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MSU Hosts Series to Honor 50 Years since JFK Assassination

JFK 2
JFK rides in a motorcade with his wife, Jacqueline Kennedy. Credit: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

This week marks the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas. Missouri State University is conducting a series of events reflecting on the president’s legacy and the events leading up to and following his death. KSMU’s Julie Greene reports.

[Sound: JFK Assassination News Stories]

Dr. Brian Calfano, associate professor of political science at MSU, coordinated the events.

“I just thought it would be interesting particularly for a lot of the students who obviously were not around at the time, but who will be affected by the story, by Kennedy’s projected sense of leadership, and for members of the community here in Springfield and Southwest Missouri, it’s a nice opportunity for them to come and reflect on what’s happened in the last 50 years,” Calfano said.

The sessions range from presentations on JFK’s presidency to media coverage of the assassination, which is considered by many to be the first time television was used as a live reporting mechanism for a breaking story.

“As shocking as September 11th was, the Kennedy assassination was more so just because the country had never been though that sort of thing and had certainly never been confronted by that type of news in the immediacy it was presented in radio and television. It just hadn’t happened, and I think on the psyche, at least, that had a strong impact on most folks,” Calfano said.  

Presidential scholar Dr. Justin Vaughn of Boise State University will discuss the universality of JFK’s ideas Monday evening.

“You have people who are considered quite liberal, people who are considered quite conservative, all of them finding a piece of JFK they can use to justify their own ideological preferences and their own policy positions. Basically, what I’ll do tonight is posing the question: What is it about JFK that makes contemporary presidents want to reference him and why are they successfully able to do it?,” Vaughn said.

Another scheduled event, which takes place on Tuesday, is a live teleconference between MSU, the University of North Texas, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza, where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was stationed when he shot Kennedy. As one of the museum’s most popular presentations, curators discuss the 24 hours following the assassination in which they look through the collected evidence and show where there is conflicting information that focuses on the alleged perpetrator. The presentation will then be followed by a live question and answer session.

A recount of the events that took place on the day JFK was assassinated will be told Friday though video and audio reports from Kennedy’s speech before the Ft. Worth Chamber of Commerce, his motorcade through Dallas, to coverage of his death from local and national media.

You can find a link to the list of events this week on our website, ksmu.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.