November 22, 2013
CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST: Hello. I`m Chris Matthews. Welcome to our
special night of programming to mark the 50th anniversary of the
assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Half a century later, JFK`s legacy as an inspirational leader is as
large as the day he was hit by the assassin`s bullets. Ten years ago, on
the 40th anniversary, MSNBC asked prominent Americans "Where were you on
that fateful day when time stood still?" We talked to a variety of people,
from public figures to eyewitnesses, to folks from JFK`s inner circle about
what his loss meant to them and to the country.
Sadly, with the passing of another decade, some of those closest to
him have died, making their perspective offered in this documentary ever
more valuable. So joining me now for this special encore presentation of
"JFK: The Day That Changed America."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a bang. And we all said, What was that?
Was that a shot?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Kennedy`s been shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The announcement came on the radio that the
president, in fact, had died.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chet Huntley (INAUDIBLE) NBC News broke in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Kennedy was assassinated today in a
burst of gunfire in downtown Dallas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Suddenly, he was gone.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And of course, everybody said, Well, it can`t be
true. Can`t be true. I mean, this can`t be true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just don`t believe something like that`s
happening in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I fear for the future of the nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I cried and cried and cried.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shock, dismay, anger, sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And seeing everybody just with that look of panic
and being upset. And it was -- it was everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The life of the nation changed in a cataclysmic
ANNOUNCER: JFK; The Day that Changed America. From historic Faneuil
Hall in Boston, here is Chris Matthews.
MATTHEWS: Good evening. Boston is where you`ll find John F.
Kennedy`s electoral roots. It was from here the young veteran was elected
to the Congress in the years just after World War II. It was here that he
won his seat in the U.S. Senate. When Kennedy bid for the nation`s highest
office, it was here in Boston, right here in Faneuil Hall, that JFK made
his final campaign appearance on election even, 1960.
Kennedy won that election, of course, one of the closest ever. But
his presidency also turned out to be among the shortest. After barely
1,000 days in office, John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was in Dallas,
Texas, on November 22nd, 1963.
It was a day that changed America. Over the next hour, we`ll hear
from an extraordinary cross-section of Americans, remembering that day and
the days that followed, the sense of shock, of stark, violent loss. No one
who lived through it will ever forget.
John F. Kennedy brought possibility to the White House in the early
`60s, youthful energy and idealism mixed with the tough-minded pragmatism
of a political pro. He made mistakes but learned from them. And by late
1963, he was confident, popular, eager for a second term.
The trip to Texas that November was a preview of the `64 campaign.
Wife Jacqueline, who had recently lost a new baby, was at his side.
Leaving Washington that morning, John F. Kennedy seemed on the top of
the world, at the top of his game.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here is the news. Here`s a report from San
Antonio from NBC News Robert MacNeil from WOAI-TV.
ROBERT MACNEIL, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For a trip the White
House again called non-political, the president arrived with a very
political-looking escort of 17 Democratic congressmen and Mrs. Kennedy.
Kennedy went to several cities in Texas to try looking towards the
election in 1964, to try and calm the splits among Texas Democrats, who
were torn apart.
TED SORENSEN, KENNEDY SPEECHWRITER: White Southerners did not like
Kennedy`s basic principles, his call to end racial discrimination, and the
hate mail poured into the White House. A good many people who hated him
already hated him because he was a Catholic. But Kennedy wasn`t deterred
by hate mail or by criticism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it was Mrs. Kennedy who was featured at the
arrival, turning on the smile that hasn`t been used in domestic politicking
since the campaign in 1960.
LETITIA BALDRIDGE, JACQUELINE KENNEDY`S CHIEF OF STAFF: Oh! She was
thrilled to be going because she was going to help Jack. It was, quote,
"Help Jack," unquote.
GERALD FORD, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Kennedy was
different. He was younger. He had a lot of pizzazz. The nation became
enamored with this young, attractive, able, articulate president of the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tomorrow, the president visits Dallas, where
police are taking special precautions in case of unfriendly demonstrations.
MACNEIL: Kennedy`d been warned that it could be dangerous to go to
Dallas because there were right-wing opponents there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a day or so before the visit is where a few
things came out, like a brochure that was handed out that President Kennedy
was wanted for treason.
JESSE CURRY, DALLAS CHIEF OF POLICE: We would be foolish, I think,
not to anticipate some trouble. I don`t -- really, I don`t anticipate any
MACNEIL: It could not have been a more joyous, enthusiastic crowd.
And that was all remarkable, given all the apprehension about how Dallas
would receive him.
JACK VALENTI, SPECIAL ASST. TO LBJ: I was six cars back in the
motorcade in Dallas. We came under the underpass and onto Dealey Plaza and
past an undistinguished building which I later learned was the Texas School
GAYLE NEWMAN, EYEWITNESS: The car turned off of Houston on to M (ph)
Street, and started approaching us. And I guess when it was probably 50 to
100 feet from us, we heard two noises that were fairly close together that
sounded like firecrackers to me.
MACNEIL: And there was a bang, and we all said, What was that? Was
that a shot? Was that a backfire? Was it fireworks? And we all -- there
was that kind of exchange, and then there was a "Bang, bang," like that,
close together. I said, Those are shots!
GAYLE NEWMAN: When it got directly in front of us is when the third
shot hit him in the head, and he fell over into Mrs. Kennedy`s lap.
ROBERT NEWMAN, EYEWITNESS: And I can remember her hollering, Oh, my
God, no! They`ve shot Jack! And that`s when I turned to Gayle, and I
said, That`s it. Hit the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was impossible to tell at once where Kennedy
was hit, but bullet wounds in Governor Connally`s chest were plainly
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: I was 23 years old. I was working in a
newsroom in Omaha, Nebraska. The newsroom was abandoned. I was the only
one on shift. I`d gotten to work that morning at about 5:00. And I had
just finished the noon news, and the bells began to ring on the AP and the
UPI ticker. I wandered over to see what was going on and stared in
DON HEWITT, CBS NEWS: I was in the CBS newsroom. I called Frank
Stanton, who was the president of CBS. And the secretary said, Mr. Hewitt,
he can`t be disturbed. He`s in a meeting. He`ll call you back. I said,
Disturb him. She said, What do you mean? I said, The president of the
United States has been shot. She said, Oh, my God. Wait.
BROKAW: In those days in the Midwest, at least, the network was dark.
There was no network, and it was local programming. And we had a kind of
women`s show that talked about gardening. I ran downstairs at KMTV in
Omaha and began to read a bulletin on the air. And you know, everyone was
discombobulated and disoriented.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The air was filled with the screams of women and
children. A sort of very feminine wailing filled the air, and everybody
lay down on the sidewalks, on the grass on the edge of the parkway.
MACNEIL: Like a million people screaming shrilly. It was a most
amazing sound of high soprano wails.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The car in front of us went from 8 miles an hour
to 80 miles an hour, and I knew something was wrong.
WIN LAWSON, SUPERVISED DALLAS SECURITY: I asked Chief Curry to call
Parkland Hospital emergency, you know, through his police network and tell
them that we were on our way and to be ready for us, and so forth.
MACNEIL: A policeman stopped me, asked me who I was. And I was just
telling him when a little black boy came up and said to us, Mister, I seen
a man with a gun right up in the window there. And then a woman, a very
distracted woman, came up and said, He wasn`t hurt, was he? And I said, I
don`t know. And the policeman said, He was hurt bad. He took me over to
his motorcycle, and the radio was saying severe head wounds, Parkland
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was such a sudden impact that it had. I can
recall I hit the ground with my fist a couple of times, like that, and I
said, Some son of a bitch has shot the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was in Washington. I was in my White House car
coming back from the luncheon meeting and received word to get back to the
White House immediately. And I returned and heard that terrible news.
JAY LENO, COMEDIAN: That was the first time I remember sort of going
out on the streets and seeing everybody just with that look of panic and
being upset. And it was everywhere.
JOHN SEIGENTHALER, SR. FMR. EDITOR, "THE TENNESSEEAN": Associated
Press journalist read the bulletin on the wire, and brought it into my
office. And I was infuriated and said, Rocky, if this is somebody`s idea
of a joke, it`s sick. And his eyes welled up with tears, and he said,
John, I wish it were.
HILLARY CLINTON, FMR. FIRST LADY: I was a sophomore in high school.
And our teacher was called out of the room. And when he came back in, he
just looked stricken, and he said, They -- I remember this -- They`ve shot
the president. You couldn`t even believe it. I mean, it seemed so
unimaginable in America, at least the kind of safe, secure America I`d
grown up in.
LESLIE UGGAMS, ACTRESS: I was glued to the television because I just
didn`t think it was true. I thought, There has to be a mistake. And if he
was shot, he`s going to be all right.
REP. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My headmaster took the microphone
to tell us that our hero, President Kennedy, had been shot. And there was
a shock that went through all of us because he was our hero. He was us,
Irish Catholic from Boston.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I heard it on the car radio that
President Kennedy had been shot, and it was so sad, it was unbelievable. I
cried, like so many hundreds and thousands and millions of Americans.
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: The nuns immediately got the entire school
up out of their desks and over to the church to pray for the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Learning that the president was critically
wounded, stunned Chicagoans turned to their churches, leaving their offices
in the Loop, their homes and businesses in the suburbs.
JUDGE JUDY SHEINDLIN: My family were really not religious people, and
I remember being drawn to the temple and people drawn to their houses of
worship just to go there and get some sense of comfort.
BOB WRIGHT, NBC: I was in Holy Cross College. The professor came in
and said that the president`s been shot. And he didn`t have many details,
and everybody just sort of was shocked. He said, He may be dying. We
MERV GRIFFIN, ENTERTAINER: Of course, I was at Studio 8H, where
"Saturday Night Live" comes from. I was looking at renderings for a set of
a new game show that I was doing there, producing there, and someone came
in and said, John Kennedy`s been shot. And all of us became motionless. I
remember it vividly.
And we just quietly put down, and said, That ends the day, and we left
and went to the news floor of NBC because we knew everybody in there -- if
we could pick up something. And as we walked, people were coming down, all
the news people, crying, tears running down their face.
VALENTI: Secret Service man came up to me when I identified myself,
and he told me the president had been shot, Governor Connally had been
shot, they were at Parkland Hospital. So we raced over there in a deputy
sheriff`s car. And when I got there, I went in the basement, where dozens
of people were gathered, grieving, somber. Hysteria was traveling around
that room like an epidemic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have sent out from Parkland Hospital a call
for top surgical specialists in Dallas and also a call for a Roman Catholic
priest. But again, the best information we have now is that the president
is still alive.
DR. ROBERT MCCLELLAND, PARKLAND HOSPITAL SURGEON: So we got off the
elevator and went around the corner out into the main part of the emergency
room. And I saw immediately there was a huge crowd there, very
uncharacteristically. And then the crowd parted as I got about halfway
down toward trauma room one, and I saw Mrs. Kennedy sitting there on the
chair with her blood-stained clothing on. And I thought, Oh, my!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frank, to interrupt for a moment, there is this
from Dallas. President Kennedy has been given blood transfusions at
Parkland Hospital in an effort to save his life.
ANNOUNCER: "JFK: The Day That Changed America."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The flash from Dallas. Two priests who were with
President Kennedy say he is dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of bullet wounds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The black, ugly words are in print, "president
shot dead," "President dead."
VALENTI: We got into a police car, and went out to Air Force One. I
didn`t know why. It had been removed to a remote corner of Love Field and
guarded now by a cordon heavily armed, very menacing-looking men. I got on
the airplane, and then, suddenly, from the rear of the plane came this 6-
foot-4 figure of Lyndon Johnson.
SID DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: And Judge Hughes was about to
administer the oath when Johnson asked one of the staffers to see whether
Mrs. Kennedy wanted to participate. And so we waited a few minutes, and
then she arrived into the room. And of course, the room fell silent at
Johnson walked over to her, took her by the hand and placed her to his
left. Mrs. Johnson was on his right. And then he nodded, and she
proceeded with the oath. Immediately after the oath, he kissed Mrs.
Johnson. He went over and kissed Mrs. Kennedy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This afternoon, wherever you were and whatever you
might have been doing when you received the word of the death of President
Kennedy, that is a moment that will emblazoned in your memory and you will
never forget it as long as you live.
SORENSEN: This was my closest friend, my leader, my guide, my hero,
my role model, my champion. He was the center of my life and my attention.
And suddenly, he was gone.
BROKAW: I was stunned. I thought, This doesn`t happen. You know, I
had grown up in -- in the heartland and small town America, kind of the
innocence of that time. Even though the specter of the cold war was
hanging over us, we didn`t shoot our presidents. And not this president.
GORE VIDAL, AUTHOR: My first reaction, since, after all, I`d known
him a long time, was, It`s not possible. Jack does not get shot.
President McKinley gets shot. Abraham Lincoln gets shot. Jack Kennedy
does not get shot.
HEWITT: It was a terrible time because you didn`t know what happened.
Were we being attacked? Was this the Russians or the Cubans? Was it the
Mafia? Nobody knew.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Shock, dismay, anger, sorrow, a
mixture. And immediately, I thought about what happens to the armed
services, the armed forces, because the commander-in-chief is -- is -- has
just been killed.
CARL REINER, ACTOR: We were in the second day of rehearsal of the Van
Dyke show. And all of a sudden, somebody says, Come into the prop room,
which is where the television was. And there was the news, Cronkite
telling us that we`d lost our president. And we just sat there. We looked
at each other and -- Should we go home? Should we do what? And we decided
that we`re going to do this show four days -- three days hence. I said, We
can`t ask people to laugh -- nobody`s going to laugh -- and we -- the only
show out of 158 shows we did without a studio audience.
KEVIN BACON, ACTOR: My mother came to pick me up at school. And she
seemed strange and she seemed sad. And you know, she took me home early
and said, you know, The president`s been killed. A great man`s been
killed. And so, you know, I -- and it was weird because I thought about it
a lot on September 11 because I went to pick my daughter up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life in a good part in the United States, and
indeed, a good part of the world remains at a virtual standstill, stunned
into immobility by the assassination of President Kennedy.
MARY STEENBURGEN, ACTRESS: My father went out because there were some
men from the city who were working with the flooding on the street outside.
My father was out there, and they must have had their radio on. And I
remember just watching it, like, through the window, like a scene in a
movie. I could see that in the rain, my father had started to cry and was
listening to something. And he came running in the house with the rain
pouring, and I could see he was crying. And he ran to the phone to call my
mother at work to tell her. And that`s when he told me.
LEWIS: I feared for the future of the nation and the future of the
civil rights movement, because we saw the Kennedy administration as a
sympathetic referee in the struggle for civil rights.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The face and voice of a young girl summed it up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s your feeling right now?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really couldn`t say, really. Right now, I
just don`t know what to do. I don`t even know where to go, what to say.
Nothing will be the same.
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: All of a
sudden, the world became a nasty place, because you would say, how could
this happen? Our president, so attractive, the family, the whole thing, I
mean, how could this happen? So, it was in a sense maybe for me the first
time of the loss of an age of innocence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here you were watching this guy Lee Harvey Oswald
being taken from, you know, the jail in Dallas, and you actually saw him
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s been shot. He`s been shot. Lee Oswald has
been shot. There`s a man with a gun. There`s absolute panic, absolute
panic here in the basement of Dallas police headquarters.
NARRATOR: "JFK: The Day That Changed America."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening. The essential facts are these.
President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas. He was shot by a sniper
hiding in a building near his parade route. He was dead within an hour.
Lyndon Johnson is president of the United States.
DICK EBERSOL, TELEVISION EXECUTIVE: The other images that stand out
in my mind at that weekend are Jackie standing below the airplane at
Andrews Air Force Base waiting for the coffin to be lowered and seeing what
appeared to be blood on the clothing of the president`s wife.
DON IMUS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I remember thinking, at the time,
that he can`t possibly have been killed. You know, it was -- it was
incomprehensible to me that the president would be killed.
LETITIA BALDRIGE, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF FOR JACQUELINE KENNEDY: The
whole White House staff couldn`t believe what had happened. They walked
around on tiptoe, no noise in the hall. The halls were always noisy and
full of laughter and people teasing each other and greeting each other.
Not a sound.
JAMES AUCHINCLOSS, BROTHER OF JACQUELINE KENNEDY: And when I got to
Washington at the airport, I was told that Caroline and John had been taken
from the White House to our house in Georgetown, and they`d not been told
of their father`s assassination.
All of the radios and televisions had been, of course, unplugged, so
they wouldn`t try to turn it on and watch a cartoon and discover the news
LESLIE UGGAMS, ACTRESS: I felt that I had not only lost my president,
but I lost a friend. I was like in slow-motion that whole time. I mean,
it was try to sleep and eat, but you were glued to the television because I
wanted to know everything that -- that was going on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sniper`s nest has been found, and police have
recovered a British .303 rifle with a telescopic sight. Also, police
searching that area found three empty .303 cartridge cases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One man has been taken into custody. He was taken
into custody in the Texas Theater in Dallas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Dallas police chief, Jesse Curry, announced
just a few moments ago that charges of murdering President Kennedy have
been filed against Lee Harvey Oswald.
LEE HARVEY OSWALD, SUSPECT: I -- I don`t know what this is all about.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you kill the president?
OSWALD: No, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you shoot the president?
OSWALD: I work in that building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Were you in the building at the time?
OSWALD: Naturally, if I work in that building, yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up, man!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, man!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you shoot the president?
OSWALD: No. They`re taking me in because of the fact that I live in
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What time...
OSWALD: I`m just a patsy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you kill the president?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In looking at the chief of police in that crowded,
hot-looking corridor in Dallas a while ago, it seemed to me to be that all
this sadness and horror was caused by a punk with a mail-order rifle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. I
ask for your help and God`s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a solemn procession in Washington early
this morning as the body of President Kennedy was taken to the White House
from the Bethesda Naval Hospital. The chief executive returned for the
last time to the house from which he had governed the nation.
CONNIE STEVENS, ACTRESS: And I sat on this little couch for days and
days and days. I didn`t eat, I didn`t talk. I was sort of lost inside
myself, and I cried and cried and cried.
ROB REINER, DIRECTOR/ACTOR: President Kennedy gave us all hope. I
mean, he was young, he was vibrant. And we all had a sense of purpose. To
see him go like that, it was devastating.
RAMSEY CLARK, FORMER U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: For some
reason, I walked in the East Room first. And there in the middle of the
room was the stand with the president`s casket on it. Just impossible to
realize or believe that all that life and vigor and grace and joy was gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is quiet at the White House. It`s a dull, gray
day. It`s raining here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within the confines of the great White House, a
lonely little boy who observes his third birthday Monday wandered through a
big Washington house today complaining, "I don`t have anyone to play with."
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: All of America was in shock that
weekend, no one more than Jacqueline Kennedy, suddenly a widow at age 34.
Yet, she took charge of planning a funeral worthy of a Lincoln, a
Roosevelt, a John F. Kennedy.
Over the next two days, there would be a solemn procession to the
Capitol, where the body would lie in state, a funeral service attended by
dignitaries from around the world, and, finally, the burial at Arlington
National Cemetery, all of it watched on television by an audience of
I will be back with that part of the story in a moment.
MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I`m Milissa Rehberger.
NBC News has learned that negotiators in Geneva could reach a deal as
early as tomorrow to curb Iran`s nuclear program, this in exchange for
billions of dollars in sanctions relief for Iran.
Secretary of State John Kerry honored the memory of President John F.
Kennedy, visiting his grave site on the 50th anniversary of the president`s
And Princeton University has confirmed an eighth case of meningitis.
The school has already agreed to import a vaccine that`s not available in
the U.S. -- now back to "JFK."
NARRATOR: "JFK: The Day That Changed America."
From historic Faneuil Hall in Boston, here again is Chris Matthews.
MATTHEWS: Welcome back.
The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a horrific crime and a
national trauma. It was also one of the biggest news stories ever.
Here`s "The New York Times" from the morning after: "Kennedy Is Killed
By Sniper as He Rides in Car in Dallas, Johnson Sworn in on Plane."
But for millions of Americans, it all unfolded on television, which
stayed with the story nonstop. It was unprecedented. And that common
experience over those four days bonded the country in mourning and even now
On Sunday, November 24, Kennedy`s body was to be moved from the White
House to the Capitol Rotunda, where it would lie in state. Lee Harvey
Oswald, the accused killer, was to be transferred to county jail. For a
grieving nation, it was the second day of gunfire.
CHARLES MURPHY, CBS CORRESPONDENT: This is Charles Murphy in the
Dallas County Jail in Dallas, Texas, where we, along with about 40
reporters and photographers, are awaiting the arrival, a transfer of Lee
Oswald expected within the next few minutes. We`re told there`s a crowd of
about 2,500 people around the county jail area.
DR. ROBERT MCCLELLAND, PARKLAND HOSPITAL SURGEON: We were going out
for Sunday dinner. And so I thought I would just turn the TV on and see
what was going on, and so I leaned over and turned the television on. And,
just as the picture was forming, I could hear them saying, "He`s been shot.
He`s been shot."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s been shot. He`s been shot. Lee Oswald has
been shot. There`s a man with a gun. It`s absolute panic, absolute panic
here in the basement of Dallas police headquarters.
REINER: It was astounding.
I mean, there you were watching this guy Lee Harvey Oswald being taken
from the -- you know, the jail in Dallas, and you actually saw him get
CLARK: And I just couldn`t believe it would happen. The man accused
of assassinating the president of the United States? Well, how can these
things happen? What`s -- what`s going on, you know?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now lying very pale on the stretcher. He`s being
put into the ambulance head first.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was about 17 minutes past 12:00 Eastern
Standard Time when it happened, roughly 45 minutes before President
Kennedy`s body was to be moved from the White House and carried to the
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": I remember watching
it on TV and seeing my mother hysterical crying. And when you`re a kid,
you want to do something, and you can`t do anything.
And my mother was very upset when they showed John Jr, and, "Oh, that
little boy, what`s going to happen to him?"
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The crowd is very silent, lined very deeply on
both sides of the ends.
REINER: I will never forget the drumbeat of the cadence when they
took him down the streets in Washington, D.C., duh, duh, duh, duh, duh,
duh, duh, duh, duh.
CLARK: But the part that really stunned me and brought me quickly to
the reality that it`s true, he`s gone, was when, in the military tradition,
the horse in which a president might ride came with the saddle empty and
the boots in the stirrups turned backwards. It meant he is no more, that
the president is dead.
BALDRIGE: Mrs. Kennedy showed such dignity and composure and kindness
to everybody else, that she was absolutely -- she riveted everybody. She
calmed them down. She comforted them by the way she held herself up.
BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I think everybody just
looked at her and said, well, God, she`s the man`s wife. If she can hold
it together, then we have to.
REINER: I never could understand how someone could be that strong.
We were all crying, and she was strong for the nation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anyone ever epitomized the expression grace
under pressure, it is Jacqueline Kennedy.
Within the space of less than four months, she has lost a child and
her husband. The beauty of character she displayed is something we might
all wish to emulate when we are called upon to face tragedy in our own
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the ceremony is concluded, the people will
file past the body of their late president. There`s now a line four
blocks` long, four-abreast, people waiting to file through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people coming through now have been waiting
for at least 10 or 12 hours, waiting very quietly, in good order.
ED HARRIS, ACTOR: I actually went down to D.C. I grew up in New
Jersey. My mom and dad, who were huge Kennedy fans, we drove down to D.C.
to -- to view the body, you know? I mean, we drove down at night. We got
in line. We were there all night. And it was really cold.
DICK GREGORY, COMEDIAN: I was there, and just standing in line, and
just people, black, white, short, tall, rich, poor just in line crying.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Oh, I was devastated.
I spent a lost weekend literally at Yale glued to this little black
and white television set watching every incident of what was happening and
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Silently, they walk, faces that seem to mirror
BOB WRIGHT, FORMER NBC CEO: This is when -- when television came
alive, because, before that, television had covered -- really, it was more
political. And all of a sudden, you had a television in your home watching
these things unfold.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The continuing grief is evident across the United
States. Amusement places have shut down. Many sporting events scheduled
for the day and for this weekend have been postponed or canceled.
BOB NEWHART, COMEDIAN: I was supposed to do a stand-up with Dinah
Shore in California, but on the news of the president being assassinated,
they went dark, and then they went dark for about two days.
I went out and I learned a lot about comedy that night, because it was
one of the best audiences I ever played to, because they had to get away --
they just had to get away from the news. They had to deny it for a couple
of hours, and then go back and face it again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Monday, November 25, 1963. We`re originating our
program in Washington, where a funeral and burial services for John
Fitzgerald Kennedy take place today.
HARRIS: We finally got to within, you know, maybe 10 feet of getting
in there, and they closed it because they had to get ready for the
So, we line up. We got -- we stood on Pennsylvania Avenue and watched
the dignitaries go by and the caisson roll by with the casket and flag and
TRUMP: The image of the family, the grieving family and maybe the
long, cold walk was the image that I would most remember that really was --
it was a tragic remembrance, both beautiful and horrible at the same time.
JUDY COLLINS: It was just momentous. It was as though the world had
shifted and turned upside-down. But she carried herself with such dignity.
JOHN SEIGENTHALER, SR., ASST. TO ATTY. GEN. ROBERT KENNEDY:
Jacqueline Kennedy in mourning, Bobby and Teddy flanking her still touched
me when I see it. Of course, those pictures of John and Caroline touch
JACK WELCH: That little boy saluting will forever be indelibly
inscribed, I think, in you. I think there was a moment when there wasn`t a
dry eye in America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he personified what America was feeling
because we were all children. In a very strange time, we all became very
ROBERT MACNEIL, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And when I heard
the sound of the bag pipes, I just dissolved, broke down and started
SUMNER REDSTONE, CEO, VIACOM: I felt like crying. And I -- I think
that was not a personal emotion, I think that was almost like universal
emotion. His loss was felt so much throughout the world. One couldn`t
help but feel sorrow. Not just for the loss of the president and for his
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The eternal flames you`ve seen in France and
other places, other countries have it. But she spoke to them about it and
they said, yes, we`ll do it, and did it specifically for the president.
UNIDENTIFEID MALE: And so, on this crisp but sunny November
afternoon, John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States is laid
to rest on a gentle slope overlooking the city of Washington.
MATTHEWS: Americans have been trying to come to terms with John F.
Kennedy`s death for 40 years, not just his death but the meaning of his
life and his presidency. What was he able to accomplish in his 1,000 days?
What more might he have done if he lived? The questions won`t go away.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, THEN-PRESIDENT: Let the word go forth from this time
and place to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new
generation of Americans.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: He certainly was for my generation and
succeeding generations the most eloquent president that we`ve had. For
people who are more conservative, I think, Ronald Reagan fills that role
for them. Even the Reagan people will be the first to say that no one
quite matched the eloquence of John Kennedy, and he changed the presidency
in that regard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The main thing that was apparent about Kennedy is
that he made Americans feel very good about themselves and feel hopeful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a highly intelligent individual and such a
wonderful speaker and he`s married to Jackie and had these beautiful
children. It was a Camelot idyllic kind of time.
SANDER VANOCUR, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It wasn`t Camelot.
It was Boston. It was Washington. It was the sign of Irish immigrants to
this country. And television had come along and enhanced the glamour of
it. But the Kennedy administration I assure you was not Camelot. It was
DICK GREGORY: We were more accepting of the Camelot because of the
tragedy. I think if you tried to pull that off now with a new generation
that wasn`t there, I don`t think it wouldn`t have worked.
BOB COSTAS: What should be remembered is that the glamorous image
could be used to rouse people`s interest in politics. Some of it was
directed toward tapping into people`s idealism.
PAT ROBERTSON: I think that the peace corps was one of the most
effective things for our foreign policy that`s ever been conceived. Those
initial Peace Corps volunteers did more for the good of America worldwide
than anything we can conceive of.
KENNEDY: To those people in the Hudson villages of half the globe
struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to
help them help themselves.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON: The legacy that President Kennedy left that
enabled President Johnson to go forward on civil rights and the war on
poverty, I think the `60s did a lot of good for the country. And it
wouldn`t have happened without President Kennedy`s life or even maybe
without his sacrifice for service.
BILL MAHER: The `60s really started then. The early `60s were the
`50s. I mean, there was nothing radical going on. And after he got shot,
SEN. ED MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: He had begun the process of
getting us together as one people regardless of race, regardless of
religion. And that means that in many families still to this day, he is
the political hero.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: You hear young people saying today, I
got involved. I decided to get involved in the civil rights movement. To
run for office because I was inspired by the life of John F. Kennedy.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think everybody wants to be like
Jack Kennedy because the inspiration that he provided to so many Americans
and his martyrdom, let`s be frank, obviously covered up some failings that
he might have -- may have had as every president has had.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR.: He has been given the kind of reverence which
he didn`t have when he was alive and probably would not have exercised if
had he survived Dallas.
SEIGENTHALER: Nonetheless, I think you would have to say that it`s a
legacy that most politicians would do well to aspire to, to give the
country a sense of mission and of hope and direction.
KENNEDY: Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that
we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any
friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.
JOHN WALSH: It was the first telegenic president. I think he
mesmerized people by the way he looked, the way he spoke, the way he acted,
the way he carried himself. He certainly was charismatic.
ANGELINA JOLIE: One of the biggest things he D.C. just inspired I
think a generation felt like him. We don`t really have that with our
leaders I think today.
MICHAEL MOORE: I think it was the last time the country could ever
really trust who sat in the Oval Office.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY: I think much of it was a promise unmet and yet
in some ways I think the sense of romanticism of admiring a president and
everything he stood for and confidence in government, that sort of died
TED SORENSEN, KENNEDY SPEECHWRITER: The world changed after JFK`s
death. The country changed. We plunged a few months later deep into the
war in Vietnam that Kennedy and specifically had taken steps not to do. I
think he would have found the way to negotiate just as he ended the Berlin
crisis, just as he ended the Cuban missile crisis.
KENNEDY: And the long history of the world, only a few generations
have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum
danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility. I welcome it.
TRUMP: He really faced down the Russians at a time it wasn`t so easy
and it was a very, very dangerous point. Thus far the most dangerous point
in our history.
COLLINS: The legacy in the space program I really loved the idea not
just what it means to go there but what it means to our dreams.
KENNEDY: Together let us go to the stars, conquer the deserts,
eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So much of what he stood for was right and just
and noble and he believed that everybody in this country should have an
opportunity at a great life. Those are good messages and that`s why they
TOM SMOTHERS: And even in hindsight now, looking back, all the little
peccadilloes and all the little flaws that have been revealed, still did --
still does not take away from that potential that we all saw.
SAM WATERSTON: You read what Kennedy had to say and it is still fresh
KENNEDY: All this will not be finished in t first 100 days nor will
it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this
administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet, but let us
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He made us believe the country was something
BRYANT GUMBEL: Presidents were often less about what they really do
than how they`re perceived and how they use the pulpit. And in his case,
he used it to dream great things and asked the American people to do the
KENNEDY: And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can
do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.
MATTHEWS: I`ll return in a moment with my own memories of John F.
Kennedy`s life and death. Where was I when I heard the news? Not very far
from here. I`ll take you back for a visit.
ANNOUNCER: Once again, Chris Matthews.
MATTHEWS: This is the campus of Holy Cross, not far from Boston. I
was a freshman here in 1963 when I heard the news about John F. Kennedy.
It was just after lunch and I was down in the basement of Kimball Hall
checking my mail box. And a classmate came up and said, "Somebody just
I had a world history class that afternoon and by the time I got
there, everyone was talking and wondering what had happened. All we knew
was someone had taken a shot at the president, nothing else. The history
professor, James Powers, announced that he would hold the lecture but we
didn`t have to stay.
CRONKITE: From Dallas, Texas --
MATTHEWS: When I got to a TV, I turned it on and sat there amazed as
Walter Cronkite told what had happened and then, taking off his reading
glasses, said the president was dead.
I remember going through a terminal in New York a few days later and
an older woman asking me where I went to school. When I told her holy
cross I remember her saying how people must be so sad up there in Kennedy`s
home state. It was a lot bigger than that. I think something changed in
this country that day. We went from the early `60s of short hair cuts and
thin ties and the new frontier, to the `60s of the Beatles, drugs, and
It took four years until the Jimmy McCarthy/Bob Kennedy race of 1968
to bring back the hopes that died that early Friday afternoon of November
Myself, I was lucky to spend the last years of the `60s in the Peace
Corps in Africa. It was a life changing experience. I had Jack Kennedy to
thank for it. I will never forget listening on the short wave radio as
Americans stepped on the moon. That other JFK program that changed
Senator Pat Moynihan of New York that worked for President Kennedy and
loved him once said to me, "The country`s never gotten over Kennedy`s
death. You, Chris, haven`t gotten over it." I`ll always take that as the
deepest, warmest compliment. It was as if the old new frontiersman was
welcoming me into a compact of those who would know and live the loss.
I`m Chris Matthews. Thank you for joining us.
KENNEDY: The energy, the faith, the devotion, which we bring to this
endeavor will light our country and all who serve it, and the glow from
that fire can truly light the world.
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