the free world.
President John F. Kennedy symbolized a new and vigorous life for a young generation of baby boomers who, with their parents, had just come through the idealism of the 1950s.
Up and until that day, we truly lived in a "Leave it to Beaver" world. Our only real fear was that the Russians were going to drop an atomic bomb on us.
Kennedy was one of the last of the true Democrats, who were probably more conservative in their business agenda than some of today’s Republicans. He was not a particularly great president in the image of Lincoln, but he represented a chance for positive changes: a push for civil rights for all, and a spirit of volunteerism and civic involvement.
He represented courage as we faced the very real possibility of another world war, and he stared down our mortal Cold War enemies.
The shots fired on that bright, sunny Dallas day set in motion distrust and bitterness that linger even today.
Those of us who are old enough to remember Nov. 22, 1963, probably remember the tears, the shock and the mourning that gripped our nation. The many TV documentaries and special programs about Kennedy and the assassination this past week have had many of us weeping again.
We do not and cannot know what might have been different if Kennedy had lived. Would we have been as deeply involved in a war that killed many brave Americans and bitterly divided our nation? Would the Civil Rights Movement have been a smoother, or tougher, transition?
What we do know is that for one brief, shining moment, there truly was a "Camelot" in this country.
Wouldn’t it be grand if we could feel that optimism again?