The Day Kennedy Was Shot

The Day Kennedy Was Shot by Jim Bishop

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Authors: Jim Bishop
this country.”
    He was trying to appeal to their pride and their civic vanity, but the words were not marshaled and clichés boomed through the loudspeakers. In the small bedroom in Suite 850, Mrs. Kennedy could hear the voice of her husband and the shouts of thecitizens. She hoped the rain would continue so that the bubbletop would be on the car; even a slow-moving motorcade twisted hair into dissolute tendrils. Besides her mirror told her that her eyes were fatigued.
    â€œWhat we are trying to do in this country and what we are trying to do around the world, I believe, is quite simple, and this is to build a military structure which will defend the vital interests of the United States.” The President’s right hand was pointing outward now, then back up, and out again as punctuation for an informal talk. No matter what he said, or what the President left unsaid, the crowd permitted the veils of mist to shine its collective face and it endorsed every pause with open throats and enthusiasm for the man.
    â€œAnd in that great cause, Fort Worth, as it did in World War II, as it did in developing the best bomber system in the world, the B-58, and as it will now do in developing the best fighter system in the world, the TFX, Fort Worth will play its proper part. And that is why we have placed so much emphasis in the last three years in building a defense system second to none—until now the United States is stronger than it has ever been in its history.” He was not telling them anything they did not know; they would have preferred to hear him tell what he was going to do to Senator John Tower and the Texas Republicans next year, but Mr. Kennedy was on a defense topic and found it difficult to separate the bait of federal payrolls and the fish of local workers.
    â€œAnd secondly,” the President said, “we believe that the new environment, space, the new sea, is also an area where the United States should be second to none.” This was a thought borrowed from his dedication of the Houston Space Center yesterday, but the crowd whistled approval.
    â€œAnd this state of Texas and the United States is now engaged in the most concentrated effort in history to provide leadership in this area and it must here on earth. And this isour second great effort. And in December—next month—the United States will fire the largest booster in the history of the world, putting us ahead of the Soviet Union in that area for the first time in our history.”
    Again he was borrowing from the Houston speech. Mr. Kennedy had fallen into a witty slip of the tongue at the Space Center by calling the booster the “largest payroll in history” instead of the “largest payload.” Mist was now shining on his forehead; the Governor and the Vice-President faced the crowd with neutral expressions. Reporters made notes, even though they knew that the speech at the breakfast and the one at the Trade Mart in Dallas were the ones with built-in impact.
    â€œAnd thirdly, for the United States to fulfill its obligations around the world requires that the United States move forward economically, that the people of this country participate in rising prosperity. And it is a fact in 1962, and the first six months of 1963, the economy of the United States grew not only faster than nearly every Western country, which had not been true in the fifties, but also grew faster than the Soviet Union itself. That is the kind of strength the United States needs, economically; in space, militarily.”
    â€œAnd in the final analysis, that strength depends upon the willingness of the citizens of the United States to assume the burdens of leadership.” He was finished. He had to find a thought to get him off the stand. “I know one place where they are, here in this rain, in Fort Worth, in Texas, in the United States. We are going forward. Thank you.”
    There was a thunder of applause, shouts, and

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