JFK, and recalling time when president 'spoke for youth'


I was pounding a manual typewriter at The Riverdale Press on that fateful afternoon in November 1963 when we first received word that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. Delivering the shocking news to staffers was a distraught woman who had burst into the weekly newspaper’s storefront office.

Over the next several issues, The Riverdale Press covered the assassination of our 35th president from a number of local angles — including recollections of JFK’s childhood years from 1927 to 1929 when the family had taken up residence in a spacious estate in Riverdale.

As a reporter learning the ropes on my first newspaper job, I contributed one straight news story on the tragedy (“Prayers and tributes honor late president”). Wearing my other hat as feature editor — and having apparently qualified at the time as a member of the “younger generation” — I also was invited to offer some reflections in a sidebar piece that carried the headline, “Young president spoke for youth.”

I offer some excerpts from the article, which ran in The Riverdale Press issue of Dec. 5, 1963:

“There is a generation growing up in Riverdale that is too young to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the, the ‘Day of Infamy’ will be Nov. 22, 1963. They are the greatest losers in the death of President Kennedy.

“Many of this generation’s members would have cast their first presidential ballot for Mr. Kennedy. Most were intrigued by his style, his age, and his ideas. They will remember the president’s youthful habit of dodging from place to place without regard for inclement weather — on the rainiest days, in the coldest air, he would be seen without a topcoat or hat.

“’Youth’ was also present in Mr. Kennedy’s press conferences. One can still see the television image of the president walking quickly to the podium where he awaited a reporter’s first question. When a difficult question was posed, the president would answer quickly, and often, brilliantly. He seemed to enjoy the challenge.

“But it was the man’s bold vision of the future — the important legacy he leaves behind — which inspired this young generation, and which seemed to have been directed to it.

“The Peace Corps, his physical fitness program, the concept of a ‘New Frontier,’ and his plea to ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country’ were unmistakably earmarked for the youth of America.

“It is nearly two weeks since the assassination of Kennedy. The grief that still hovers over Washington and the rest of the nation prevents us from determining whether the youthfulness that was suddenly drained out of the political scene on that tragic Friday will soon return to the capital.

“Today, it seems as though the borders of the New Frontier are temporarily sealed. It will take another youthful leader to reopen them.”

The author is a Riverdale resident who writes on a wide range of subjects — both serious and light — on his blog, Syncerely Yours, which can be visited at SyncerelyYoursBlog.WordPress.com.

Sy Oshinsky,