Fifty years ago today, an unspeakable tragedy occurred, one that left a generation scarred with memories of where they were when President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated.
The Kennedy family connections to the Vineyard run deep. JFK had visited many times, most often on day sails from Hyannis Port. The late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis later found her own refuge on the Island in her remote, windswept and rare Aquinnah property, which remains home to daughter Caroline Kennedy and her family. And the Vineyard is forever marked by its own Kennedy tragedy of fourteen years ago when John F. Kennedy Jr. died when the small plane he was piloting crashed.
So it was that even as the events of November twenty-second, 1963, in Dallas, Texas shook the world, they also felt personal here. The front page of the Gazette the following Friday reflected Islanders’ shock and sadness. Schools, government offices and many businesses were closed. Churches were filled with mourners.
We join the country today in solemn remembrance of the events of fifty years ago that left an indelible mark on the country. What follows is the editorial that was published in the Gazette on November twenty-ninth, 1963, seven days after President Kennedy was assassinated, under the headline A Memorial in the Hearts of Men.
He will be forever young. His youth will live in the pages of history, and this is not a small or unimportant thing. Amid frustration and erosion of the spirit, gravity and crisis, the abundance of John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s fresh spirit and optimism will supply the strength of his unforgettable example.
All else aside, he represented too the utter routing of bigotry. In candor of language and behavior, in the context of his personal and official life, it was inconceivable that he would seek to impose it on others. Catholics, Protestants and Jews were free to support his politics, and they did; they were as free to oppose his politics, and they did.
The best memorial that can be erected to him is a larger sense of humanity in the hearts of men and women. The things that bind together are more important than the things that rend apart. What diminishes humanity for one, diminishes it for all.
The lesson has been taught for some two thousand years, but it has not yet been completely learned. May not this tragedy, the dimensions of which are so hard to conceive, bring home again and in the new light of our times, the force of the spirit and ethic which alone can justify and fulfill our common heritage.