Thursday, November 21, 2013

Recollections of the Kennedy Assasination

"We have just learned that President Kennedy has died. God save our country."

-- Dean Rusk, announcing the death of President John F. Kenneky over the loud speaker of a plane filled with other Kennedy cabinet members

On November 22, 1963, Secretary of State Dean Rusk was traveling to Japan with six other cabinet members for a joint meeting with the Japanese cabinet. It was on the plane to Japan that Rusk and the other passengers learned that Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

In this excerpt from the Dean Rusk Oral History Collection, Rusk describes announcing Kennedy's death to the plane's passengers, the reactions of the other passengers, and his own inner anguish upon hearing the news of Kennedy's death.

We're currently in the process of digitizing all 174 cassette tapes from the Dean Rusk Oral History Collection, and one thing that stands out when listening to these interviews is the stoic nature for which Dean Rusk was famous (Arthur Schlesinger once described him as a "silent Buddha" figure). In this clip on JFK's assassination, you can hear how difficult it is for Rusk to describe the emotional events of the day. Interviewer Thomas Schoenbaum asks Rusk about people crying on the plane. Rusk responds, "I did not shed tears because it's just not my nature to do so. I bleed inside rather than shedding tears."

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, this recording offers a glimpse into how the president's death affected those in his administration.

No comments: