Editor’s note: This editorial originally appeared in The Star on Saturday, Nov. 23, 1963.
This nation and the free world suffered by far the greatest tragedy of our time in the assassination yesterday of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Tex.
He was, indeed, an inspired and inspiring leader who belongs to the ages.
Born to great wealth, he early distinguished himself in academic work, served heroically in combat in World War II, worked for the International News Service for a time before being elected Congressman, and at age 43 became the youngest President of the United States.
He was, in our considered opinion, the equal of Jefferson and Wilson in his intellectual orientation, and none of his 34 predecessors in the White House brought to that abode as much enthusiasm, warmth and affection as did John. F. Kennedy as a young husband and father.
In all of the nation’s history, only four Chief Executives have been cut down by assassin’s bullets: Abraham Lincoln in 1865, James Garfield in 1881, William McKinley in 1901, and now Mr. Kennedy lies dead at the hands of a heinous murderer.
Although he served less than three years as President, it is safe to say that his administration will go down in history, considering the enormity and complexity of domestic and international problems with which he came to grips, as an outstandingly effective and successful one.
In fact, President Kennedy’s high place in history is vouchsafed by the heartfelt tributes now being paid to his memory by leading personages over the globe.
In London, Sir Winston Churchill, foremost living statesman, has said, referring to President Kennedy’s assassination, as a “monstrous” act.
“The loss to the United States and to the world is incalculable. Those who come after Mr. Kennedy must strive to achieve the ideals of world peace and human happiness and dignity to which his Presidency was dedicated.”
President De Gaulle of France, himself the target of two major assassination attempts, said in Paris:
“President Kennedy died as a soldier, under fire, for his duty and in service to his country. In the name of the French people, a friend at all times of the American people, I salute this great example and this great memory.”
Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller asserted in New York City that the death of President Kennedy is “a terrible tragedy” for the nation and the world.
“May God grant strength and guidance to Lyndon Johnson as he assumes his grave responsibilities under tragic circumstances,” Rockefeller continued. “The prayers of all of us will indeed be with him.”
Indeed, in the fact of Mr. Johnson’s succession to the Presidency, there is an insight into Mr. Kennedy’s greatness.
At the 1960 Democratic convention in Los Angeles, Mr. Kennedy sought no neutral running mate after he had won the Presidential nomination. Instead, he made straight for the convention headquarters of Mr. Johnson, his strongest rival, asking that he accept the Vice Presidential nomination.
Hence, while the nation ponders its staggering loss, it can find consolation in knowing that the reins of government have passed to a strong, capable man.
It also can draw inspiration and guidance in all the years to come from the martyred Mr. Kennedy’s priceless legacy of courage, humanitarianism and high ideals.
Not quite three years ago, Jan, 20, 1961, President Kennedy said, “We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end was well as a beginning -- signifying a renewal as well as change.”
And, at the time, he called on us thus: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.”
Thirteen months ago yesterday, he summoned the awful might of the new weaponry that he symbolized and used it with strength combined with wise restraint.
It was 7 p.m., Oct. 22, 1962. The whole world shuddered when he told a stunned nation:
“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”
Yesterday, he was on his way to strike out at the apostles of fear and doubt.
He would have said at the Dallas Trade Mart:
“Other voices are heard in the land, voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the ‘60s, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness."
He would have said these plain words, but they are now part of the epitaph he wrote for himself.