8- The Michigan Daily - Monday, November 22, 1993
30 years later, why do we remember Camelot?'
By DAVID SHFJPARDSON
Daily staff reporter
"Remember in the '60s, when... Oh, wait, you weren't around."
In a performance last month, comedian Dennis Miller said these very
words to a primarily student crowd at Hill Auditorium.
For nearly all the students currently enrolled, the assassination of President
John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 is remembered as just another historical
event. But those alive in that age remember in intimate detail the place, time
and even the weather at the moment they found out.
The president had a special relationship with people at the University.
Speaking at the Michigan Union in October 1960, Kennedy outlined a vision
for the Peace Corps, much in response to a campus group dedicated to create
such a program. And Kennedy had already agreed that Fall to be the com-
mencement speaker at University exercises in 1964.
Thirty years later, students' connection to the assassination is in the masses
of books, articles, photos and the stories others tell of Kennedy.
The connection to students is clear. The youthful president exudes idealism
and is turned into a martyr for a succeeding generation of students. Kennedy
now exemplifies -justified or not - the host of problems many students wish
to see solved in their lifetimes: poverty, civil rights and peace. At the same
time, he is enveloped by a cloud of suspicion that the government conspired
to prevent such changes from taking place by ensuring his assassination.
Much of the conspiracy mantra stems from Oliver Stone's 1992 film,
"JFK." Characterized by most historians as fantasy, the film propels the belief
that a cast of characters including the Central Intelligence Agency, Cuban
dictator Fidel Castro, organized crime, President Lyndon Johnson, the U.S.
military and various other governmental officials took part in a massive
Scattered across the country, 'U' alums
remember mourning resident as students
By MONA QURESHI
Daily staff reporter
Imagine the bustling University
campus screeching to a halt. Picture
businesses putting up "closed" signs
and students returning to residence
halls, heads down in silence and
Imagine the Ohio State-Michi-
gan football game put off for one
This scene characterized the cam-
pus after members of the University
community heard about the death of
President John F. Kennedy on the
fateful afternoon of Friday, Nov. 22,
Neil Berkson, who was an LSA
junior working at the Daily in 1963,
said he was exhausted after pulling a
Thursday all-nighter to study for an
art history exam Friday morning. He
said he returned to his room to nap,
and as always, turned on the radio to
lull him to sleep.
Berkson dozed in and out of con-
sciousness as he listened to the news.
Then he realized the significance
of the words ;emerging through the
leapt out of
bed, raced to
the Daily,' ass
and worked President
with the staff has tI
to produce a reserved5 ,L
tra within t outsz #f
five hours. our mournz
" T i s have not yetd
was the first
event like endure andex
this of our - Louise Li
adult lives Daily Editori
like it since,"
said Berkson, who is currently an
attorney residing in New Hampshire.
Campus radio station WCBN ex-
punged its normal programming,
schedule to broadcast the up-to-the-
minute news to students and faculty
yearning for information of what was
Harlan Hatcher, president of the
University from 1951 to 1967, can-
celed classes to allow the University
to participate in the national moment
of mourning at 4 p.m. Monday. More
than 4,000 University community
members crowded into Hill Audito-
rium for a memorial ceremony led by
When classes resumed Tuesday,
students and instructors who were able
to attend did not stay for long, Berkson
In a letter to the Daily, 1966 Uni-
versity graduate Barry Bluestone re-
corded his thoughts about a philoso-
phy lecture given by former Prof.
Arnold Kaufman on the Tuesday morn-
ing following the Kennedy assassina-
He described Kaufman's lecture,
which stressed that University stu-
dents have to carry on a legacy push-
ing for civil rights legislation and try-
ing to ingrain equality in the mindset
Hatcher called off all entertain-
ment events, including postponing the
OSU-Michigan game to the following
Saturday, and canceling a Gilbert and
Sullivan Society production as well as
the annual joint Glee Club perfor-
mance with OSU's choir.
In an official statement, he remem-
bered the 35th President fondly, but
said it was important for the living to
Immediate members of the Kennedy family are pictured during the funeral.
hnE Ker y
hgods and the
Berimg u l e
Smute, for we
eared ow t
al; Nov. 24, 1963
will result in
stood for and
We all join in
the death of
- a great, a
good and. a
Lyndon Johnson takes the oath of office aboard Air Force One.
At a time when polls say many Americans are losing faith in the institution of
government, the film struck a chord with many who hold deep mistrust. This,
along with a spate of widely-read books replete with photos of the dead president,
add to the belief that four out of five people hold: the assassination was the direct
result of a conspiracy.
Few administrators or professors profess such a belief. But many say they
have nagging questions over the sloppy handling of the Warren Commission
Report that no one.can completely put to rest.
But the pendulum is swinging back to the single assassin theory. New articles
in Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report, along with PBS and CBS News
specials, support the Warren Commission Report's view that Lee Harvey Oswald
But as University history Prof. Sidney Fine said, "I don't think the
controversy will ever be settled."
Unlike other slain presidents or historical figures, such as Abraham
Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr., Kennedy is remembered on the date of the
assassination, rather than the date of his birth.
The reason, historians propound, is because Americans remember the
assassination and the very personal way it affected them, more so than specific
policies or beliefs Kennedy held.
"It was the end of the age of innocence," said Walter Harrison, vice
president for University relations.
Fine, who teaches a widely-attended course on modern American history,
says it is a matter of style over substance. He points out that in a recent Gallup
poll, Kennedy enjoys a higher approval rating than most presidents, including
President Franklin Roosevelt.
Fine questioned whether it truly was the end of an era. "We really don't
know what Kennedy would have done in a second term," he said. "And we do
know that Johnson has a much better record of achievements."
Beyond achievements, Kennedy's presidency has become part of popular
culture. For a nation without royalty, the Kennedys have been continually
dubbed "America's royals." And with more pomp than circumstance and style
over substance, Kennedy has become a folk hero to a heroless generation.
Another highly-publicized event, another mini-series. "Kennedy: Reck-
less Youth," is the latest in a long line of portrayals of Kennedy, further
blurring the boundary between fantasy and reality. New family portraits
boosted circulation of People magazine. No anniversary of his death goes
unnoticed, and streets, airports, coins and grade schools bear his name. Amid
a sea of hollow reminders of his name, Kennedy has come to symbolize what
people want to see in him.
In October 1960, much of the Uni-
versity community felt Kennedy's al-
lure as a politician when the Massa-
chusetts senator visited while cam-
paigning for the presidency.
On the steps of the Michigan Union
at 1:40 a.m. Oct. 13, Kennedy told the
gathering of 10,000 Ann Arborites
that the world needed to decrease mili-
tary action. The loudest applause came
when he proposed the Peace Corps.
Ending his brief address sheepishly,
Kennedy admitted, "I came here to
THE THIN VENEERi
OF CIVIU.ZA I1N
Seenty-Three Years of Editorial Freedom
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Above is the page one neadline of the Daily the day following of the assassination, Nov. 23. The Daiy printed a one-page extra five nours ater .iFs deatn.
'U' community members painfully recaK's assassination
Thefollowing isa samplingofcom-
ments from University professors, ad-
ministratorsandofficials relating their
feelingsandmemoriesofthe day Presi-
dent Kennedy was assassinated.
the type of 'positive' protests that
students were involved in at the time
and what came afterward. For ex-
ample, there was no drug use to speak
of. My sister, who graduated from
college a couple of years later, had a
Ruby shoot Oswald on TV. I was
sitting in the basement and I watched
him go right up and shoot him. I yelled
to my wife, "Somebody shot Oswald."
WALTER HARRISON, vice
president for University relations: A
eaninr n an.'.knnl T nrnc. c.41+mniin
like, in that song, "American Pie," the
day the music died. It was the end of the
age of innocence. He was the symbol
and the hope of a generation.
KENNETH LIEBERTHAL, pro-
fessor of Political Science: I learned of