Historic Scene if JFK Had Lived

On the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy I offer the following reflection:

Two of our cold-war Presidents made notable speeches in Germany to protest the infamous Berlin Wall that had been erected by Communist East Germany starting in August of 1961. The first was John F. Kennedy who in June of 1963 made the famous remark “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner) to show solidarity with the citizens whose city had been cruelly divided by the Wall (i.e. between the Communist side and the free side.) Among the roughly 5,000 people who tried to escape over the wall to West Berlin, over a hundred were killed.

The second notable speech was made in June of 1987 by President Ronald Reagan when he addressed his remarks to the absent General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Having lived long enough to witness TV broadcasts of both speeches, there is one follow-up scene I would love to have seen. Of course the assassination of JFK made this impossible. But in my mind I imagine Kennedy living until Reagan’s speech. He would have been 70 year old. Like modern day former Presidents, he and Reagan might have been drawn together by special events: ceremonies, inaugurations, etc. (Other Presidents who would still have been alive were Nixon and Ford, both age 74, and Jimmy Carter, age 63.) In my imaginary scene President Kennedy (because of his own speech 24 years earlier) is invited to attend the Reagan speech. At the end of Reagan’s remarks, JFK, considerably aged but still energetic, would climb the stairs to the platform. He would extend his hand to the 76 year old Reagan who would shake it firmly and, grinning broadly, would pat Kennedy on the back as the two turned to the cheering crowd to celebrate what would have been seen as a joint venture, a high point in the history of freedom.

Of course, that is just a figment of my imagination. Much would have been different had JFK survived. Maybe I should just satisfy myself with a vision of John F. Kennedy giving Reagan an “attaboy” from Heaven.

Dwight Boud ©2013

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