On “Killing Kennedy”

Rob Lowe stars as JFK in Killing Kennedy.

Rob Lowe stars as JFK in Killing Kennedy.

A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.
– John F. Kennedy

When my boyfriend I were busy building our friendship (prior to dating), one of the first things we bonded over was our crazy love of politics. We used to – and still do – play this game where we constantly want to know more about each other and we simply go back and forth asking a series of questions. One of the first questions I ever asked him was, “Who is your favorite president?” He has a couple, one being the incredible Abe Lincoln. When it came time for me to answer, I quickly responded with, “Easy. Kennedy.”

I promise you all I love JFK for more than his supremely good looks – I’m not that shallow, guys. Come on, now. While I do adore the fact that Jack and I share the same birthday, I also have read countless articles, books, magazines, and more about our 35th President. While his time in office was cut far too short, he did some amazing things from 1961 to 1963. The only president to ever have won a Pulitzer Prize, he was also a war hero, earning the Purple Heart, the World War II Victory Medal, and the American Defense Service Medal, just to name a few. And people wonder why I’m dating someone in the military…really.

But all kidding aside, as the youngest president to be elected, J. Fitz chartered a very different path in comparison to his predecessor President Eisenhower. Much to Ike’s dismay, Kennedy quickly dismantled the pyramid structure of the White House. And one of his first presidential acts was creating the Peace Corps, a program that now has had over 200,000 U.S. citizens join (since its inception in 1961) and service in over 139 countries. In terms of foreign policy, Kennedy faced the early stages of the Cold War and came up against the abrasive ways of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He stumbled a bit with the Bay of Pigs Invasion, but handled the threat of communism gracefully by establishing the Alliance for Progress, a program that promoted human rights standards.

Jack also happened to be a world-class public speaker. I have, on countless occasions, sat and listened to his speeches on YouTube (thank God for advances in technology), and pictured myself there, in D.C. when he spoke on the importance of world peace, in West Berlin as he discussed the Berlin Wall and the shortcomings of communism, in his homeland Ireland, and as you could see, I could go on and on.

Kennedy also took to heart the importance of politics. He ended Eisenhower’s tight fiscal policies, sought to keep interest rates low, and allow the economy to flourish. In 1961, he led the United States to its first non-recession and non-war deficit. GDP grew at an average of 5.5% the two years he was in office, and inflation hovered around 1%.

And maybe what I love about this man most is his stance on civil rights. Nowadays, it seems like common sense that we all deserve equality, freedom, dignity, the right to do what we want so long as it does not hurt anyone else. While Kennedy spoke in his State of the Union Address in 1961 about how each and every American deserves their constitutional rights – rights that should not be denied on account of race, he encountered difficulty in passing civil rights laws as Congress was dominated at the time by conservative Democrats from the South. And maybe here is where Kennedy could have taken a few lessons from Lincoln himself – or maybe he forgot all about Executive Orders and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Either way, I truly believe JFK was a great president for our nation. About a year ago, Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard authored Killing Kennedy, a historical narrative regarding the assassination of JFK. When the book was first published, I was hesitant. But I was intrigued. I had read Killing Lincoln before and as much as I hate to say it about Bill, I loved the way the book was written. It was non-fiction…in fiction format. Not just a list of facts and events, but a story, with characters that had been real, that had walked this earth, but the way Killing Lincoln was written drew its readers (including me) in, and we quickly became attached to everyone in that narrative. Except maybe you, John Wilkes Booth.

And in some ways, I wanted to be angry. I’ll just put it out there, I really don’t like Bill O’Reilly, so how dare he write about a man I really, really do like! Not only does he have truly appalling manners on his show, but he also comes off as quite arrogant and confrontational. Plus, he’s on FOX…so there’s that.

But alas, I purchased Killing Kennedy, and read it in one day. God damn it, Bill, you did it again. I don’t like the version of you I see on your show, but you really do know how to tell a story. You did Jack and Jackie justice. I bawled like a baby reading the pages about how Jackie lost her beloved husband. I would say spoiler alerts, but if you don’t know how this story ends, then crawl back under your rock and stay there because I absolutely cannot talk to you.

So Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot (the book) made my October in 2012, and now it appears National Geographic will be making my November in 2013. Come November 10, Nat Geo will be airing Killing Kennedy, a “global television event,” based off of O’Reilly and Dugard’s book. Starring Rob Lowe as John F. Kennedy (very good choice there, if I do say so myself), the show will start off in 1959, covering the lives of both Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald (who is played by Will Rothhaar). The November 10 television premiere date is meant to coincide with the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination (which took place on November 22, 1963, for anyone that’s interested – or for those of you that have been living under those rocks).

Killing Kennedy has premiered in a couple of places already – a premiere was held in Washington D.C. last night, and has received a wide amount of praise. Rothhaar was said to have given a great performance, highlighting the maniacal character of Oswald, and Lowe has the perfect Massachusetts accent and fully embodies one of our nation’s most beloved presidents.

The book took me a day to get through, National Geographic is comprising it all in just 90 minutes. As both a history buff and JFK lover (not literally – I wish, though), I absolutely cannot wait for this premiere. Grab the tissues, get comfortable, and be ready to watch some of the best material that’s been on television in a long time.

For the fans, the interested, and the curious, here’s the trailer:

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