Bloggers are required, as a condition of their residency in the blogosphere, to commemorate anniversaries of important public events. For the most part, we have nothing particularly memorable to say about those events, and anniversaries that are multiples of ten or fifty or one hundred are quite arbitrary anyway, but I do not want representatives of Google knocking on my door at midnight, so I shall dutifully write a post about the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Four assassinations in less than five years defined the 60's, for those of us who lived through them, and had a real as well as symbolic impact on the public life of America. The first, which today commemorates, was the assassination in 1963 of President John F. Kennedy. The second, which I confess I did not take note of at the time, was the assassination of Malcolm X on February 21, 1965; The third was the assassination of Martin Luther King on April 4, 1965; and the fourth, barely two months later, was the assassination of Robert Kennedy on June 6, 1968. I recall exactly where I was on the occasion of the first, third, and fourth.
I have told the story of the JFK assassination in my Memoir, and will not repeat it here, save to recall that I was in the catalogue room of Widener Library at Harvard when I heard the news. I was driving with my wife in Manhattan when I heard about MLK. And I was giving my young son, Patrick, a bottle in the middle of the night when I heard about RFK.
JFK was not much of a loss, if the truth be told. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were great losses, and it is possible, but only possible, that Bobby Kennedy might have played an important role in American politics, had he lived. With his death, it fell to the least of the Kennedy boys, my Harvard classmate Teddy Kennedy, to continue the political ambitions of his father and in time become one of the great Senators in the history of that institution. I never knew Teddy, of course. We travelled in different circles at Harvard, to put it delicately.