Mayor Soglin's Blog

The Assassination of President Kennedy and the Subsequent Tragedies

November 22, 2013 9:17 AM

We are way beyond the speculation of who killed President Kennedy. No matter the motive, the consequences reverberate throughout the world to this day. The assassination of President Kennedy and the subsequent tragedies taking the lives of Malcolm X, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy deprived a generation of vibrant leadership committed to peace and justice.

President Kennedy was growing and evolving as a leader, continually learning. After the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, he began to question the intelligence information from the CIA and the notion that supporting undemocratic elements, both in and out of power in their respective countries was a wise diplomatic course.

As the Civil Rights Movement strengthened, the President and his brother Attorney General  Robert Kennedy aggressively moved the federal government to end the institutionalized racism in the southern states that used dogs, fire hoses, beatings, and lynching as part of their public policy.

Fifty years ago I was taking a noon calculus class in Van Vleck Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus. The bell rang at 12:50 pm and I walked out along the south side of Bascom Hall, cut across the hill and headed past North Hall to the Memorial Union. I was all alone. Normally there would be thousands of students and faculty going to and from classes. Finally I saw one professor and asked, "Where are all the people?"

"Haven't you heard? President Kennedy was shot; he may be dead."

Cruelty, the lack of fairness, the betrayal of what this nation stood for raced through my mind. We had rules in this country. As a nation in the shadows of World War II we were now about to extend our justice and equality to all Americans. Now that mission was thwarted by another transgression – a transgression that would be repeated over, and over, and over.

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