What would have Kennedy done?

We have just marked the fortieth anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas . In wedding terminology, this becomes the “ruby” anniversary, most appropriate since it was Ruby who silenced Oswald, keeping not only America but the rest of the world from getting to the truth of this tragic event. Instead, we must live with a suspect Warren Report and myriad conspiracy theories for this unwelcome eviction from power.

On that day, at that hour, I was preparing for a test in macroeconomics. As the news broke, I, like most people in the country, became glued to a black and white screen and the sounds of pain, sorrow and despair orchestrated impromptu by the baton of Walter Cronkite. Grieving images and loud laments filled the airwaves of a nation in shock, a nation at a loss to understand this untimely death.

In barely one thousand days of his presidency, Kennedy had done much to transform the soul of the nation, having already captured the heart of its youth. He had successfully dealt with a major foreign policy crisis that had loomed as doomsday, keeping us whole. And just as important or perhaps even more, he had taught us to dream; to reach for the stars; to hope and to work for a better nation, for a better world.

Kennedy had brought freshness, truth, hope, identity and purpose to those with a soft and open heart. He had shown us the great possibilities in what government could do for people… without social conflict, without usurping the values of free enterprise, without taking away American individualism. Kennedy, like no other president before or hence, had instilled in Americans the meaning of pride and healthy patriotism.

Perhaps it was easier to romanticize a charismatic leader in 1963, covered as he was by a mantle of silence and respect from the media. Human frailties were not then an entertainment issue that could drown with it statesmanship and political virtues.

Now, forty years later, given the crises in which America finds itself, what would Kennedy, as its leader, have done… particularly, in international affairs?

For one, Kennedy would not have acted solely on the counsel of any one individual, nor consider anyone around him as an infallible mentor. He was always his own man who listened to, but challenged, the judgment of his advisers. No Louis XIII, he… ready to be swayed by a malevolent Richelieu .

He would not have reacted to events in a knee jerk fashion without first finding the causes for the commission of such acts, without dismissing a priori any and all reasons.

Kennedy would not have treated war casually, having been an active participant in one, showing utter distaste for armed conflict, keeping such possibility as the very last resort.

He would not have cast other nations in ridicule, nor shown disdain for the advice given by their leaders, particularly old allies, sister nations; nor would Kennedy have acted with prepotency and arrogance, embarrassing his countrymen with constant childish references to evil.

Kennedy would not have lied to the American people to enlist their support in an ill-conceived crusade; nor ennobled a cause that was far from noble under the guise of fighting terrorism or establishing democracy in the Middle East .

He would not have parted from a foreign policy that had served America so well for so long. Never would he have given up on the principles of peace and cooperation, allowing them to continue as the foundation for America ’s foreign policy, while maintaining a workable predisposition towards the United Nations and multilateral consent.

Kennedy would not have instituted domestic policies that permitted further distancing between rich and poor; the loss of quality jobs that bring Americans dignity; the lack of access to a healthcare system for all citizens; the total disregard for the environment; the poor stewardship by a government entrusted with America’s patrimony for future generations.

In a roundabout way, what Kennedy would have done as the 43rd president of the United States is simple: that which is directly opposite to what Bush has done to date.