A Nation Mourns
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you-ask what you can do for your country.”
Inaugural Address (January 20, 1961). (1)
“Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was to say, ‘I am a citizen of Rome.’ Today, I believe, in 1962 the proudest boast is to say, ‘I am a citizen of the United States.‘ And it is not enough to merely say it; we must live it.” Remarks in New Orleans at a Civic Reception (May 4, 1962). (2)
John F. Kennedy represented the American dream, and his words are still relevant to today’s society. The collective memory of his presidency and death revolve around the legacy of his actions and words. Kennedy and the concept of Camelot still influence the way that the American people deal with past and present.
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The nation experienced the emotion of the assassination and its aftermath through the conduit of a TV screen. As they grieved and remembered together they created the collective memory of a tragedy.
“For all of us, life goes on—but brightness has fallen from
the air. The world continues in the same orbit—but it is
a different world. His hand-picked successor has picked
up the fallen torch and carries it proudly and ably
forward—but a Golden age is over and it will never
–Kennedy speechwriter Theodore Sorensen, 1964.(3)
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Several Oral Histories explore this concept as it applies to the collective memory of the nation: