This being the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, the local radio stations had quite a bit of coverage of the event. The assassination being before my time, I have to say that the closest approximation I have to the "world shattering" emotions a lot of people have described has to be my emotions on the day when the space shuttle Challenger exploded after takeoff. Listening to callers describing the welter of emotions that they felt fifty years ago has been melancholy to say the least. Even the local music station I listen to featured songs relating to the tragedy.
I'm pretty much a Kennedy agnostic, being too young to have formed an intense personal reaction to the man himself. I recognize that he has been alternately canonized and demonized, and that the actual human is often lost in the hagiography. That being said, his civil rights address remains remarkable to this day:
Personally, a nerd like myself has to be a fan of Kennedy's moon speech, which combined optimism verging on bravado, and imagination backed by intellect:
To me, the one unpardonable sin that Kennedy committed was the escalation of the Vietnam conflict. For Kennedy, a man of Irish descent, to take up the mantle of failed colonialism should have been abhorrent. The fact that a Vietnamese independence movement, inspired by the Declaration of Independence, need not have been hostile to the United States just compounds the tragedy.
At any rate, I really don't have the time or inclination to give a longer opinion piece on the Kennedy legacy... the coverage in the media has been extensive enough. I merely wished to note the air of melancholy which has characterized the day. I am reminded of a quote by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, which is most appropriate for this day: "To be Irish is to know that in the end the world will break your heart." Judging from the reminiscences of people who vividly remember that day, everyone who idolized Kennedy was part Irish that day.