EAST ROOM MEMORIES JFK FUNERAL
Last night [March 2003] the President of the United States -- Bush the Younger (Shrub) -- gave a press conference in the East Room of the White House. CNN was there with their cameras to broadcast it worldwide. While we TV watchers waited for Bush to make his appearance at the podium, the camera scanned around the room and my thoughts drifted to JFK.
I remembered that this - the East Room - was the room where President Kennedy, in a coffin, was brought in the wee hours of November 23rd, 1963.
By then the ballroom had been stripped of its usual gaiety, the huge piano moved out, and black crepe draped around the chandeliers and windows. An honour guard of soldiers carried the flagged-draped coffin in from the hearse and placed it on the catafalque.
Jackie, still in her blood-stained pink suit, followed it in and buried her face in the flag. After she left the room the soldiers stood silently by, one at each corner of the casket, not moving or speaking. A little while later Robert Kennedy came into the room and, gesturing to the guard to step back, he went to the coffin alone. He lifted the lid and looked, for the last time, at the face of his brother. Then, wet cheeked, he turned and left the room, and the guards returned to position. This would be the last night JFK would spend in the White House. On Sunday he would travel by gun carriage to the Capitol to lie in state under the dome.
I was visualizing all this while the camera returned its focus to the podium and then the trance was broken.
The current President entered the room and started speaking in a low monotone about his plans to lead the nation into war against Iraq (as his father had done in 1991).
It struck me as symbolic that this very room - forty years ago - had housed a man of peace. It was ironic, too, that the current President came from the state of Texas, which was where the man of peace had died.
And I couldn't help but start comparing the different speaking styles of the two Presidents. I wondered if Helen Thomas - the 82 year old correspondent who used to cover JFK's press conferences - was there and if she was, if she was remembering. It was at those press conferences that the people of North America started their love affair with Kennedy. It was his idea to televise them so that he could speak directly to the people and not have his words twisted by newspaper reporters with editorial policies. JFK's speeches weren't scripted for him - as were Bush's last night. Instead JFK talked off-the-cuff and always he injected humour. He was famous for his witticisms.
That's how I (thirteen years old when JFK died) got to know him and admire him. My mother used to always call us over when JFK was on television. And of course, even though we were Canadian and he wasn't OUR leader, we shared high drama with the Americans. We too held our breath over the Cuban Missile Crisis.
But the President who was speaking last night was nothing like JFK - not only because he's a war-monger instead of a peace-maker, but also because he has no passion. Bush talked about dropping bombs on innocent civilians as casually as he talked about building Iraq up again when they were done. He seemed to have no heart, no brain and no courage - like something out of the Wizard of Oz.
Also - as I almost nodded off while listening to Bush - I was remembering how JFK's death accomplished something that had never occurred before and has never occurred since. The occassion of his funeral brought almost every head of state from the entire planet together in one shared cause, walking together side by side.
And even though they were advised against it for security reasons, every world leader chose to follow Jackie on foot behind the coffin when it made its journey from the Capitol to St Matthew's Cathedral on Monday for the funeral. During that walk everyone was equal and focused only on thoughts of President Kennedy and what he had meant to them. To all he was respected and mourned. The only country not represented either in person or through messages was Communist China -- its newspapers hadn't even reported the news of JFK's death.
So maybe that's the one good thing that came from JFK's death. Even though - these forty years later - we are far, far away from where he was leading us, at least we have the knowledge that universal peaceful thoughts and shared goodwill are possible. The world stood still and experienced it that weekend in November in honour of a peace-loving man. ~ Jackie Jura
JFK'S ASSASSINATION PREMONITION
LINCOLN DREAMS JFK FUNERAL
JACKIE'S TOUR & JFK'S FUNERAL
EAST ROOM MEMORIES JFK FUNERAL
Helen Thomas snubbed (asked questions to 6 presidents). Wash Times, Mar 7, 2003 (During George Bush's speech last Thursday, he ended what was a long standing tradition. Since John F. Kennedy was President, Presidents have always called on Helen Thomas first for questions. This time Thomas was ignored. Helen Thomas has been a big critic of Bush recently with remarks like: "He is the worst president in all of American history." Thomas, however, is still allowed to attend all White House briefings with a front row seat...)
President George Bush Discusses Iraq in National Press Conference, The East Room, White House, Mar 6, 2003
watch JFK's Strategy of Peace Speech (announcing plans for the NUCLEAR TEST BAN TREATY, his stategy of peace) delivered to students at American University, Washington, DC, on June 10, 1963
Last night I dreamed the world agreed to put an end to war (1950 song & music by Ed McCurdy)
JFK'S PEACE FOR ALL TIME
JFK TRUTHS & UNTRUTHS
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