I wasn’t born when J. F. K. was assassinated. I was born 13 years later. I have been fascinated by Jack Kennedy throughout my life though; from his being second to Joe Kennedy Jr. in their father’s eyes, to his slightly inflated war record, to his ability to step up into a time and place that needed him. I wonder what the world would have been like if Jack had lived.
Historical theorists have a lot of opinions regarding Jack’s possible political wrangling if he had lived. He would have likely hastened the Civil Rights Act through Congress and likely would have scaled down America’s involvement in Vietnam. While he was responsible for some troop increases, it’s likely he wouldn’t have “Americanized” the war the way Johnson and later Nixon did. After the Bay of Pigs, he had serious distrust of the military and likely would not have followed their plans for escalation in Vietnam.
Jack was anti-poverty and would have worked to ensure that all Americans had a chance at success, but would have stayed away from the idea of government supported welfare. He would have stuck to his inaugural message of, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” As a Democrat he did believe in public welfare, but he thought of it more as communities taking care of each other and not having to be nursed on the government’s teat. That Americans can take care of Americans and it was right to do so, but it was a job for the people and not any political party. Much like the plans to go to the moon, he believed in the boldness of America and its people to accomplish great things.
It’s quite likely that had he lived he would have had a second term through 1968 and Richard Nixon never would have made it on the ballot. In fact, if the policies and programs under consideration at the time of Jack’s assassination had been able to come to fruition, it is unlikely Ronald Regan or even George H. W. Bush would have been elected President.
I’m not saying America would be perfect now or that we wouldn’t have any social or economic problems. I’m sure there would have been a lot more rocky seas ahead, but I can’t help but speculate on what the world would have been like had Lee Harvey Oswald stayed home on November 22, 1963.