November 22, 1963

“If this nation is to be wise as well as strong, if we are to achieve our destiny, then we need more new ideas for more wise men reading more good books in more public libraries. These libraries should be open to all—except the censor. We must know all the facts and hear all the alternatives and listen to all the criticisms. Let us welcome controversial books and controversial authors. For the Bill of Rights is the guardian of our security as well as our liberty.”
― John F. Kennedy

I appreciate JFK’s love of books, ideas, and freedom. He was a liberal in the best sense of the word. We still need to read controversial books and hear controversial ideas.

The Kennedys arriving in Dallas. Photograph from the JFK Library.

The Kennedys arriving in Dallas. Photograph from the JFK Library.

Photo from Library of Congress American Memory Collection.

Photo from Library of Congress American Memory Collection.

I was almost three years old when John F. Kennedy was shot. What I remember is my mother ironing while watching the news on tv. She was bawling, which made a big impression on me at the time. I knew that something very bad had happened but I don’t remember the facts, just that my mother was very upset.

When I was older, we had the Associated Press’s The Torch is Passed: Death of an American President in the bookcase, and I remember looking through it many times. The sense of history, sadness, and pain came through the collection of images.

JFK-cecil-stoughton-ARC-194235

LJB being sworn in. Photograph by Cecil Stoughton; from Library of Congress.

John Jr. salutes his father. Photo from Library of Congress.

Image: John F. Kennedy, Jr. salutes his father’s coffin at President Kennedy’s funeral, with his widow First Lady Jacqueline (Jackie) Kennedy, daughter Caroline, and brothers Edward (Ted) Kennedy and Robert (Bobby) Kennedy. Photo from gpo.gov

JFK's coffin. Photo from JFK Library

JFK’s coffin. Photo from JFK Library

When I was in Dallas earlier this year, I visited the Sixth Floor Museum in what used to be the Texas Book Depository. Looking out the sixth floor toward the grassy knoll was eery. The museum has a library with a nice collection of artifacts, newspapers, and other printed materials. They have a digital collection that can be searched here. They’ve been working on an interesting project in which they’ve been collecting the oral histories and memories of some of the folks who witnessed the assassination and aftermath; you can find some of the interviews on their YouTube channel.

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