In a little over a week, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. So our cover story, "Madison Remembers JFK," may be a week early, but it's well behind numerous retrospectives in print and on broadcast. And you can expect more in the coming week.
Local author and longtime Isthmus contributor Stu Levitan has combed the archives and plumbed the depths of local memories to reconstruct the reaction in Wisconsin's capital. Wisconsin had a significant role in the story of John F. Kennedy and his unanticipated march to the White House in the 1960 election. During that spring's Wisconsin primary Kennedy defeated Hubert H. Humphrey, liberal darling and senator from Minnesota, to establish himself as the man to beat for the Democrat presidential nomination.
For people of a certain age, Nov. 22, 1963, is a significant date in their lives. As with 9/11/01, they can tell you exactly what they were doing when they heard the news. And they will never forget, no matter the banality of their actions at the time.
There has been extensive speculation on what Kennedy might or might not have achieved if allowed to complete his presidency. We'll never really know. But we do know what did happen. Kennedy's vice president and successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson, used the sympathetic public reaction to the ignoble deed to achieve progressive legislation on civil and voting rights for his "Great Society" initiative.
That was then, of course, and this is now. A half-century later the forces of reaction have recovered enough to try to recast the role of government in private life. Ask not what your country can do for you, indeed.